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Life in London Part II: Holiday Celebrations

By Jessica Long

Jess Longdespite being miles away from friends, family, and Christmas familiarities, our intimate Christmas celebration in Islington, U.K., was one to truly be cherished.  Since Mike and I moved into our new home two weeks ago, I’ve tried my best to produce the warm and comforting feelings of home,within our new rooms.  Quickly securing pictures to the walls, tinsel to the ceiling, and stockings above the TV, our flat was transformed almost instantly into a cozy, friendly enclosure. 

We searched for tradition and past rituals, while incorporating our own ideas of what makes Christmas….. Christmas. Mike and I created a perfect holiday recipe; one that equally combined his family with mine.  We even brought a piece of Rhode Island to our new home in London.

During my endless hours of exploring the busy streets of London, I discovered a tiny play house in our new neighborhood.  Conveniently, this pub slash theater was performing A Christmas Carol for the entire week preceding Christmas.  A family tradition of Mike’s, we continued the yearly custom and bought tickets for a matinee the weekend prior to Christmas; a perfect way to introduce the season and begin the task of crafting our UK Christmas celebration.  

Days before Christmas arrived, I hurriedly planned menus and searched for stocking stuffers.  With the mutual agreement to purchase only small presents to be opened on Christmas day, our big gift to each other was a confirmed five day trip to Ireland which we will be taking at the end of January.

Although our Christmas present to each other was a trip outside of England, Christmas itself was about appreciating London and creating new traditions.  After early dismissal from work on Christmas Eve, Mike came home shortly after lunchtime.  We treated ourselves to a couple of pints at our local pubs and watched last minute crazed shoppers scurry in for quick drinks. 

Coming back to our flat to feast, I prepared a Swedish influenced spread that would surely have made my Mom proud.  After spending hours bundled outside on our balcony after dinner, we digested coffees, red wine and music.  The night that began on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, ended in the early morning.   

Christmas day began with salmon quiche, a perfect combination of the smoke salmon breakfast tradition of my family and the sausage and egg casserole Christmas morning ritual of Mike’s.  After stuffing ourselves well beyond full for the second time in twelve hours, we ventured into the streets of London to discover a unique day in the city.

Generally packed with people from end to end, London being a typically hectic city, was pleasantly empty.  Taking on a four hour walk, we strolled many neighborhoods, finding each one equally deserted.  Even Hyde Park, was close to empty.  Beyond the few joyous children who peppered the grass playing with new toys, and the parents who accompanied them, the green lawns and paved paths were almost completely abandoned. 

Returning to our wrapping paper decorated apartment around dusk, we warmed our bones with hot drinks and filled our bellies with appetizers.  Cooking a second feast, this one influenced by Mike’s family’s traditions rather than mine, we relaxed and enjoyed our second Christmas meal.  Mike and I made phone calls back home to wish merry times to the friends and family we were apart from, and never felt too far from home. 

Overall, our Christmas in London was as perfect and as cheerful as we could have hoped for.  Our great efforts to incorporate the things we love about Christmas at home, combined with our success to realize the wonders of London and our freedom to be inventive, made Christmas 2008 a truly memorable occasion.  

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