English Family Christmas. As Told by a Foreigner

The beautiful village in North England, somewhere between Durham and Middlesbrough, which shall stay unnamed, has welcomed me twice in its hospitable embrace, once for the very English Christmas.

I was beyond honoured to be invited for several days, and came prepared. A week before the trip I went to Fortnum & Mason’s, and bought the most expensive Christmas pudding ever. I believe it was around 50 quid. Oh, they don’t say “quid” at Fortnums. I also got this red flower called “poinsettia” that a few people can pronounce correctly.

My boyfriend and I drove up to the cute house in a quiet village which I would rather describe as an extremely small town, and parked the car. I gasped for air and inner strength, meeting your English boyfriend’s parents for English Christmas was rather immense. We walked in, I gave up all the puddings and poinsettia and was allowed in. We were shown around the house, it was quite large, but let’s not get into those details. I’m here to talk about Christmas.

The 23rd of December was a day of not doing much, I think we had a light dinner, went for a walk with the parents, grandma, and their second son and his wife. On the 24th I expected the celebration dinner, however, it turned out, that the main dinner is on the 25th. While I was sulking and walking around the dining room and the living room with the lovely fireplace, trying to socialize with people who asked me about that Russian all female group who I had no idea about, I was looking at family photographs and taking photos of the surroundings. We had lots of tea and lots of biscuits.

On the 25th we exchanged gifts with my boyfriend, and then went downstairs for the gift exchange with the family. I didn’t expect any gifts, but was given rather personal ones, such as a beautiful book on English estates, manors and castles, hand crafted tiny drink ware for hard liquors, made from coloured glass, other lovely things, among them a framed photo of me and my boyfriend, lots of Christmas cards, one from grandma too, after which I wanted to burst into tears but didn’t, because I was trying to build that famous stiff upper lip. There was lots of chocolates too. I think I still have some left.

I think at about midday, after some family member returned from the nearby church, we sat for the Christmas meal. I offered to help, but was kindly declined. When I saw the table my eyes were filled nostalgia, if they can do that anyway. I saw the exact copy of the crystal glasses that my own family had in the 80s and 90s. I don’t know what happened to ours, but for us they were just a memory.

English Christmas

The table was beautifully decorated.

English Christmas, crystal glasses

We had the traditional turkey and stuffing, and gravy, and roast vegetables, and mince pies, and more biscuits, and cranberry sauce, and I don’t even remember what but I was so full that I thought I’d say no to tea, but you don’t say “no” to tea in England. Are you insane?

We did take a break to watch the traditional Queen’s Speech. Everyone was sitting at the sofa, grandma took her space in a huge armchair, and I was also given a big armchair and felt very shy and awkward. Basically like I did all the time in this house. The family was watching the Queen, I was watching the family. They listened attentively and pretty neutral. I accepted this information and thought that I was ready for some early dinner. For early dinner we brought lots of cheese from that cute little cheese shop in Marylebone called La Fromagerie. We went for Stinking Bishop, which originally comes from Gloucestershire and is very stinky. It is called after a pear, whose 19th century farmer Mr Frederick Bishop was, as the legend has it, very temperamental. There is only business in Dymock that produces the cheese. And they’re called Charles Martell & Son. The cheese was so stinky that it had to be taken to the garage, because the fridge couldn’t take it.  On the table it looked grand.

Stinking Bishop, English Christmas

Stinking Bishop

Stinking Bishop

We’ve done more Christmas crackers, wore those funny hats, and I couldn’t believe I was experiencing a real English Christmas, in the middle of England, with English people. I always cherished different nations’ customs, could never stress it well enough.

We ate all the cheese in the world and there was still some left.

cheese platter

After we played board games, at which I sucked. The game was called A Ticket To Ride, and it turned out to be a lot of fun in the end.

"a ticket to ride" board game board game

Then it was time to sleep. Celebrating was definitely tiring. I didn’t know I had to eat more another day. We woke up at about ten, got downstairs for some light breakfast and then TV watching in the living room. At lunch time we had leftover turkey and all the trimmings. I was beyond happy. I always loved to eat, although I try not to show it to anyone by shoving the food in my mouth very gently. Transporting food politely, not shoving, honestly.

Then I was presented with such wonderful delight as the English trifle! Of which I don’t have a photo, but remember, it’s the one that Rachel from Friends tried to make incorrectly, mixing it with the recipe for the shepherd’s pie. This dessert, and I’m not a big dessert person, was fantastic. It was home-made, I ate most of it, because other family members apparently didn’t like it much. I was surprised.

Later that day we had fondue. A traditional English Christmas dish. We had melted cheese, strips of meat and veggies. I wasn’t trusting my cooking skills, so went for the veggie option.

fondue

Then there was Christmas pudding, and Christmas cake, and other desserts. Here I gave up.

christmas cake, English Christmas

Okay, I only agreed to a tiny piece of this chocolate one. chocolate dessert

Then another board game. And more tea.

board game, English Christmas

Or was that during the day? We did eat the F&M’s pudding too. Everyone was so tired, full and English-ly happy. I was English-ly happy too.

The next day my boyfriend and I went to the nearby Flamborough…

But that is another story.

Thank you for reading.

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