Whatever the culture, Christmas is sharing

I remember Christmases at home had a strong multicultural flavour: Swedish the dominant culture, French and Uruguayan. So, I was keen to discover British Christmas customs.

In the Swedish tradition, the main celebrations took place on Christmas Eve, when the family gets together around Christmas Eve dinner; in the UK, the main celebration is Christmas lunch; in France, the celebration is on Christmas Eve and Christmas day. In Uruguay, being in the Southern Hemisphere, it is summer and many plan a barbecue or a picnic as the Christmas lunch.

Boxing day, a holiday celebrated after Christmas day, were also a discovery. It takes its name from a tradition dating back to the 17th century, in which a present or gratuity was given in a box, as thanks for services throughout the year.

Christmas carols choirs were also something new to me. Popping up in the street, in tube stations or on piazzas, the choirs brave the cold, render popular carols familiar to all standing around listening, who sometimes partake.

Sending Christmas cards, exchanging good wishes, was started in the UK around 1840, and must be received before Christmas, whereas in France they are best sent between Christmas and New Year, giving more emphasis to wishes in the year ahead, but can be sent until the end of January – beware missing that deadline, it would be seen as dilatory and disrespectful.

In France, the traditional Christmas lunch ends with a ‘bûche de Noël’, a rolled sponge cake made to look like a log. In the UK, it is the Christmas pudding, a rich dried fruit, spices and alcool pudding; I was surprised to discover that it doesn't go off but matures, and can be kept for months if not years. Other treats are the mince pies.

Absent from the Christmas traditions in the UK, is the ‘galette des rois’, originating and celebrated in France, and a number of other countries, with the festival of Epiphany on the 6th of January, signalling the end of the Christmas season. In the UK, it is the date on which Christmas decorations are taken down.

Whatever the culture, Christmas is a time of sharing and remembering those less fortunate that we are.

The whole team and I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year.


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