Christmas in the Homeland

December 20, 2008 | Cooking, Friends, Holidays

That’s the UK Homeland *lol*. I’m Clare London and I live in London, England, and always have done. I was born on the South coast at Brighton, moved to Surrey when I was 10 and have lived hereabouts ever since.

The familiarity of Christmas is both a delight and a burden, I find.

On the one hand, I love the way all our tree ornaments have a history to them. I love the way the kids expect things to happen at the same time, in the same place as every year since they were born. And I love the glitter and lights that spring up everywhere to celebrate, even if it seems to happen earlier every year.

But on the other hand, we can’t suggest going somewhere warm for Christmas to our children – we can’t suggest going *anywhere* different. I only weaned everyone off Midnight Mass a few years ago, when it stopped being either fun or a religious pleasure. And every year, Hubby suggests we eat something different, as he enjoys cooking new dishes – but you can imagine how that’s greeted!

This year, however, there *will* be changes.
My sister is visiting friends in South Africa. She’s been before, and she gets distraught at the thought of not being here for Christmas Day itself, but we manage quite happily, just celebrating on a much lower key and having a *second* Christmas in the New Year when she gets back.

The kids are older – Son#1 will be carousing his way through the season with his own friends now he’s adult, and Son#2 is attending a drama course, at the end of which they’ll put on a Christmas play for us all.

And Mother-in-law has said she can’t face cooking the mince pies for us all. So I’m doing them! Maybe my Pastry Hands have learned new skills over the years (or maybe I’ll buy some *LOL*).

We start celebrations on Christmas Eve – I’m working up until lunch time.

Then the local church has a children’s celebration in the afternoon, where they all run up and down the aisle with tea cloths over their heads, playing ‘shepherd’, and attempt to set fire to their siblings with the lighted Christingle oranges, while we adults valiantly sing Little Donkey (not without the odd tear, I must say). Son#2 will be singing solo with a couple of friends, so for me the hanky will come out yet again.

On Christmas Day we’ll go to Mass in the morning, then over to my mother and stepfather’s for late lunch.

It’ll be roast turkey of course, and maybe roasted ham as well. Son#2 likes the cocktail sausages wrapped in bacon that are placed around it as it cooks: Son#1 is permanently hungry so he’ll just inhale the stuff as fast as we can get it on the plate. Serve up with roast potatoes – maybe mashed as well – beans, carrots and brussel sprouts. Thick gravy with the meat juices (Hubby’s speciality), and with sides of bread sauce and cranberry sauce. Dessert is Christmas pudding, covered in brandy which Son#1 sets alight and we all take cover. Then it’s served up with either custard or cream and/or brandy butter.

Hopefully we’re all finished in time to watch the Queen’s speech on TV at 3pm, then we lie around like beached whales discussing whether or not she looks good in green, moaning how there’s never anything good on TV at Christmas, and mourning the passing of the Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show. We’ll end up watching the Sound of Music for the umpteenth time, then when lunch has settled, eat cold turkey sandwiches (my favourite) and eat (hopefully) my mince pies. And – for those who don’t like mincemeat, like ME – I’ll have made some little apple pies too.

I will, of course, be online for most of the time, whether surfing the net or writing *lol*. Visit my four Christmas stories if you get a chance, on Sloane’s blog Dec 4, and on my website as below.

And a very happy, healthy and harmonious Holiday to you all, whatever or however you get through the season.

Clare London, Author
Writing… Man to Man

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7 Responses to “Christmas in the Homeland”

  1. Sloane Says:

    Happy Christmas, Clare, to you and your family!

    Thank you for posting your family traditions and the food photos. Somehow my table never manages to look like yours. groan.

  2. Kat Duarte Says:

    Clare, that photo of Christmas dinner is making me hungry! Thanks so much for sharing with us.

    Hope you’re holidays are all merry this year and in 2009!

    Kat Duarte

  3. Beth Anderson aka Hotclue Says:

    Clare, I loved your description of Christmas dinner in England. Makes me want to fly over there and stop at your house for dinner that day. (I wish!) I have one question. What is Bread Sauce? I love anything that has to do with bread, LOL, so you got me curious.

    Have a great holiday!

  4. Margaret Tanner Says:

    Hi Clare,
    Can I come visit you for Christmas. I love the traditional dinner that you have outlined. Even though I hail from Australia, it used to be like that when my dear mum was alive, but although we still celebrate, the food is different. We have chicken and turkey, and plum pudding, but not the delicious plum pudding with the flaming sauce like my mother did and you are having.
    I have a son living in London. He is on a working holiday there (8 year working holiday), so he notices the difference, especieally the weather at Christmas, cold over there, hot here.
    Hope everyone has a lovely Christmas and a safe and prosperous New Year.

  5. Sloane Says:

    I’m posting this for Clare as I sort of goofed! Sorry!!

    How lovely to hear from you all – and yes, of course, you’re all invited!! We’ll have enough food for 70, let alone the 7 we’ll actually have around the table *lol*. Okay, so you’d have to fly the globe… oh well, maybe another year! 🙂

    I wish the dining table picture was *actually* mine, but I can say it’ll look very similar. We make a big thing of the traditional food.

    Sloane – thanks for having me and here’s how we roast those potatoes properly, and all our secret tips!! (hubby leaning over my shoulder, giving instruction *lol*). Cut the potatoes into quarters (or smaller if you like). Start cooking them within the last hour of the meat cooking. Steam the potatoes over boiling water for around 15 mins until they start to soften. Drain off the water and just toss them lightly in the saucepan, this smoothes the edges and turns them extra crispy when they’re roasted (that’s what I like the best!). Meanwhile heat some lard or oil in a baking tray in the oven until it’s melted and very hot. Then put the potatoes in the baking tray, use a spoon to cover them all with the fat. Then cook them on a top shelf above the meat at a hot rating (not sure what you have over there but as hot as you can go) for the last half hour before the meat’s done.

    Kat – a very happy Holidays to you, too, and all the best in 2009! 🙂

    Beth – we’re all learning a lot for our recipe books on Sloane’s blog, aren’t we? It’s a creamy sauce, made essentially with milk and liquidised breadcrumbs, and flavoured with cloves, peppercorns and onions. That’s a very shortened version. If you’re a cook and would like to try it yourself, I’ll send you the recipe – though I confess we usually buy a packet version. I’m at clarelondon11 @ (no spaces):)

    Margaret – how lovely to hear about your Christmas. And although your son is on the other side of the globe, it must be fun to compare the two worlds. A very happy and healthy and harmonious Holiday to you too. 🙂

  6. Ginger Says:

    I’m sorry I missed your day, but I was off line because of thunder storms. I fully intended to be here to support one of my favorite friends and authors. I loved your post and the warmth and welcoming feeling you bring to the holidays.


  7. loretta Says:


    All of our celebration seem to be the same no matter where we live. We eat and spend time with our family.

    Happy Holiday,