Christmas is undoubtedly the most popular religious festival in Britain. It is a time of year when many traditions and customs are practised. As with most celebrations there are both similarities and differences in the way that Christmas is celebrated between families, one commonality is that there is a lot of food consumed on Christmas Day! To give you an idea of what you can expect if invited to Christmas Dinner in Britain, Sue from one of our host families has agreed to let you in on her family’s traditions!
Preparation for Christmas Dinner
“Preparation for Christmas Dinner normally starts on Christmas Eve when I start to peel the vegetables and prepare the turkey. I personally like to brine the turkey overnight which involves soaking it in salt water infused with aromatic herbs and spices including star anise, juniper berries and lemon. This helps to keep the meat nice and succulent! I spend a lot of time considering the theme for the dinner table. We eat our Christmas Dinner in our dining room which is only normally used on special occasions. This year I have chosen a silver theme, a magical winter scene. I like the table to have that ‘wow’ factor.”
“Breakfast in our house on Christmas Day is a pretty civilised event now our children are grown up. We tend to serve smoked salmon and bucks fizz (orange juice and champagne) at about 9am. We then attend Church. Christmas Day is important to us as a family, it is a time to come together and celebrate the birth of Jesus which, as Christians, is very important to us. It is a poignant time of year as we all have people missing from our dinner tables. We are very conscious of people who are alone at Christmas and we welcome people into our family to share in our celebrations. After Church we go for a nice walk, making the most of the daylight now the days are shorter. Then it is time to finish the cooking. By this time the turkey will generally be in the oven cooking. I like to allow a good hour to rest the meat.”
“Our family Christmas Dinner is very traditional. At around 3pm we all sit down to eat our main meal in the dining room. We eat roast turkey accompanied by roast potatoes and parsnips cooked in goose fat, brussel sprouts, carrots and broccoli. I also serve pigs in blankets (sausages wrapped in bacon), bread sauce and cranberry sauce. The gravy is also very important! The whole meal is accompanied by white and red wine. By the time we have finished the main course, we normally are too full to eat our Christmas pudding, so we usually eat it after resting for an hour or two. We then set the pudding alight using brandy, as is traditional, and serve it with brandy butter! My favourite part of the meal is the turkey and the bread sauce, closely followed by the potatoes! Christmas Dinner is the most important meal of the year for our family. In general people will travel long distances to meet up with friends and family. It is a very special time for us.”
At Abbey Communication we believe that food is a great intercultural ice-breaker. During our client’s homestay they will often cook with their family, learn new recipes and experience traditional British customs.
Read more about how food is an intercultural icebreaker here.