When I first moved to the US, Christmas was a real culture shock. I could not get over how EARLY everything started and how quickly everything was OVER! Christmas Trees up in November?? Just to compare, I will share traditional English practices as they were when I left eleven years ago and then the American traditions and practices I have learned since being here.
As a child we would go, around the 14th of December (or the nearest Saturday to then) to dig up our own Christmas Tree. There was a small estate near to the house that would allow us to go in and find the perfect tree and we would dig it up every year and then attempt to plant it after Christmas was over. Invariably they died, but it was the thought that counted, right? We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in the UK, that is an entirely North American phenomenon, and Halloween is no where near as large as it is here, so Christmas is THE holiday. Family travel over and we have the Traditional Turkey and Trimmings (which is a Christmas not Thanksgiving Tradition). As a family we would go and visit friends on Christmas Eve and then head up to the village Church at 11.30 for Midnight Mass. Christmas day would finally come and then the sales would be on Boxing Day (December 26th) although we never went. Boxing Day to us, and to many Brit’s was about family and friends still and seeing those you could not see on Christmas Day. Christmas Week (the week from Christmas to New Years) was always filled with visiting people or hanging out in front of the television watching any and all Christmas Special’s. It was a time to relax and relish the year gone by and look to the New Year ahead.
So, to my American friends, you can understand the culture shock when I arrived stateside!
The Holiday Season here starts with Halloween. Halloween is HUGE! We trick or treated in the UK, but nothing like the experiences I’ve had with Halloween since moving here. My friend had nearly one thousand children visit her house last year. It really is something else. Then, after Halloween, it’s time to look forward to Thanksgiving. It really is all about Thanksgiving. Family and friends get together for Turkey with all the trimmings on the fourth Thursday in November and then it’s Black Friday Sales the day after! Then….. on that Saturday and Sunday it seems most people put up their Christmas Decorations and their Tree. It seems so early to me still, even after ten years of doing this! Christmas is in full force and it seems sad to me that it seems to be so much about gifts and shopping and not nearly as much about family. Obviously, to many religious American’s it’s also about God and Jesus, but it seems, to me, as though Thanksgiving is the Family event and whereas family might be around at Christmas it’s not the same as Thanksgiving. When Christmas Day night rolls around, most American’s I know are breathing a sigh of relief thinking, “it’s over for another year”….. and that makes me sad.
I think, as a Brit, I’m never going to “get” Thanksgiving the way you guys do. It’s just a redundant holiday to someone who is used to having Christmas be the holiday where it’s all about Family and Friends and Good Will to all Men and what have you. It’s repetitive and as it comes first, personally, I find I resent it as a holiday a little as it steals Christmas’ thunder! I am probably upsetting people left and right here, but please remember, this is my personal perspective and it’s not meant to be judgmental in any way… just trying to explain how I see it and how it feels to me and me alone.
This year we had a fabulous Christmas. For the first time in a very long time my husband did not have to work and we spent Christmas Week playing games with the boys and watching home improvement television shows! It was relaxing, laid back and fun…. and just like Christmas used to be at home. It is possible to have it all, it seems.
Oh, and today is the 10th Day of Christmas!!!! So, Happy Christmas!!! (and a Happy New Year, too)