I love Christmas-time. The lights, the songs, the nip in the air, and smell of pine trees all make me excited. When we started planning our itinerary I knew I wanted to be somewhere that had Christmas spirit, ideally that also wasn’t tropical. A tropical Christmas just doesn’t do it for me. I was also hoping to cajole my mother to visit us along the way somewhere, despite her apprehension of airplanes. She thought a year was a terribly long time to not see her grandkids. These two factors anchored London as the place we’d be for the holidays. (London being a direct flight from US east coast with no language barrier at landing!)
Early in our stay I took some time to do Christmas decoration shopping. It was close enough to Christmas that decor was 1/2 off in many places and thus I was able to buy strung lights, and stockings for about $12. We collect ornaments as we go, so we put those to use as well.
We left the decor and tree in the apartment (neatly organized) hoping the owner can reuse or donate them. The tree posed a bit of a problem. I didn’t want to encourage tons of plastic waste and buy a fake one to be used 1x, but in a tiny rental we couldn’t fit even a small real tree. I decided to peruse one of the church lots and was thrilled they had tiny live potted trees!
We felt spending this time and money would make being away easier on the kids, who would get fewer “thing” presents than usual. We tried to keep traditions alive. We made cookies, we watched Christmas movies, and had our traditional Christmas morning cinnamon rolls.
Though we had fewer gifts than usual (Steve and I didn’t exchange any at all), there was still some opening fun. LEGO sets, out of their boxes, don’t take up that much space and can be built and rebuilt. Fun themed underwear replaced older boring ones. Stockings full of sweet treats rounded out the festivities. Our biggest gift was a family experience, tickets to Hamilton on Boxing Day. Amazingly we got 4 seats together, direct from the box office, only 8 days out. Try that in NYC!
Like usual we cooked a big meal and Steve researched butchers and cooked a roast. Delicious! Overall the day felt more similar to home than I would have imagined. We missed seeing relatives in person, of course, but many FaceTimes filled our afternoon. And, of course, a visit from mom/grandma came a few days later.
Overall London didn’t disappoint with holiday cheer- many city streets had gorgeous lights strung across them. The large mall near our apartment was in full-shopping mode. There were charming Christmas tree lots in suburban church yards.
We didn’t see quite as many houses decorated on their exteriors, probably as that’s impossible to do downtown and our neighborhood had many immigrants who likely don’t celebrate Christmas!
Another thing we noted was how seriously places take the idea of a holiday. Public transport is 100% shut down on Christmas day! Given the utter reliance on it by millions I found that surprising! Many museums were also closed Christmas Eve AND Boxing Day as well. Those 3 days off combined with closures on January 1 took some planning!