Christmas in Cambridge

Happy New Year to Everyone!

New Year's Eve in our back garden

New Year’s Eve in our back garden

Having spent Christmas here, I think are more similarities than differences between the way it is celebrated in England and Canada, which made things comfortingly familiar for the children. We did notice a few differences however.

One of the first things I noticed in the leadup to Christmas was the predominance of Advent Calendars. The wide assortment of different styles and aspects was quite surprising to me.

Outside, although many deciduous trees finally lost their leaves (the local church had a leaf-raking session on Dec 14th, to get it done “before the snow”) so much is still green. Holly is quite common in gardens as are other plants/trees with red berries. The forsythia vine outside our window just started blooming with little yellow flowers.

In the garden of Anglesey Abbey Garden, December 20th, 2013

In the garden of Anglesey Abbey with friends, December 20th, 2013

Enjoying the hillside in Ely, Jan 2nd

Enjoying the hillside in Ely, Jan 2nd

Before Christmas we had a little open house gathering we enjoyed with some of our very nice neighbours and a couple of friends who could make it and learned that mulled wine is apparently extremely popular here at Christmas. I share this in case you should ever throw a Christmas gathering in England :).  Sparkling wine came next in popularity, with white wine being a distant third. Out of the 30 or so adults who came, not a single one had any (unmulled) red wine, or beer for that matter, which was a bit of a surprise to us.

Christmas dinner is similar here, with turkey being a popular option but people eat other main dishes as well, such as goose. The turkeys available are more varied, with different coloured feathers and skin, not just the monochromatic white I was used to seeing.  The kids enjoyed the Christmas crackers (with hats and trinkets inside) which our family does at Christmas as well.  My cousin kindly supplied us with delicious mince tarts and a traditional Christmas pudding accompanied by brandy sauce and cream sauce… mmm…

What hard work getting those crackers open!

What hard work getting those crackers open!

The queen presents an annual speech on Christmas day but we missed that (apparently it’s on the Royal Youtube channel for anyone who would like to watch it).

Another English tradition is to go to a Christmas Pantomime, or “Panto”. Our understanding before we went to one was that a Panto was a sort of farcical play with lots of slapstick and at least one of the female leads, the “Dame”, being played by a man.  There are common bits expected in these productions, as described in this (rather long) article, which I wish I had read before going:

http://www.forbes.com/forbes-life-magazine/2000/1113/Pantos9-26.html

We went to see the Pantomime “Robin Hood” in Cambridge.  It was, I felt, meant for a more mature audience than the ‘Family’ entertainment advertised. The production we went to had some bits which were quite scary for our younger two.  A lot of jokes are aimed at adults – in fact, most of the jokes seemed to me to be aimed at adults, although our guys gamely chuckled at the right spots anyway. At the end I concluded it is the sort of thing it would help to have grown up with or seen a few times as part of a tradition to really appreciate, but maybe that was just me. Probably if our kids hadn’t been scared I would have enjoyed it more.

A not very clear picture taken at the Pantomime

A (not very clear) picture taken at the Pantomime

Today is the 12th day of Christmas. A common tradition here is to take down Christmas decorations before January 6th, or at the end of 12th night, I was told, however, that it can also be traditional to leave one Christmas decoration until the feast of Candlemas on February 2nd.

I’ll end with a picture of one of the most enormous and stunningly beautiful Christmas trees I have ever seen. This was at Ely Cathedral (soon to be a subject of its own post!).

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