People in London and the rest of the UK begin to prepare for Christmas early. Some people even start to shop for presents to give their family and friends in January because that’s when the sales start; they save them until the following Christmas. This means that they manage to avoid the Christmas rush, when people head for the shops just a week or two before Christmas, madly trying to find just the right presents for everyone.
The streets have a special ‘Christmassy’ feel to them, as they are illuminated not only by the usual streetlights, but also the special Christmas lights which are usually put up at the beginning of December, and then taken down on the 7th of January, after the twelfth day of Christmas (the 6th of January). Oxford Street is the place to see the lights in London. This year (2014) the lights were turned on in Oxford Street on the 6th of November, and there are 1,778 white orbs decked along the whole street. They were switched on at a special event and hundreds of people attended the ceremony.
In many towns and cities there will also be a big Christmas tree, sometimes a real one, but more often these days an artificial one, as people are becoming more environmentally conscious and caring.Usually a celebrity will flick the switch to turn on the lights. In London there is always a big Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square, donated by the people of Norway.
Homes are decorated not just with shop-bought decorations, but also with sprigs of holly and mistletoe, which are throwbacks to pagan times, when the holly tree was considered to be the King of the woodland trees, and this is evident in one of the traditional Christmas carols which is sung, “The Holly and the Ivy.” One of the lines is: “Of all the trees that are in the wood the holly bears the crown”.Most people also have decorated Christmas trees in their homes.
Christmas carols are sung by carol-singers who go around houses in the weeks before Christmas and sing for money. Children collect money traditionally to buy presents for their parents, and groups of adults sing carols and collect money for charity.
There are many stores in London and elsewhere in the UK where you can see Father Christmas, or Santa Claus, wearing his red clothes and black boots. Parents pay for their children to see him and his elves (types of fairy-like creatures) who are his helpers, and he gives them presents from his large sack.
On Christmas Eve, the 24th December, children hand a large Christmas sock at the foot of their bed for Father Christmas to put presents in. They leave him mince pies and something to drink too, so that he has enough energy to complete his mission, which is to give presents to children all over the world. He travels in a sleigh pulled by a team of reindeer, the leader of which is called Rudolph (the red-nosed reindeer).
Young children wake up early on Christmas Day to open their presents. Often they only open the ones in their bedroom, and later they have more presents waiting under the Christmas tree.People have a traditional meal at lunch time on Christmas Day and grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins all eat together. Usually the main course is roast turkey, and roast potatoes and other seasonal vegetable such as parsnips (they look like long white carrots, but taste differently). Boiled vegetables such as brussel sprouts, carrots and other seasonal vegetables are served with it as well as bread sauce, or cranberry sauce, or perhaps gravy made from the turkey juices.
After the main course there is the Christmas pudding, which is boiled and full of dried fruit. This traditionally comes to the table flaming and with a sprig of holly decorating it. This is usually served with a white sauce.
If anyone is still hungry, there will be mince pies, and when everyone has finished eating, it is probably time for the Queen’s annual Christmas speech on television.After all the excitement, Christmas evening is usually spent quietly at home, it is the next day, Boxing Day that is spent with friends.