CHRISTMAS EVERY DAY
If, like rock band Wizzard, you ‘wish it could be Christmas every day’, then you’re in luck! Sam Rogg explains how you can celebrate a British Christmas on any day in December…
A guide on how to celebrate Christmas the British way! From the Queen’s speech to board games, we reveal how you can enjoy traditions on any given day this month.
Depending on how old (and hungover) you are, a typical British Christmas begins bright and early with a glass of Champagne. In fact, they say that the average British family has their first alcoholic drink at 9.05am. Rise and shine!
Situated in the grand surroundings of St Pancras International station, Searcys Champagne Bar opens from 7am (Mon-Sat) and 8am (Sun), should you fancy some fizz with your sunrise. Hailed as Europe’s longest Champagne bar, this modern drinking spot boasts stylish banquettes fitted with ‘press for Champagne’ buttons. Seats are heated, but if you’re still chilly, you can snuggle up under a blanket while you sip your glass of bubbly. For millions of people across the country, Christmas Day kicks off with a church service, not surprisingly given that the holiday is also Jesus Christ’s birthday. Every morning, the spectacular St Paul’s Cathedral opens its doors for morning prayer (usually from 7.30am). Services here are often sung by the Cathedral Choir or visiting choirs from around the world. Even secular visitors will enjoy marvelling at this 1,400-year-old site, which has been built and rebuilt five times over the centuries. Look out for many Christmas concerts that take place this month, including the ever-popular Ceremony of Carols by Benjamin Britten at the iconic Royal Albert Hall.
Somehow a bowl of cereal just doesn’t cut it for breakfast on Christmas Day. Brits like to indulge in something special, whether that’s lobster or a ‘full English’ with all the trimmings.
Big enough to satisfy Santa himself, Hawksmoor Guildhall’s mammoth ‘breakfast for two’ is a full-on feast of smoked bacon chop, beef and mutton sausages, short-rib bubble and squeak, grilled bone marrow, trotter baked beans (beans with pulled pork), eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes, unlimited toast and HP gravy. Too meaty? The lobster Benedict at this City favourite will leave you feeling just as special.
What would Christmas be without gifts? A lot less expensive perhaps, but where’s the fun in that? In Britain, if you’ve been good, you might get that DVD box set that you’ve been dropping hints about for months. Even bad girls and boys can expect a pair of questionable novelty socks lurking under the Christmas tree.
It’s a busy time of year for Santa and his many elves, but somehow he manages to make an appearance at grottos up and down the city. Grottos = gifts! Catch old St Nick inside Christmas in Leicester Square, Kew Gardens, London Zoo and the Rainforest Cafe, to name a few. Kids can have their photo taken with the main man before receiving a surprise present.
At 3pm on Christmas Day, families gather around TV sets to watch the Queen deliver her annual Christmas message – a tradition started in 1932 with a speech written by Rudyard Kipling for King George V. It might not be the most exciting thing on TV that day, but Her Majesty is not one to be interviewed, so British people relish this annual glimpse into her character.
Get your royal fix outside Buckingham Palace where the Changing the Guard ceremony takes place on odd dates this month (ie. 1, 3, 5 Dec, subject to change). Rumour has it that the royal family likes to gather on Christmas Eve in Sandringham, Norfolk, for afternoon tea – apparently the royals love gag gifts. Enjoy an afternoon tea fit for a queen at The Ritz hotel and pick up some majestic stocking-fillers at nearby Royal Warrant Holder Fortnum & Mason.
We may aim for Christmas lunch, but with must-have components such as stuffed roast turkey, Brussels sprouts, roast potatoes, spiced red cabbage, honeymustard parsnips, bread sauce and Christmas pudding – all made from scratch – it inevitably becomes Christmas dinner! And don’t forget the crackers.
Let HIX Mayfair do all the hard work while you sit back and enjoy an elegant twist on festive favourites. Highlights include turkey and stuffing croquettes with cranberry sauce, roast breast of Ripley Estate pheasant with chestnut dumpling and Christmas pudding with rum sauce (available throughout Dec). Wash it down with a glass of eggnog or mulled cider, surrounded by original artworks from the likes of Rankin and Tracey Emin.
Nothing brings friends and families together (then rips them apart) like board games on Christmas Day. Wise Brits will arm themselves with mince pies and mulled wine to survive the spousal spats and sibling rivalry that goes on.
Cluedo, Chess, Monopoly, Frustration, Trivial Pursuit, Scrabble – all the classics await you at the exhibition Game Plan: Board Games Re discovered at the V&A Museum of Childhood. Get stuck in with hands-on interactives while discovering historical board games such as The Game of the Goose, which some say dates back to 16th-century London.
By nightfall, most of us have eaten and drunk so much that there’s very little we can do except collapse on to a chair (or pillow-shaped loved one) and settle in for a night of festive film watching.
Put down the remote control and head to One Aldwych for Film & Fizz with Curzon. Running most Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays this month, these evenings give you the chance to watch a Christmas classic in the Covent Garden hotel’s private 30-seat screening room with a glass of Champagne followed by a threecourse meal at Indigo restaurant. Choose from family favourites that include Miracle on 34th Street (4-6 Dec), White Christmas (11-13 Dec) and It’ s a Wonderful Life (17-22 Dec).
Top to bottom: St Paul’s Cathedral; Champagne
Clockwise from top left: lunch at HIX Mayfair; Santa’s grotto at London Zoo; Kew Gardens; snakes and ladders game at the V&A Museum of Childhood; Film & Fizz at One Aldwych