How to enjoy a British Christmas - the way it should be
The festive season is almost here! After two years spent apart due to the pandemic, life is slowly returning to normal. For many, this will be the first Christmas for years that we'll be able to celebrate properly with family and friends – where we will want to rekindle some of the holiday magic we felt as kids.
Christmas is a time like no other, when we pull out the hideous novelty jumpers, put on the Santa hat and throw our cares aside. We enjoy a season of excessive Yuletide parties, get the Christmas decorations out of storage (how did Darth Vader get there?) and keep finding tinsel everywhere. Also, it’s an excuse to go and really splurge on some tasty nosh.
Christmas celebrations take many forms, but for Brits, whether at home in the UK or living abroad, there are a few things the day needs to include – as non-negotiable as an elderly relative dozing in the corner by late afternoon, Christmas hat still on.
A big spread
The festive season is probably one of the few occasions when it’s acceptable (expected, even) to put out a huge spread of delicious food for everyone to graze on before the main meal. Think of nuts, chocolate treats like Quality Street, or biscuits and cheese, placed around the room within easy reach. A little pre-lunch munch is a good way for everyone to destress after the last days of the Christmas rush.
The kids will have opened their final advent calendar doors and be whirlwinds of excitement. You’ll be asked to inspect any number of new toys, and while it’s exhausting, there’s nothing like spending quality time with family. Even if you’ve had the same Transformers toy shoved in your face 17 times.
As the time to sit down and eat draws near, all family members get called to the table and there’s a minor traffic jam as everyone finds their place. Don’t forget the Christmas crackers – everyone needs their paper crown and terrible jokes!
Whether you’re a fan of lamb, turkey, chicken, pork or the veggie option, there’s no denying that a delicious roast is the centrepiece of any Christmas dinner. However, it can’t carry the occasion alone. You just have to have a great big dish of gravy, plus mint jelly and cranberry sauce on the side.
Stuffing is also an essential part of any Christmas dinner. If someone has thought ahead, there’ll be lots piled up on a plate, so there’s no tense standoff over the dinner table. Everyone has their own favourite recipe for this delicious Christmas dish, and debates over their relative worth can last for years.
Roast potatoes, onions, parsnips and Brussels sprouts are also compulsory – they’re even better the next day as leftovers, served up with a little bit of gravy, mustard or chutney. Indeed, the great British classic, ‘Bubble and Squeak’ means roasted vegetables fried up with a lot of butter.
Of course, just because you don’t eat meat, doesn’t mean that you should miss out on the big day. There is a growing range of meat-free or vegan products, as well as ‘free from’ products for those with specific dietary requirements.
Room for dessert?
You may have stuffed yourself silly with a year’s worth of roast meat and veggies, but don’t you dare leave the table without a sweet.
Dessert’s a vital part of the Christmas experience, with pudding being a treasured British tradition for over 500 years. Whether you enjoy the spectacle of lighting a brandy-soaked Christmas pudding, or serving it up with custard, there’s one for every taste. Again, the subject of which kind is superior is one that can be quite contentious – are you a fruit fan, or not?
Once dessert is cleared away, there’s still time for a little fun. It’s time for bad jokes, maybe dust off some old board games, take a few terrible photos of everyone in their paper hats, and finally have some of those deeper conversations you’ve been meaning to have all year. Unless, of course, the TV comes on, which – let's be honest – it usually does.
For those of us who normally live overseas, you’ll be asked to show your photos of life abroad, answering seemingly thousands of questions, and reassuring that you’ll be back next year – and toasting the promise with a drink.
No matter your favourite post-meal tipple: sherry, Baileys or perhaps a glass of wine, surely no meal is complete then without a proper brew – whether it’s PG Tips, or Yorkshire Tea, it has to be hot and strong. Ah!
Your British Christmas experts
For those of us living outside Britain, it can be quite difficult to get yours hands on all the required ingredients for a proper Christmas. You can get close, but some brands are simply not available in supermarkets overseas.
That’s why British Corner Shop is such a godsend come the festive season. This online supermarket has over 6,000 products, including Marks & Spencer's wonderful collection of gift tins, crackers and products for the Christmas table.
Not only does British Corner Shop have a vast range of British favourites to choose from, but they can guarantee there will be no surprise customs fees for their customers thanks to their new European-based warehouse.
As a special treat, spend over £100 and British Corner Shop will send you a tin of delicious Marks & Spencer’s shortbread that also serves as a beautiful light-up Christmas lantern - while stock last.
This Christmas as you gather with family and friends, make sure you’ve got the best of Britain on your table – it’s the perfect way to make wonderful lasting memories.
This content was paid for by an advertiser and produced by The Local's Creative Studio.