I’ve been in England for 15 years now, yet there are still new things about Christmas I find each year. I thought I have known all I need to know about Christmas, yet there are always surprises. Here are some of the facts that I’ve gathered over the years:
1) Christmas List:
It’s a list-loving nation. People love their shopping list, Christmas to do list, and the most important list of all, is a Christmas card list. In Britain, there’s an expression that you’re either ‘on someone’s Christmas list’ or you get ‘crossed off’ someone’s Christmas list. If your distant relative hasn’t sent you a Christmas card for 2 consecutive years, do you still send him one — now that a second class stamp is worth 50p? Do you go the extra mile to send your old friend or foe a card?
The Christingle service is foreign to me. I’d never heard of it until two years ago. Last weekend, in our local Church of England, there was a candlelit Christingle service. Children were each given an orange and messages of peace and prayers were said. They passed on the candle flame and it was an extremely moving scene to observe how children were taught the message of peace in this simple ritual. Christingle was introduced by The Children’s Society in 1968 to the Church of England, and money is raised to support vulnerable children.
- The orange – represents the world
- The red ribbon – indicates the love and blood of Christ
- The dried fruits and sweets – symbols of God’s creations
- The lit candle – symbolises Jesus, the light of the world
Though a white Christmas is on everyone’s lips, I’ve come to realise that in Britain, the colour of Christmas is possibly black. I joined my colleagues for my first Christmas party last week, and I was astounded to see that almost all ladies wore black, and to be precise, ‘a little black dress’ with a lot of glitters on. Apparently, I was told later that black is the colour for parties, and ‘a little black dress’ (a short, flattering dress) is a must for any lady’s wordrobe. As a typical Chinese, I thought red is the festive colour and so I wore a warm red top, which covered every bit of my flesh, as I have never bought a ‘little black dress’ in my life.
At our dinner party in a local hotel last week, some actors in ancient costumes suddenly appeared to entertain the guests. My colleagues told me these were ‘mummers’, who used to spread the word of Christ in ancient times. I later found out that mumming, as an early pantomime, in England goes back for over 1,000 years, and it’s a traditional feature of the English Christmas. The plays are based loosely on the legend of St. George and the dragon.
5) Christmas advert:
I’ve grown to love comparing TV Christmas adverts. John Lewis only starts its TV Christmas adverts since 2007, yet each production is memorable and classic. This year, their advert ‘The Journey’ features a determined snowman, who treks across fields, rivers and mountains just to buy the perfect gift for his snowwoman. At one point, the snowman even had to dodge behind some wheelie bins to avoid being hit by snowballs as kids were chucking them. The snowman looked battered after his long-winding journey and, in the end, the joy of buying the perfect gift – a hat, scarf and a pair of gloves – to his lady was immeasurable. And the viewers sigh with relief, ‘AAAhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!’
The advert costs
only £6 million and was filmed in New Zealand.
- What are mummers’ plays? By Mandy Barrow (Woodlands Junior School)
- Dancing mummer (briscophoto.com)
- A find crowd of mummers (briscophoto.com)
- John Lewis Christmas Advert 2012 – The Journey (cleardesigns.wordpress.com)
- John Lewis Christmas advert song tops UK singles chart (metro.co.uk)
- Battle of the Christmas Adverts (rachelbarkley.co.uk)
- John Lewis unveils Christmas television advert (telegraph.co.uk)
- John Lewis Christmas Advert 2012 – The Journey (inspirationalgeek.wordpress.com)
- What has the Church of England ever done for us? (telegraph.co.uk)
- What’s on Your Christmas List? (shesamaniyak.com)
- When to Send Out Christmas Cards (tinyprints.com)