Cracking on With Christmas

(I was going to title this “Kicking off Christmas,” but I realised that is a very American thing to say, as here “kicking off” means starting to throw a fit. So I revised to something that sounds a lot more British.)

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This is our third Christmas season in London. Yes, Christmas, not holiday season; the holiday season here means summer vacation; and even though in general I find this a very tolerant melting pot of a city, Brits don’t seem to be concerned about religious political correctness surrounding Christmas the way Americans are, hence every public school child performs in a nativity play, and no one seems bothered by it.

One thing I’ve learned about doing Christmastime right in London is booking ahead. You have to start planning at the beginning of October otherwise things do sell out and book up. And so I’m feeling pretty on top of things and once again have our December calendar loaded up with festive activities for the kids and us to enjoy. As I’ve done the last two years, I’ll report back on some of the many, many fun things to do in London at Christmas.*

After a simple Thanksgiving dinner at home with just the four of us (and our official plate cleaner, Wren)—it is a weeknight here after all—we “cracked on” with Christmas the next day, starting with the annual Northcote Road Christmas lighting event.

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Our high street gets packed with people, despite the fact that the Christmas lights that get turned on are actually incredibly underwhelming. But people come for the reindeer, and the carolers, and donkey rides.

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One estate agency sets up a Father Christmas’ Grotto and another sets up a Christmas-prop photo booth.

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And people especially enjoy all the free mince pies, prosecco, mulled wine, popcorn, balloons, candy floss….

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We also went ahead and got our tree the next day, the first day they were selling them on Northcote Road. It’s a bit early, but we wanted to enjoy it for as long as possible, since we are going to the States for Christmas this year. We pretty much got first pick, and got the tallest one. Very Clark Griswold of us.

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Then on Sunday, a friend and I went to Bath for the Christmas market (and may have also snuck in a cheeky trip to the Thermae Bath Spa).

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I remember the Bath Christmas market from 15 years ago when I was studying abroad, and it’s expanded a lot since then. I remembered it being good, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up, since I really enjoyed the the Vienna Christmas markets last year.

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But it was much bigger and better than I remembered! The goods for sale are mostly good quality, handcrafted and artisanal things, and there were loads of stalls all throughout the streets of the city centre. I remember it being mainly contained to the Abbey courtyard the last time I was there.

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I picked up several gifts, a pretty Bath print I couldn’t resist, and I finally ended my 13-year-long search for the perfect Christmas tree topper.

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Then we wrapped up the Thanksgiving weekend of gluttony with this healthy dinner:

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Call me a basic white girl, but I can think of no better way to spend a day than by going to the spa and wandering around a Christmas market.

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*To recap, here’s what we’ve done in London at Christmastime the past two years:

Christmas Eve service at Westminster Abbey

Christmas Lights Bus Tour; Tower of London Christmas Choral Concert; Tin Pan Annie Christmas Concert; Bach to Baby Christmas Concert; The Nutcracker ballet at the London Coliseum

Jack and the Beanstalk Pantomime

Handel’s Messiah at St Paul’s Cathedral

Winterville

Christmas Light Switch-on in Duke of York Square

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

Father Christmas play at the Lyric; Bertie and Boo Christmas magic show; Hamley’s Christmas toy parade

Hampton Court Palace Festive Food Fayre

Getting into Christmas Jumper Day

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