London must be the greatest city in the world at Christmas time. To be fair, I’ve only ever spent Christmas in two places (Sunshine Coast and London), and it’s quite well documented that I think London is the greatest city in the world anyway, so my opinion may be slightly skewed… but I think I’d be hard pressed to find anyone who’d argue with me about it being the unofficial Home of Christmas Awesome. (Though I’ll accept alternative submissions, with proper documentation of course.)
I hate to be gushy about things (that is obviously a lie), but honestly – the whole thing is just so magical. I love it when all the street decorations and fancy lights and stuff come out. Oxford Street, Regent Street and Carnaby Street are at their sparkliest… sure, they’re also at their most manically, infuriatingly, fist-eatingly busy too, but I can totally deal with that if it means seeing the AMAZING window displays at Selfridges. I think they really outdid themselves with last year’s life-sized Santa Series (Santa on the tube, Santa in a laundromat, Santa at a sushi rail, etc). It was inspired.
Unfortunately the giant, inflatable, terrifying snowmen with the white, soulless eyes looming over Carnaby Street in a crouch position, waiting to pounce on unsuspecting shoppers and suck the life out of them or possibly drag them back to some evil frosty lair, might have damaged me a little bit, emotionally.
Oh, but the chestnuts? The CHESTNUTS?Roasting? On an OPEN FIRE? I thought that was fiction! No sir. It happens right on Oxford Street and smells incredible. I’ve never actually eaten them (street food in central London? Non merci), but I thoroughly enjoy the fact that they exist.
I could go on and on, but instead I am going to give you a bullet list of things I loved about Christmas in London. We all know how much I love a bullet list.
- Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. Last year Sherri, Scott and I went ice-skating there on Christmas Eve. Unfortunately the hire skates were so crappy, and the ice was so mutilated and slippery from the day’s skating, that it kind of felt like somebody had attached a small, immobile child to each of my ankles and was forcing me to walk around barefoot in a circle on an olive oil-covered tarpaulin while trying to stay upright. But still… magical.
- Drinking mulled wine at Borough Market after ordering the craziest variety of dead animals to cook on Christmas Day. Pheasant! WTF?! And GOOSE! That is mental. And awesome.
- Going to the ballet. Last December I saw both Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker at the London Coliseum. Now I want to go every year. *Swoon*
- Cold weather. So much more Christmassy than 40-degree heat.
- Hosting a Chrismukah party with Ghetto at the Primrose Palace. Get us with our interfaith household! (Her faith being Judaism and mine being… non-existent.) Bridging cultural gaps and shit! Latkes and candy cane cocktails for everybodeeee!
- Looking out the window before going to bed on Christmas Eve and crossing fingers, toes and other body parts that it would snow overnight (it didn’t, but still…)
I don’t want to give the impression that I don’t also love Christmas here in Australia, so here is a list of AWESOME things about spending this Christmas on the Sunshine Coast.
- Seafood instead of dead birds. I mean, dead birds are great, but so are fresh prawns, crayfish, mud crabs and Moreton Bay Bugs.
- Getting to that point in the afternoon where you think you actually might die from the humidity, and then jumping in a pool/ocean/cold shower.
- You know how when you were a kid and you wanted to get up REALLY, REALLY early to open presents on Christmas day, but it was still 4:30am and your parents were dead asleep? Well, in Australia that’s probably just about when the sun rises in summer… and frankly, once the sun was up on Christmas Day, presents for us were fair game.
- Carols by Candlelight! This is one Australian Christmas tradition I really missed in London. The great thing about having Christmas in the middle of summer is that nighttime gatherings of thousands of people (each holding up a candle and singing Oh Holy Night) at your local park or beach are completely realistic and nobody is liable to get frostbitten. (Mosquito-bitten, sure, but the inventors of RID need to earn their money somehow.) My family has gone to Carols by Candlelight every single year for as long as I can remember, usually at Kings Beach in Caloundra. The coolest thing about Carols by Candlelight, especially when you’re little (aside from the requisite fairy floss machines and sausage sizzle), is running around with multiple glow sticks like a fluorescent maniac at an outdoor underage rave. And then when you get a bit older, finally being allowed to hold a proper lit candle of your own. And then setting fire to the carols guide book and burning yourself with hot wax. (No? Just me?)
- Last minute, late-night Christmas Eve shopping at the Sunshine Plaza. Only Sunshine Coast peeps will know what I am talking about here. It’s so bad it’s good. And by bad, obviously I mean it makes you want to take your own life by hurling your body, still attached to the seventy-five shopping bags you’re carrying, over the Riverwalk bridge and into the shiny brown waters below. Fa la la la la, la la la laaa.
- My mum’s trifle
- My mum’s potato salad
- Actually getting to see my family open their presents from me, and witnessing the looks of joy/dismay/confusion/surprise/disappointment that result.
But other than all these, to me the best thing about Christmas wherever you are celebrating it, is the fact that nobody has to be anywhere. There’s no rushing off to go shopping or go to work or to the pub or to meet a friend for coffee or whatever… and there’s nothing that actually needs to be done, except of course all the cooking and eating and stuff. It’s pretty much the one day of the year when nobody needs to be anywhere, and all there is to do is play board games, watch movies and carb load. Sweet.
Flickr image from Abi Skipp‘s photostream.