I’m used to American holidays. American traditions. American Santa-Claus. American eggnog. American outlook on life in general.
But for months now I’ve been learning about English culture. And it’s amazing how much difference there can be between two groups of people who not only speak the same language, but actually used to be part of the same empire.
Holidays, for instance.
In America, for example, we say “Merry Christmas.” We NEVER say “Happy Christmas.”
Why not? I’ve yet to figure that out.
We say ‘happy’ everything else. Happy Valentines Day, Happy 4th of July, Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Birthday. But for some reason, on Christmas, ‘happy’ isn’t enough. You can’t just be happy. You have to be MERRY.
It’s different in England. “Happy” is a perfectly acceptable alternative to “merry.” It makes sense of course, but for some reason, it sounds odd to us. Not to mention the fact that it would REALLY confuse most Americans if someone wished them a “Happy Chrimbo.”
I just learned that one this week. Apparently, the British regularly abbreviate Christmas to “Chrimbo.” Why? Haven’t figure that one out either.
And then there’s Santa Claus. You know the red-clad, “jolly old elf” who is supposed to reside at the North Pole? They don’t have him over there. Or at least, not exactly. They have a gift-bearing chap named Father Christmas, who lives in a totally different place, called Lapland.
(However, judging by the similarities in clothing and habits, it seems like the two Christmas characters must at least be distant relations.)
Oh! And we can’t forget about the eggnog. Even if you don’t like it personally, every American expects to see it stocked in all the stores at Christmas time, sitting in merrily-colored cartons in the dairy department.
Well, here’s some sad news. They don’t drink eggnog in England. (Poor things.) They have other holiday drinks of course. But not eggnog.
I wonder….what in the world do they use nutmeg for?
Then there’s the interesting British tradition that revolves around something called “Christmas Crackers.” (Not a food item). They are Christmas-paper-wrapped strings of three cardboard tubes, with some small explosives inside.
Yes, I said explosives.
You might be guess they shoot them off like fireworks. But nope, nothing so tame and safe as that. They actually hold them in their hands, one person on each end, and pull until they explode. Then the person with the longer piece gets to keep the goodies inside: a small toy, a “rubbish joke,” and a paper hat.
Kind of strange, but hey, most traditions are when you stop and think about them! Like kissing under the mistletoe, for instance.
Well anyway. The point is, while both Americans and Brits celebrate Christmas, our traditions surrounding that holiday have some interesting variations! From the words we use, to the actual activities, we’ve each developed our own version of the popular holiday.
Christmas isn’t the only example either. Come springtime, Americans generally hide their Easter eggs, and then have a massive hunt for them. But in England apparently, they save themselves all that hassle and just roll them down a hill.
(Don’t even ask.)
And someday maybe I’ll write a post about a holiday we don’t share with them: “Guy Fawkes Day.” They celebrate it with what would look, to most Americans, like a community-wide burning of scarecrows.
Yes. I’m serious.
But that will have to wait for another week. It’s time to finish up this post. Before I do though, I wanted to share just one more picture. It was taken in England, in the 1950’s.
That cute, rather startled-looking little boy is Fred and Lily’s first child.
And no, he isn’t sitting on “Santa’s” lap. Remember, this is England. So naturally the back of the picture names him, “Father Christmas.”
Happy Chrimbo, everybody!