Sunday, 6 January 2013

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Covent Garden's unique Christmas tree made of Jack Daniels whiskey barrels
Many people in America packed away their Christmas decorations long before today (i.e., the 26th of December), but on this side of the pond we embrace all twelve days of Christmas, so we're just now returning our household to its pre-Christmas state.

There is something very magical about an English Christmas, and I enjoy every opportunity for merriment and festivity. Maybe it's the fact that the English tend to celebrate the Christmas season, as opposed to just one day (or two, if you happen to celebrate Christmas Eve like my family did growing up). Like I said, they take the twelve days of Christmas literally here, which is why most companies shut down for the week between Christmas and New Year, instead of giving their employees one measly day to celebrate with their families. Or maybe it's the energy of the city, which we experienced a few weekends ago on a rare trip into town for some Christmas shopping. (To be fair, I'm sure New York celebrates Christmas in pretty spectacular fashion.) Or maybe it's the characteristically "Christmassy" (i.e., "freakin' cold") weather here that adds to the atmosphere. Whatever the reason, I do love an English Christmas (especially the mulled wine and mince pies!).

It occurred to me recently that, although The Other Half and I have been married for over six years, this was actually our first Christmas at home, having always been at either my parents' in America or my in-laws'. Which means that I have never had the responsibility of cooking the big holiday meal. But, even though I say so myself, I think it went pretty successfully. I cooked a light dinner on Christmas Eve and then did the whole Christmas Day brunch and dinner thing for the four of us and my mother-in-law, who then took her turn as hostess on Boxing Day and the 27th. Including various pre- and post-Christmas parties/gatherings, we ate for about five straight days. It was brilliant. I didn't feel the least bit guilty. My menu consisted of chestnut soup on Christmas Eve; baked French toast with Greek yogurt (flavored with honey and clementine) for brunch on Christmas morning; and a sort of Anglo-American Christmas dinner of honey-glazed ham, mashed potatoes, carrots, braised peas with leeks, and spiced red cabbage. The main course was followed by a dessert of Christmas pudding with homemade brandy butter and a cranberry meringue parfait and, of course, cheese and biscuits and port later in the evening. We snacked on sausage rolls, homemade mince pies, and other sweets and treats throughout the day. All in all, it was a relatively quiet Christmas, but very memorable as it was Cupcake's first. It was so special to see Crumpet get so excited about Father Christmas in the lead-up to Christmas morning (this being the first year she has really understood what it's all about) and to then see both girls playing with their new toys together (each being more interested in what the other had, of course).

And now, as quickly as the season arrived, it's over again, and I am trying not to think of all of the things I have to accomplish within the next month and a half before I return to work. How long is it till Easter break?

I'll leave you with just a few snapshots of the season.
View of the Tower of London from on board the HMS Belfast, site of my school's staff Christmas party
Tower Bridge... every time I see it, I fall in love with London all over again
New Year's Day in the countryside -- the fringes, at least (Forty Hall, Enfield)