"Christmas" in the traditional sense may have ended at 11:59pm, but there are still 12 more days of Christmas to go, so it's only fitting that I'm devoting more time to these entries. There would've been more this week but "A Very Dennis Christmas Special" took up most of my time aside from work.
The country getting the spotlight this time? Great Britain.
If anything, Britain is probably single-handedly responsible for saving Christmas from becoming as important as Channukah. Back in the 19th Century, Christmas was a mostly Catholic holiday and was in danger of falling out of style until Charles Dickens himself wrote "A Christmas Carol." It's highly likely that people like Scrooge were common back then, and this tale gave them quite the wake up call. Sure, while it's one day off, people began to realize to care about people, their legacy, and, well, money. Yeah, it turns out the only way to truly save a holiday is to commercialize the hell out of it. Over a century later, this has yet to fail.
Traditions, you ask? Plenty. Britain shares plenty of ours, like caroling, putting up the trees and obnoxious light displays, hanging stockings, having too much eggnog, you get the deal.
The significance of Poinsettias originated here. At first I wondered what the hell it had to do with Christmas, but apparently its shape signifies the Star of Bethlehem, with the red representing the blood of Christ. There seems to be a lot of "blood" and other fluid related names for food in Britain, Isn't there? Blood Pudding, Mincemeat pie and Steak & Kidney Pie (which, according to Marge Simpson, is what they call Botulism on that side of the pond).
It's also worthy of note that Christmas cards were invented here, too. In 1840, a man who had forgotten to buy his wife a gift that year decided to scrawl out "MERRY CHRISTMAS! I LOVE YOU!" on a folded-over pub napkin to give to her in its place. It's the thought that counted, and people have been carrying on the tradition ever since.
What do they eat for Christmas Dinner? Well, over there, the big Christmas meal is lunch, to make up for the lost time that there's no Thanksgiving or Thanksgiving-like holiday in November. Besides the usual spread of Turkey, cranberries, Brussels sprouts, roasted potatoes, and various other familiar side dishes of crappy British food, they eat mincemeat pie, fruitcake, and most importantly...Christmas Pudding.
Dun dun duuuuun! I'm exaggerating a bit, I know. It's usually made with plums, or as the song goes, figs. As the picture shows, it, much like the Flaming Homer itself, seems to be improved by the addition of fire. To mask the taste, stuff like dried fruit and nuts are baked with the plums or figs, and is usually covered by cream and a hefty amount of alcohol.
Oh, and don't expect any two sets of families to prepare any of these foods in the same way. That's just the way it is.
Another timeless British Christmas tradition itself is the Christmas Cracker.
It's a paper-covered tube filled with confetti and sorts that explode when two people pull it apart. Tradition states that a small toy and a little slip of paper containing lame jokes must be contained within, and the event must be partaken whilst wearing dumb paper crowns. Everyone hates it, but tradition states that, too.
We sure can't forget about the British Equivalent of Santa, Father Christmas.
There's not much of a difference between him and the American Santa, aside from the name and the clothes. Oh, instead of living at the North Pole, he lives in the more realistic Lapland. It at least answers the annoying questions of kids if where exactly he lives, and people can actually visit it and not fear it melting away due to Al Gore's Global Warming.
Lastly, there are the Christmas Specials. Sure, the UK imports some of ours, but they've got some traditions of their own. First off, it just Isn't Christmas unless Channel 4 airs "The Snowman"
A quaint little Christmas special where a Snowman comes to life, and plays with the protagonist until he disappears. It's such a tradition, it's on the level of "Charlie Brown Christmas" and "Rudolph" if someone screws with it. The one year where the special DIDN'T air, Channel 4 had its lowest Christmas ratings ever, and was beaten out by Channel 5, which is the U.S. equivalent of Fox being beaten out by CW.
Along with that, Dr. Who airs its annual Christmas Episode, the soap operas like East Enders and Coronation Street air their most depressing episodes of the year, and the Queen gives out her yearly Royal Message which airs on most of the terrestrial channels. She basically trots out and gives a message of peace, love, and waving, and then back to her palace for six more weeks of winter. To combat this, Channel 4 airs an Alternative Message at the same time, with a different speaker each year. Last year was "President" Ahmadinejad, and in 2004...it was Marge Simpson, of all people.
...I'm pretty sure that video sums this all up rather nicely.