It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and it really is in the UK when the country sparkles and there’s a special atmosphere in the air. It may not be as it is portrayed in Dickens novels with snow covered streets and Victorian lanterns and decorations, in fact white Christmases are rare, but there is something quite magical this time of year around the country…
1. Christmas Lights
Most cities, towns and villages are twinkling by the time December comes around. High streets adorn beautiful lights, the most famous being those in Central London. The lights down Oxford Street, Carnaby Street and Regent Street have become a tourist attraction in their own right and special walking tours and open top bus tours are available to book with Maypole Travel to get the best possible experience. People also look forward to the spectacular window displays at Harrods and Fortnum and Mason.
2. Food, glorious food!
It is a time for families and friends to come together and feast. We’ll worry about our waistline in January. On 25th December we surround ourselves with the ones we love for Christmas dinner; turkey and all the trimmings. And in case you weren’t stuffed enough, we finish off with Christmas pudding! Traditionally, a coin was mixed into the pudding and whoever found the coin would have good luck, but nowadays we are all to safety conscious to engage in such a wreckless activity! During Christmas dinner we pull crackers, another British tradition invented by Tom Smith of London in 1847.
3. Christmas Markets
The whole country goes shopping mad in the lead up to Christmas and there are some lovely Christmas markets to stroll through. One of the main ones in London is in Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park but if you want a less manic setting, Greenwich market is the one to visit. Amble through with a mulled wine and take in the Christmassy atmosphere.
4. Christmas Carols
Carollers are everywhere in December and it is quite calming when you are rushing around doing your Christmas shopping to take a minute and listen to the live soothing Christmas carols, and to truly remember the meaning of Christmas. Many carols such as “Good King Wenceslas” which have gained popularity today were printed in Piae Cantiones, a collection of late medieval Latin songs which was first published in 1582. Today carols are regularly sung at Christian religious services.
Ask any British person if they have been to a panto and certainly the answer will be “yes!” Pantos spring up all over the UK at Christmas and New Year, they are family theatre productions with slapstick comedy based on a traditional fairy tale. The bigger productions almost always employ celebrities and feature gender-crossing parts and a “baddie”. Audience participation is encouraged making pantos a much loved British tradition.
6. The Queen’s Speech
At 15.00 GMT every Christmas Day, after finishing off Christmas dinner, the nation sits down to hear the Queen’s Speech (or we are supposed to anyway!). In a nutshell, it is a list of the laws that the government hopes to get approved by Parliament over the coming year and the Queen gives details of upcoming visits to the UK by other heads of state and any state visits she is making overseas. 2018 will be the 65th Queen’s Speech, she missed 2 when she was pregnant.
If you would like to visit the UK for some Christmas shopping and of course some magic and sparkle, we can take the stress out of the arrangements for you. Contact us for more information.