I’ve just spent my first Christmas away from my family – because I’m in the UK! You can find more info on that in my last post, but long story short, I was on an extended trip and didn’t want to travel home for Christmas and help spread Omicron to Muskoka. Since I’ve just experienced my first British Christmas, I thought I would write about a few differences between Canadian Christmas and Christmas in the UK.
The Queen’s Christmas Broadcast
Every year, the Queen delivers a Christmas message reflecting on current issues and concerns the UK faces, and what Christmas means to her and her followers. More than 9 million viewers tuned in for her address this year. Though this isn’t a tradition in every household, it is in many, and even families who don’t watch every year seem to tune in from time to time.
For some, it is a very serious occasion – my dad Steve remembers visiting his Great Grandmother (born in England) every year on Christmas morning. She would be dressed up for the occasion, and he and his brother Chris would be kicked out of the room for the Queen’s Christmas message. You are also supposed to stand for the National anthem (God Save the Queen). Or maybe for the entire speech… it’s been different depending on who I’ve asked. This investigative reporter has been inundated with sherry and pigs in blankets, so I’ll settle on reporting that some standing is certainly involved.
Obsession with Chocolate Orange
As kids, we would often get a Terry’s chocolate orange in our Christmas stocking. I know many families enjoy chocolate oranges at Christmas, but England takes it to another level entirely. I pointed this out to my friend when Christmas items started appearing in stores at the beginning of November. My friend responded with “well, we definitely have a few but I don’t think there’s that many?” And so my quest to find as many chocolate orange items as possible began.
I made an instagram post the other day where I counted through 49 of them (forgetting about the chocolate orange milk in our fridge, and the chocolate orange subway cookie we had picked up). This also doesn’t include a few items that we had seen in November but could no longer find, like yorkies and lion bars. Cookies, chocolate, even diet bars – if you like chocolate orange, England is the place for you.
Christmas Day Foods
Many of the traditional Christmas dinner items in Canada are the same as in the UK – some sort of fowl as the main, stuffing, potatoes, sprouts, green beans, gravy, and cranberry sauce. The stuffing is different – it does use breadcrumbs, but it seems much heavier on the sausage and has the addition of chestnuts. British Christmas dinner includes a few things that the Canadian version doesn’t – Christmas pudding (except for in some families), and pigs in blankets (an absolute must here).
It’s also traditional to have mincemeat pies on Christmas Day and at Christmas celebrations here – something I’ve never known anyone to do in Canada (but let us know if your family does!).
In recent years, this has changed a little… but growing up you could pretty much always expect to have a white Christmas! In England this is a rarity. We actually ended up having snow on Christmas night this year… and at home in Port Carling there was none! Notwithstanding this role reversal, generally you can expect snow in Muskoka and a green (no, really!) Christmas in England… well, and grey. Grey skies always.
Brussels Sprouts Products
Okay, so we may have sprouts at Christmas… but we don’t love them nearly as much as the Brits do. I was amazed when Christmas season hit and they started popping up everywhere – I’ve seen Brussels Sprouts:
- Socks (I bought these – Brussels ‘pouts,’ and all the sprouts had big red lips!)
- Stress balls
- Milk Chocolates
- Gift bags
- Wrapping paper
- A suit (seriously, yes – I’ll include a picture)
Boxing Day is one of the biggest shopping days in Canada – that’s not much of a thing in England. I found most shops closed, aside from grocery stores. There is a different tradition though – a boxing day dip! The friend I’m staying with has parents who live near the coast, where people run into the ocean on Boxing Day – sometimes for charity, sometimes just for fun. Sounds a little less cushy than our tradition!
My friend’s mum also told me about her grandparents, who were married on Boxing Day. A lot of people struggled for money back then, so they would get married on Boxing Day to take advantage of the Christmas leftovers. Smart!
And that’s it – all the differences between Christmas in England and Canada that I’ve found so far. Did I miss anything? Leave a comment and let me know! And Happy New Year to all!