Christmas in England
If two back-to-back Christmases away from my family have taught me anything, it's that I am way more family oriented than I ever realized. And by that I mostly mean I am incredibly attached to my mother. Those of you who know me know this already, but there's something about the holidays that brings about a special kind of homesickness (aka "mom-sickness"). This year I knew that financially it made more sense to stay in Europe again, but instead of staying in Spain, I was so graciously invited to spend the holidays with Sam's family in England. I didn't have to be alone for Christmas this year! While nothing can replace watching my parents open up yet another coffee maker on Christmas morning, I was SO thankful to have Sam's family welcome me into their cozy homes this year. I took a lot of photos on this trip, so get ready! Click on the photos for a larger view/ description.
Our first stop was Sam's dad's home with his wife, Rachel and her son Christopher. They took us to Leeds Castle where I got to walk through my first ever English castle, see all the Christmas decorations, and have a cream tea, or tea with scones, jam, and clotted cream. So delicious. We ended the day by seeing a pantomime show, which is a popular family activity around Christmas. It's a theatre performance with singing, dancing, and lots of audience interaction and laughter. It was a day filled with all kinds of typical English activities and I absolutely adored them all.
Next, I got to finally see Sam's home town, Deal, which is a charming village on the coast of southern England. We explored the town, opened Christmas crackers, and of course ate fish and chips while wearing our Christmas hats. We ended this day by eating (my first!) mince pies and playing Monkey Ball (!!!) with Sam's mom and her partner, Terry. I was pretty excited that they loved Monkey Ball too, since Kenzie and I were obsessed with it growing up.
We spent Christmas Eve in Canterbury with Sam's friend Edd who came to visit us in Sevilla last year! It was his turn to show us around one of his favorite towns. Canterbury is probably what most Americans think of when they think of typical England. Cobbled streets, quaint old cottages with mossy green roofs, and of course plenty of warm pubs to head into to escape the cold. I absolutely loved spending Christmas Eve exploring Canterbury. At the end of the day we came home and made a gingerbread house, an American tradition I was excited to share, and watched an English Christmas movie called The Snowman as well as the Christmas edition of The Great British Bake Off, of course!
The Christmas festivities included a lovely Christmas dinner made by Sam's mom and featuring two vegetables I'd never had before: parsnips and swede. We ate with family, opened presents and had a wrapping paper snowball fight. Other traditions included eating the famous marzipan fruits (a sweet almond paste made to look like tiny fruits), playing guitar hero with Sam's dad and brother, and of course wearing our Christmas hats all day long. I even got to see my parents (mom via facetime and dad via Kenzie's snapchat *lol*). I had a cold, so my mom made me put on all my winter clothes in the house. She looks pretty pleased with herself for taking care of me from afar.
With all this time spent in England, of course we had to make a couple stops in London. It was my first time in the UK, so we took the chance to be tourists and even rode around the city in a red open-top tourist bus. We saw as much of the city as we could in what little time we had there, and even got to go to another pantomime show at the London Palladium as a Christmas gift from Sam's dad and Rachel! We explored a bit on our way back from our trip to Scotland, when we were delirious from the horrible over-night bus, and found ourselves taking a nap in the floor of the Tate Art Museum.
All in all I realized, if you can't be home for Christmas, England is the place to be. I LOVED my Christmas, and am so thankful for the opportunity to see England for the first time at such a cozy and special time of year. I am so grateful that Sam's family welcomed me into their family celebrations and treated me so well during the heightened season of "mom-sickness." I was able to find a new excitement for the time of year that can often bring sadness and nostalgia, and create new memories with wonderful people. If that isn't the Christmas dream, than I don't know what is!