Anyone who knows me knows I love Christmas. My flatmates and colleagues have definitely had to put up with this little elf for a lot longer than they’d have expected - festive playlists are fine to blast from early November, right? From the music and food to the religious traditions and decorations, it is something that, for a month (or, in my case, more), everyone and everything gets involved in - in many places, there is a real sense of community.
The UK is so diverse - over 300 languages are spoken in the capital alone, according to government statistics) - so while on first glance, it may seem we follow the same quintessentially British traditions year in, year out, behind our closed doors, there's a hell of a lot more going on in this multi-cultural country.
In our house, Christmas Day starts like many other households in the UK. We wake up early to open the presents my youngest brother has sorted into piles, devour a fry up, then retreat to our rooms, or the sofa, for a nap. The day ends in similar familiar fashion to many of you reading this, with the Christmas episode of EastEnders and a bottle of Baileys or Port floating about. However, it's the middle bit that has some added flavour where we're concerned. Alongside the dulcet tones of Mariah and Buble, Parang music blasts out and our table sees pastelles, stew chicken and rice amidst the pigs in blankets, turkey and roasties.
Behind other doors…
“The sheer amount of people involved [in our Christmas]… it’s literally a game of how many Greeks can we fit in one house. After church in the morning, we come home and wait for the whole family to pile in - it’s usually around 20 to 30 people, sometimes more. We then have a bowl of soup, either avgolemoni (egg, lemon, chicken, and rice soup) or drahana (crushed wheat soup). We also play a Greek card game called gounga with my grandparents, which is basically Gin Rummy, but with more cards, and my bapou (grandad) is the master!”
“We celebrate according to the old religious calendar, on the 6th January. We have a 12-course Christmas dinner, each dish representing a disciple, so there is lots and lots of food! Traditionally, you start eating dinner when the first star appears in the sky that evening, but we always end up starting much sooner… There’s always a bush of wheat in the room where we eat dinner, too, which represents the people who have died.”
“Back at home [in Ecuador], we celebrate Christmas on 24th with all the family round, opening presents after dinner. However, when I am here, I have a very British Christmas. I like to have Latin music on in the background when I cook though!”
“When I was younger, my parents would always take all our presents over to my gran's on Christmas Eve, and we'd stay there the night and open them the next day - that's something I plan on doing with my kids, too. My gran would always make this sauce that was way too runny, but we'd love it because that was her way of making it!”
“We drive to a farm to get our Christmas tree and meet with the other villagers on Christmas Eve to sing carols, and I make pepperpot a week in advance to eat with freshly baked bread on Christmas morning - a Guyanese tradition.”