The sun rises at eight in the morning and disappears, much too soon, at four in the afternoon. The temperature hovers below ten degrees, though sometimes just over. Colourful lights adorn every tree, street, lamppost and storefront. Warming mulled wine is offered at every corner pub. It’s Christmas and I’m definitely not in Melbourne anymore.
For all of my thirty-something years, this time of year has usually involved bright sunshine, taking solace in air-conditioned shops because of soaring temperatures, cold meats and seafood, and even colder beers. (Okay, yes, I’m from Melbourne and more often than not Christmas Day itself can also involve rain, hail, icy winds and general mayhem but I’m using artistic licence here so just go with it.)
The much more traditional image of Christmas is, of course, white, cold, dark.
I always pitied those who couldn’t spend Christmas Day with the doors wide open, letting in a warm breeze while chasing oysters and prawns with the cooling fizz of, well, anything. It seemed so sad that most the world had to stay huddled inside with nothing but Christmas Specials of their favourite shows for warmth (though I completely understand the joys of the Doctor Who Christmas Special - Downtown Abbey, not so much).
Oh how wrong and misguided these thoughts were because if there’s one thing the Northern Hemisphere gets right it’s Christmas, especially London.
How wonderful that it gets dark so early because you can then see the spectacular lights illuminating Regent Street (this year’s angels are particularly stunning). How marvellous that it’s so cold, all the better to enjoy a Sunday roast and glass after glass of mulled wine or spiced cider. How incredible that the sun doesn’t stir until eight o’clock in the morning, all the better for dealing with a mulled-wine induced hangover! And just as well there are so many Christmas Specials because even though it’s seven o’clock, it’s been dark for hours and my body clock insists it’s midnight and I shouldn’t be going anywhere, anyway.
|The angels of Regent Street|
There is one thing that the Northern Hemisphere Christmas doesn’t have. Save for my sister, London doesn’t have my family, doesn’t have my parents. And a Christmas without family feels like a pale imitation of the real thing. Perhaps that’s why we decided to have Christmas Day at a pub this year. Why cook, why clean, why decorate your house if family isn’t there to fill it? It doesn’t matter how many Christmas’s you spend with your loved ones, it’s always a bit, off, to spend the odd Christmas without them.
But it’s not all sad so hold back those tears, people!
In a way, spending Christmas without family is oddly liberating. As much as I love my nearest and dearest, the novelty of having a three-course gastro pub meal in a city that looks like Christmas threw up all over it is exciting. I’m actually looking forward to not worrying about cooking, cleaning or listening to what my uncles think about their favourite footy teams or if my grandma is going to burp through the entire meal or just the start of it (hi everyone back home, love you lots!).
|Christmas threw up all over this store|
Christmas happens every year. It’s a time steeped in tradition and for the most part, you know exactly how you will experience not only Christmas Day itself, but the time leading up to it. So, maybe, just maybe, it’s a good thing to experience this time of year doing something completely different. Experiencing cold instead of hot, dark instead of light, mulled wine instead of icy beer.
Yes, I think I will enjoy my Christmas in London – it will be different, and that’s okay.
It’s just a shame there won’t be any leftovers in the fridge for the day after.