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Christmas to Remember

In this article series, our contributors share their experiences of spending the holidays abroad, tips on how to combat homesickness during the festive season, and their musings on their favorite time of the year.

Coming from different backgrounds, my husband and I never used to worry about keeping our cultural traditions going, and about where we are going to be at time of festive seasons. We weren't that fussy about what country we were going to spend it in either and happily went with the flow each time, wherever we went.

After becoming parents and with a young family of our own, we realised it was time to make a decision for our children. A decision that will determine 'which' Christmas we're going to have and what it will mean to them. We needed to decide which Christmas events we want embroidered in their childhood memories.

Deciding on the Future Family Tradition

Will we want them to remember that Christmas is on the 24th, and that in true Czech tradition, the most important meal on that evening consists of a carp which had been living relatively happily in the family bath for the last two days, and potato salad? Or will it be an English Christmas, with stuffed turkey served on the 25th at lunchtime? And who is going to be bringing their presents: a white-bearded Santa? A Czech St Mikulas and Infant Jesus? Or will it be the Italian Befana or the Spanish Three Kings?

Our approach is usually one of 'when in Rome do as the Romans do', so yet again we decided to ditch 'our own' traditions at Christmas time. It would have been easier for us parents, knowing our traditions well, but probably not so easy for our children who'd have had to explain to their friends that it was baby Jesus who brought their presents, that they'd eagerly waited until the first star appeared on the 24th to celebrate, and that Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar stopped by too on the 6th Jan... Sorry, who? Well, the Three Kings, of course! But Santa? No, he didn't make it to us this year, not sure he even knows where we live...

In times like these I feel thankful for wonderful tools such as google and for our circle of friends who quite happily enlighten me with their knowledge and pass on their long tested recipes for Christmas cake and mince pies and advise me on what stuffing to use for the turkey. They also help me by explaining what stocking fillers are traditionally used and which grotto and pantomime are 'the best in the area'.

Parenthood has taught me to be one step ahead, even more so if you want to follow all the traditions of a country you find yourself in, but that you might not be familiar with.

I had to learn how it's done first; finding out all there is to be found out about whatever subject so that it can become part of our natural family ways - and for the children, part of their growing up memories.

Preparing for "English" Christmas

There is always a lot for me to remember (on top of all the Christmas presents), so to make it easier for my brain, I have created a fool proof check-list. It details the things I've picked up that need doing should you want to have Christmas the 'English' way

  • on December 1st, start the countdown by opening the first advent calendar window
  • write 105 Christmas cards (over here, you even hand them out to people you see every day, a verbal Merry Christmas simply won't do)
  • go to see a pantomime (Aladdin for us this year!)
  • take the kids to meet Santa at his grotto
  • write and post a letter to Santa
  • get a Christmas stocking and worry about how to fill it
  • Christmas crackers
  • remember to pull the turkey's wishbone, whoever gets the bigger piece, gets to make a wish
  • open presents on the morning of December 25th, not midnight on the 24th
  • turkey, the main Christmas meal, is served at lunch time but is called Christmas dinner, to be had 25th December
  • Christmas cake and Christmas pudding (with brandy sauce; a must!), mince pies (desserts)
  • stick a silver coin into the Christmas pudding
  • when serving, pour brandy on the Christmas pudding and light it
  • make a Christmas pudding at the beginning of advent time, allow each member of family to stir it (from East to the West in honour of the Three Wise men), making a wish
  • get holy wreath (find a handsome fella and kiss underneath it, alternatively, a husband will do)
  • decorate a Christmas tree
  • mulled wine for parents (an essential parents' survival kit to feel the Christmas spirit, valued highly in my household!)
  • cover your house in Christmas lights and decorate it inside and outside
  • sing carols (if you have a voice, a CD is used in my case)
  • stick a 'Santa please stop here' sign outside your front door
  • sit by the table with your paper hat and look as if though it was the most normal thing to do for every one is a King on Christmas day!


Michaela Rossi born in the former Czechoslovakia and moved to the UK at the age of 19. She followed her husband on his work assignment to Spain in 2004 where their children were born. In 2011, they moved back to the UK, this time to Hampshire, where they love being outdoors, always admiring the beautiful English countryside and exploring their local area.

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