Christmas in the UK

Graphics & Words by Caitlin Chuah

One of the perks of studying abroad is experiencing the jubilant festivals of that country! In the UK, Christmas is perceived as an important holiday and festive season, with many traditions and methods of celebration that may be unfamiliar to Malaysians. Today, we’ll be talking about what it’s like to spend Christmas in the UK.

Trees and Decorations

Most families in the UK will have one (or more!) Christmas tree(s) in their house. Setting up and decorating the tree is an important part of Christmas tradition and involves everyone in the household. Many UK towns will also place a large Christmas tree in the town centre alongside thousands of Christmas lights across the area. Be sure not to miss the big “switch-on” when they turn on the lights, which is usually done by a person of significance. Holly, Ivy and Mistletoe are also popular decorations which you will find adorned on homes and other buildings.

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Christmas Food

In the UK, the main Christmas Meal is usually eaten at lunchtime on Christmas Day. The meal usually consists of dishes such as roast turkey, roast vegetables, trimmings (carrots, peas, stuffings, bacon, sausages etc.), brussel sprouts, cranberry sauce and bread sauce. Other popular Christmas food and beverages include mince pies (which are actually sweet), mulled wine, Christmas cake, brandy butter, trifle and custard or cream.

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Christmas Traditions

1. Advent Calendars

Advent is a word derived from the Latin word ‘adventus’ (meaning ‘coming’) and relates to the four weeks leading up to Christmas. Advent calendars are large gift boxes where you can open 1 small gift per day starting from December 1st to December 25th (Christmas day). In the UK, you will find many advent calendars being sold in supermarkets starting in November. The most popular types of advent calendars are chocolate advent calendars, although nowadays, there are many other types including toys, beauty products and drinks advent calendars from famous brands such as Lego, Sephora, TWG and more!

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2. Father Christmas

In the UK, the famous movie scenes of children preparing milk and cookies for Santa Claus actually does happen! Children also write letters to Father Christmas listing their gift requests, but sometimes instead of mailing them through post, the letters are tossed into the fireplace, where the draught carries the letters up the chimney and Father Christmas reads the smoke. Santa’s Grottos are also popular in the UK, in which parents will bring their children to meet “Santa Claus” and receive a pre-Christmas gift.

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3. The King’s Speech

It wouldn’t be Christmas Day in the UK without the King’s speech, which is broadcasted on TV, radio and online. For the last few decades, the annual speech was delivered by Queen Elizabeth II. However, since her passing on 8 September 2022, the speech will now be delivered by her successor King Charles III. After the King’s Speech, expect UK TV channels to be filled with festive favourites, Hollywood blockbusters and of course, British soap operas.

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Christmas “Fayres”

Christmas “Fayres” is an old English term that refers to the festive markets that pop up across the UK during Christmas time. These markets are held in the weeks running up to Christmas day and can be commonly found in the city squares of large UK cities, such as Birmingham, Edinburgh, Leeds, Cardiff, Brighton and many others. These “fayres” will often have stalls that sell various gifts, foods, drinks and even entertainment like fair games.

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Boxing Day

Originating in the UK as holiday to gift gifts to the poor, Boxing Day falls on the 26th of December and nowadays, is a holiday where families and individuals sit back and relax after the Christmas “chaos”. Popular activities on Boxing Day include eating Christmas leftovers (usually turkey sandwiches), binge-watching Christmas films, shopping and generally continuing the festivities.

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If you are interested in furthering your studies in the UK, feel free to contact us. Our services include: education and career counselling, assistance in college/university applications, student visa application, arranging accommodation and more!

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