From multi coloured Christmas jumpers and Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, to gooey chocolate festive brownie bites from M&S and hot cocoa while watching Arthur Christmas, the festive season in London would make any Grinch’s heart grow three times bigger.
The temperature having dropped to single digits and having officially snowed this week, the gloves, scarves and winter boots have assuredly made their way out of the dusty boxes and are now used on a daily basis. Goodbye ripped jeans that I was desperately trying to hold on to, hello woolly stockings.
This Christmas will be bittersweet, because of the loss of a loved one at home, but in order to truly respect the true meaning of this season, what we need to do is take a step back and reminisce. In sorrow and in joy, we need to remember all the moments, all the tears and all the laughs. All the memories, the good ones and the bad, that have permeated the days, hours and minutes of this year and all the years before. I chose to believe that the ones who have left us this year are in a happier place and that they would want us to remember them with a smile and with brave hearts as we come to terms with not being able to see them again. They would want us to remember their hugs, their laugh, the sparkle in their eyes as they spoke about the things they loved, and all the personal moments that, unlike the mortal body, will last till the end of time. Christmas is about keeping them in our hearts, while still remembering that there are little ones in need of our attention, their innocence still needing to be preserved for as long as possible and who still need to be taught that the spirit of Christmas is about so much more than all the presents, but that it’s about being kind, and generous all our lives, throughout the whole year.
I am however, very fortunate that I get to experience Christmas in two countries this year (Christmas in the Seychelles coming soon!!) and so I absolutely couldn’t go home for the holidays without firstly having walked around London to take in the lights. After having gone to see the Christmas market in Leicester Square (which was a miniature version of the one in Hyde Park), a friend and I walked right down to Piccadilly Circus, Oxford Street and Marble Arch, having stopped for a naughty cup of chocolate covered strawberries along the way. We watched the street performers try to make a few pounds and walked for a good hour all over the place, taking in the spectacular display of lights that dressed the buildings and roofed the sidewalks and roads. If you’re in London, I’d highly recommend taking a night off just to wander around and take in the carols playing from the shop windows, and the elaborate displays that try to compete with the lights. We were really lucky to be have had a bit of snow and you can be sure that I started blasting ‘Let it Snow’ on the highest volume! I couldn’t help take a lovely walk in the park and throw a few snowballs while my nose almost froze off.
Another must do when in London for Christmas is spend a day in Hyde Park at Winter Wonderland. Open from 18th November to 1st January, this is the perfect place to indulge your Christmas fantasies. You’ll know you’ve had a good day when you’re in a food coma on the way home and your hair is all messed up from having gone on all the rides. I’m personally not a massive fan of roller coasters or anything that leaves me hanging upside down, especially not after I’ve eaten a cone of churros, a burger and about a dozen donuts all in the past half hour. Don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate the thrill element but I’ll be the girl you see standing in line for the candy floss for the third time, holding the 5 bags for her friends on the topsy turvy spinning contraption. I’ll also be the 20-year-old walking up and down the Christmas village ohhing and aahhhing like a 5-year-old on Christmas morning. I love love love seeing all the stalls selling jams and chutneys, ceramic ornaments, heavenly scented soaps, mulled wine and so much more. There’s so much to do and so much food to eat. They even have a vegan set up! (I may not be fully vegan for December but I see you double spiced bean burger in whole-wheat bun with sweet potato fries). The Big Wheel has a beautiful view of London at the top, and the Magical Iced Kingdom has some mesmerising ice sculptures if you can get over the finger numbing sub-zero temperatures. The ice rink lets you channel your inner ice skating Barbie and the Cirque Berserk immerses you in a funny and magical display of dares and acrobatics. I shamelessly indulged in way too much food but went home feeling even more festive if that’s at all possible.
Last but certainly not least, Christmas time in London comes with the warm and cozy feeling of snuggling up in your favourite pjs and watching a classic movie with your new little family. Or, if you’re me, the totally stressful but ever satisfying feeling of planning a Christmas dinner for your friends before you all part ways. With the roasts that waft their aromas down the food aisles in the supermarkets, the mini canapes that tempt, the pastries and nut mixes and minced pies, the Monica in me couldn’t help but indulge her hostess fantasies! From the turkey and herb roasted new potatoes, to the minced pies and crackers, I’m so happy I was able to put together a classic (and very non vegan) dinner the way I wanted to. I bought the turkey pre-spiced so all I had to do was throw it in the oven as well as the beautiful little canapes but the potatoes and the spinach gratin I made myself and if I have to say so myself, it was pretty great! Everyone loved it and we ate till we could barely move. But we somehow made it to central London for one last look at the lights and to dance the final night of the semester away. It’s been a hectic first few months but now we all need a little break before we can come back and tackle the next step. We’re all set for the camera to pan out and display the end credits of episode 1 of university life; ‘Semester A out of the way.’
Well, I think I’ve said the word Christmas about 100 times in this post and my flight should be boarding any minute now. The next time you hear from me I’ll be on the beach under the coconut trees not 5 feet from the gorgeous blue Indian Ocean.
Until then, sit back, grab a minced pie, and let’s see what the last few days of this year have to offer us next.