There are things I miss about Christmas in the US.
For example, the decorations outside almost every house. What's striking about these is that, in New York at least, many of them were pretty high quality. In London, the decorated houses stand out - maybe one in twenty -- and they're usually quite naff, all inflatable Santas and blinking lights. In our neighbourhood on Long Island, you'd be more likely to see giant candy canes, fairy lights round trees, red velvet bows on every window and -- on one house's immaculate lawn -- a real wooden sleigh.
I also feel bizarrely nostalgic for American Christmas songs on the radio. I'd never heard Dan Fogelberg's poignant Same Old Lang Syne (see below) or the insanely catchy Feliz Navidad before I moved to America and at the moment I wouldn't mind hearing Kelly Clarkson's Grown Up Christmas List. Magic FM, are you listening? It's fine to play Phil Collins' "Coming in the Air Tonight" all year, if you want to - but not on the 18th December, OK?
Then there's the Christmas cards. When we first moved to the States, I noticed with mortification that I was the only parent at the Montessori nursery not to have sent a "happy holidays" card featuring a lovingly chosen family photograph. The following year, we fell into step. We've now of course reverted to traditional cards, but as Christmas cards fall more and more out of fashion (I
still send them, but more and more people don't) I can see the point of
the American card. It's more
of a memento than perhaps receiving a hastily written card featuring a
cartoon Santa -- and I have to admit it was rather fun choosing the photos.
But there are things that we missed in America, and are now totally gorging on in London. Like mince pies, mulled wine.....and carol services. We went to three last year, and this year have notched up two so far, as well as having lustily sung carols at two school assemblies. Littleboy 1, who didn't know any Christmas carols in America, is now in the school choir and is currently racing around the house singing Latin words from "Unto Us a Son is Born." (This was charming at first, and is now rapidly starting to grate on my nerves).
His brother meanwhile, read a very heartfelt lesson at the country carol service we go to every year. While they both missed out on Nativity plays (so I'll never see them play Joseph, or a shepherd, sadly), they've both recited lines about the Christmas story in their Christmas assemblies, something that would never happen in secular US schools. And most importantly, they now know the "silly" version of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (you know, the one that goes "like a lightbulb").
I also went to a very traditional work-related Christmas lunch last week, in a Soho boozer -- let's just say lunch didn't even start till 3, and by the time I left at 5.30, we'd only just had the main course and quiz. Somehow I don't think these happen in New York in quite the same way......
I hope you are enjoying the festive season on both sides of the pond -- what traditions would YOU import?