Are you still on holiday somewhere? My housemates who travelled, are back and now it’s my turn to leave the house. I am off to London for my New Year experience. I leave in an hours time 😍😍
As explained in my last blog post, I had every intention to experience a Welsh Christmas. I therefore, chose to spend my Christmas break in Cardiff. Unfortunately, Welsh Christmas did not happen. “Mmm, there’s really nothing as Welsh Christmas. What we have is a typical British Christmas” Remarked my friend Anna, a local in Cardiff.
My day was planned out. My alarm set for 9 am. Take my breakfast before preparing to join other internationals at the Cardiff International Church. Later, I would join my friends for an evening hangout. Well, it went as planned 🤓
The weather was in an excellent mood. Imagine a crisp clear, sunny day in Cardiff City with temperatures at 10oC. No rain, not even a light drizzle. A white Christmas was only but an illusion 😔😔
At 11am, I am in church. Today, the set up is different. It’s a Christmas dinner set up. We sing Christmas Carols, there is entertainment courtesy of the Sunday School children, then Christmas sermon and after that dinner is served 😋
At the dinner table, I see these glittery paper tubes, twisted at both ends. I had seen them before when we hosted the Christmas tree lighting party. We popped them and that is it. I clearly had missed the explanation, or whoever brought them to our house, never bothered to explain why they were so prominent a feature during Christmas dinners 🤔🤔 Christmas Crackers add life and pomp during dinner. They are absolutely a British invention. These must be popped before dinner starts. Tony Lloyd, a member of the Church educates us on what these crackers represent. A cracker tells the whole story of Christmas in four ways; the bang-Jesus is coming, the gifts- the gifts from God, the message- the word of God (though mostly written as a little joke to be read during dinner) and the crown-representing the king of the world. The crowns are worn adults and children representing a simple message- that everyone is King on Christmas day. This tradition dates back to the 1950s.
Lloyd finishes his presentation with a prayer inviting us to serve. Even though we observe the same festive celebrations, different countries have different traditions including the meal that is served during Christmas. In Kenya, typical delicacies include; Chapatis (roti) with either beef or chicken stew, pilau, biriani and the most famous of them all; nyama choma (roast/barbecued meat) served with kachumbari (tomato and onion salad with/out chillies, also known as salsa in some quarters) 🌝🌚
Christmas dinner, the British way is not complete without roast turkey, chicken, goose or ham served with all the trimmings. Other distinct items on the dinner table include; cranberry sauce, leek, cawl (served as broth or soup) parsnips (I really liked these) brussels sprouts (these, I don’t like at all). In addition to these, you need a pudding that includes mince pie or some special biscuits. Dessert completes the serving. “Our dessert would be the Welsh cakes. Others will have what we call Bara brith or Teisen lap,” remarked Lloyd, who was kind enough to help me get the names right as I took notes on my phone. I have added hyperlinks on all these, you can take your time to read more about the same. Let’s say, I ate everything that was offered on this day.
By 2pm, all I wanted to do was to go home and sleep. But no, the day wasn’t over yet. The church had organised games that I am told are quite synonymous with Christmas season. Though the games will vary from families to families, two are quite common- the musical chairs and pass the parcel. While the rest gathered to start the game, others were ready to go because everyone needed to be at home at exactly 3pm. But why 🤷🏾♀️🤷🏾♀️
The Royal Family Christmas Message
As the culture has been for the last 68 years, the Queen’s message is such an important feature and one that is awaited, world over. This year’s speech would mark the end of the decade focusing on the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day and reflecting on the commemorations. I make it my duty to ensure that I catch a glimpse of her Majesty, the Queen. I am told that though many watch the speech live, it is always recorded 🧏🏻♀️
“We don’t care if it is recorded, all we see is that the Queen will be talking to us at exactly 3pm so we plan our day to accommodate this special event. It normally takes 10-15 minutes,” stated my friend Liz. I later follow the conversations on Twitter on the Royal Family’s page, and I couldn’t help but notice the shift from the speech to questions being raised on the missing portrait of Prince Harry and Megan from the Queen’s table. Wow, isn’t royalty a tough life. If you haven’t yet, please do, follow the Royal Family on Twitter (@RoyalFamily) quite an exciting experience always being in the limelight.
I am a lover of tea ☕️ I love Kenyan tea, specifically Kericho Gold. In the UK, it will be Lipton or PG Tips. You can find these in any supermarket. I have them in the house, but no, they do not come anywhere close to Kericho Gold. I am reliably informed, any proper English event must have tea. Christmas tea is served at around 6pm, served with mince pies, biscuits or sausage rolls. In most cases, this 6pm tea will mark the official end of a very commercialised day in the UK. Family members will then spend the evening storytelling or watching Christmas related movies 🎥
Britons open their gifts on the Christmas day. While in Kenya we understand Boxing day as a day we unwrap our gifts 🎁. In the UK, this isn’t the case. Boxing day was coined as a day for servants and helpers to get a day off and as they do so, they would have carried boxes with gifts from their employers back to their families. The presents were packed in boxes, hence Boxing day. I understand that in Kenya, we have now changed this day from Boxing day to Utamaduni day (in celebration of our culture). I am yet to understand what is expected of us as Kenyan’s on this day. If you do understand, please share with me.
Shopping for Christmas 2020
“Anything else to note down?” I ask Lloyd. “Mmm, it might be important for you to note that immediately after Christmas, almost everything is on sale. There will be amazing offers, with most items going for as low as 50-70% off. I take this as an opportunity to shop for next Christmas.” Wow. This tip is a money saver 🤪🤪
Bring down your Christmas Decorations
While I like the sight of my Christmas tree 🎄 in place, unfortunately all Christmas decorations should go down twelve days after Christmas. So what happens if I don’t? 🤔🤔 “There is an overarching belief that bad luck will befall you in the following year,” said Richmond. Interesting. I really want a beautiful 2020, so I oblige. All my decorations will be out the 3rd of January, 2020.
I wish you a lovely 2020 🙏🏾🙏🏾 Let’s make it count, even as we take stock of 2019; the year that was! See you again, next Monday, Inshallah, the first Monday of 2020. I will be back to tell tales of my New Year experience in London.