Christmastide in British Autumn
Now that Halloween is over the Christmas Markets begin here in England! Well, we do have Guy Fawkes Day tomorrow where people celebrate—with bonfires and fireworks—the capture, torture, and death (after which his body parts were scattered ‘to the four corners of the Kingdom’ and displayed as a warning to others and for the fowls of the earth to utterly devour) of a Catholic conspirator (member of the Gunpowder Plot) who attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London, being discovered under the House of Lords guarding gun powder and explosives at the beginning of the 17th century1… but besides all of that, it’s time for Christmas! Woohoo! ‘It’s the most wonderful time of the year’! Hooray!
I love the Christmas season. I actually love it more than Christmas day, because on Christmas day I realise that it is all really over and I have to wait another year yet again. My wife and I are not really big into receiving or giving gifts. We mainly enjoy the culture and spirit of it all. Plus, we don’t like to accumulate ‘stuff’ (see my previous post on Living with Clutter) and we also like having money to survive on for the other 364 days of the year. We enjoy the decorations, the music, the food, and everything else that makes Christmastide so ineffable. and then the Christmas Markets in Manchester begin! One of my top goals in Europe is to find an old snow-covered cottage or village somewhere that looks like something from a Christmas card or Thomas Kinkade painting and then just stand there gazing at it whilst sipping hot cocoa and whistling the tune to the following song:
Sleigh bells ring, are you listening
In the lane, snow is glistening
A beautiful sight, we’re happy tonight
Walking in a winter wonderland!
Seeing that this will be our first Christmas in England, we are very excited to experience these ‘Christmas Markets’ everyone has been telling us about. Apparently, Manchester is known for having one of the best ones around. We probably won’t buy much, if anything, but we can’t wait to walk around and enjoy the spirit of it all. If we are able to do a little travelling, we would like to get to some places with a bit of snow to enjoy as well. That’ll give the Christmas season a real authentic feel.
I have been fortunate enough to have a Grandma (step-Grandma technically) who is British and grew up in England. She has been living in the United States most of her life now, but she never gave up her tradition! For many years growing up we would celebrate Christmas with my British Grandma. That means I was well acquainted with Christmas Crackers (or bon-bons) at a fairly young age. My friends at school never had any idea what I was talking about and I went through pains to attempt explanations and descriptions. The best I could do is describe it as a hybrid of a miniature piñata and a firecracker… that is set decoratively on everyone’s dinner plate before supper which we popped open and found toys and jokes inside. I know—very intriguing!
But, what about Thanksgiving?!
What prompted this blog is this idea of Christmastide in the autumn in Britain. In the United States it can become quite annoying to see Christmas stuff put out in the fall. It tends to come out now before Halloween and certainly up to Thanksgiving. The annoyance of this is evident in the growing number of internet memes. However, England does not recognize Thanksgiving as a celebratory holiday. While some people are still a bit annoyed by seeing Christmas stuff up at the stores already, they do not seem nearly as perturbed as people do in the States. It is slightly difficult to be annoyed by it here when the entire city starts all the Markets on or around the 6th of November. So why don’t the funny memes apply here in Europe like they do in the States? I believe the answer is that it’s not as awkward here without a huge holiday like Thanksgiving approaching. In the States it is exciting to enjoy the culture and themes leading up to and including the Thanksgiving meal. It is still very much a fall holiday with all of the orange, red, and yellow colours and autumn scents. It is exciting to enjoy the spirit of Thanksgiving and to prepare for the large feast, including the leftovers for days! The best part is getting together with family and friends to enjoy a splendid and cosy time together. Those are all good reasons for being a bit annoyed by the wintry red and green colours of Christmas with all it’s themes, music, and scents popping up before Turkey Day. Regarding Thanksgiving, my wife and I are planning to have a super-secret celebration with some of our American friends here, which I guess now is not so secret. Okay, it really doesn’t need to be a secret, but I just like to think of it like that because it puts a whole new twist on things and makes it a bit more fun. The best part is that we’ll be able to celebrate it before everyone in the States does because we are just a tad bit ahead on the olde clock. Nevertheless, my point is that pretty much after Guy Fawkes Day tomorrow, I’ll be going dead mad with the Christmas season celebration… because I can. Let the festivities begin!
1. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guy_Fawkes and references therein.