A little wine to get me through the season.
As a non-Christmas lover, I thought maybe I'd try to get more into it this year. After all, I work for a church. I don't like a lot of things about Christmas: Excess consumerism, harmful practices to the environment, and chaotic rushing around...plus SHOPPING which as many of you know is possibly my least favorite activity ever.
But I thought OK, Christmas in England is bound to be super quaint, right? Like Charles Dickensy.
But Christmas in England is still full of consumerism, but I avoid it more here because I have fewer people to buy presents for and less money to do it with. And it's actually been a little busy, even for me, because I'm trying to prepare for a lot of things before taking time off around the holidays. And it's definitely bad for the environment, but again I'm managing to avoid that to some extent.
So while I can't say I'm Christmas #1 Fan now, it's been a refreshing chance to learn about English Christmas traditions.
Most importantly, I have been incredibly blessed by a number of wonderful people who have shared some excellent British Christmas traditions with me. So, I wanted to share a list of the Christmassy traditions I've experienced, as well as a few other facets of this year's Christmas.
Loads of Christmas decorations in York: Christmas trees, lights, and the Christmas marketplace set up in the center of town. It's light a festival every time you go in the city! I loved meandering around the stalls at least once a week to check it out.
Christmas Tour of York/York Museum Garden Christmas Lights with Shantonu!: I took Shantonu around York to show him the Christmas decorations and we finished this with a tour of the York Museum Gardens Christmas lights show. It was super beautiful and really cool to watch! They coordinated lights and music all across this large garden area.
Christmas Pantomime: The Island offered me a ticket to the Christmas pantomime! This was super kind of them because tickets were expensive and I hadn't planned on going. Pantomimes are really weird. British people are super reserved, in my opinion. Until they get onstage for a pantomime. The main character is always a dude in drag and it's like a crazy, wild story-telling of some classic. This one was Jack and the Beanstalk, and included characters dressed up like Star Wars characters and the Adams family.
Micklegate Mingle: A festive Christmas celebration in my neighborhood! There were games and rides for kids in the streets and the businesses stayed open late. There were also stalls for drinks and mince pies, and other groups offered hot chocolate and games. St. Columba's and The Island collaborated to have the church open on this evening. We offered mulled wine, mince pies, crisps, sodas, and we had crafts for kids and carols in the church. By the way, usually Englanders do great desserts because they don't overdo the sugar...but mince pies are sickly sweet. SOO much sugar. Same with mulled wine.
Advent at Church: We've been keeping the church open from 12-2 pm each day for people to come in and reflect, if they wish. Additionally, we did a Christmas-themed play on Sunday where I was the Angel Gabriel (you all know I'm so angelic, it was completely appropriate obviously). And we had a Carol Service on Christmas eve.
Christmas activities with kids: Besides Micklegate Mingle, we did cute little Christmas celebrations with the two groups I support at The Island - Girls' Group and School-Based Mentoring. We made cards and did Christmas games.
Carol Services: My roommates and I attended a carol service at the York Baptist Church. It was super beautiful and well-done. There was even this video about the story of the birth of Jesus. Surprisingly it was a very historically accurate film. It depicted a pregnant really super young looking Mary, rather than a Mary with a super flat stomach who looks like she's a 35 year-old. AND it was fairly culturally sensitive, meaning the characters were dark-haired and olive-skinned, looking Middle Eastern than white. Which is much more sensible. Alleluia.
The carols were mostly really great and the soloists had amazing voices. The church was lit mostly by candles and that created a lovely, warm atmosphere. There were amazing sweet treats afterwards with everyone who had attended - these cupcakes with a ton of vanilla frosting and cookie dough in the center. I couldn't even finish it so I wrapped it up in a napkin and ate the rest the next day. So good. OMG.
One thing I don't like here is that the carols here sometimes have different tunes than at home. It's not tradition to me and I have no emotional attachment to the song if it sounds all different.
Santa Celebration at Murton: David and Mandy are two wonderful new friends I've made through being an international person here in York. David volunteers with The Island and also with Friends International, two groups I am a part of, and he is just super kind and welcoming. David took me, my good friend Chantal, and a few other international people to a Christmas village in Murton, which is a town outside York. It was at the Yorkshire Museum of Farming. There was a little train ride on this historic train, and then mince pies and sherry in the cafeteria.
And then we participated in another Christmas panto. This one was a political satire around the idea of elves wanting to create their own politica parties. They had characters like Jeremy Corbelf (Jeremy Corbin, Labour party leader) and Borelf Johnson (Boris Johnson, Foreign Secretary) who stumped for the vote of the kids in the audience. It was all outside and we walked through an elf-village. My feet were frozen but it was fun to meet some new international people. Afterwards we had lunch and cocoa at Mandy and David's gorgeous house.
Most importantly, in the petting zoo that we went to prior to seeing the panto, I got to PET A SHEEP!!!!!!!!!!! I really really really really love sheep. And I keep trying to pet one and they run away from me. So this was a highlight of... life.
I send all of you so much love and gratitude for being in my life. The Christmas season can be a wild emotional ride - fun, exciting, exhausting, stressful, contemplative, joyous, or grief-filled. Whatever it was for you, I hope you experienced some peace as your year winds to a close.