You don't need to be religious to love Christmas. It's a public holiday in many parts of the world, a time to reunite with family and friends, an excuse to belt out Christmas carols, and a chance to eat and shop until you drop.
Christmas is celebrated in various ways. Here in the UK, public transport workers are given the day off, hence there will be no tube or bus services in London at all while cabs charge an extra £4 for each journey. There will also be a tube strike on Boxing Day (December 26) this year, making getting around town even more of a hassle on one of the biggest shopping days of the year.
The Glad Tidings Cracker from Fortnum and MasonBritain has some funny Christmas customs that were new to me. Crackers are all the rage here and come in a wide range of prices and styles. They're basically cardboard tubes stuffed with small gifts, paper crown and joke that pop when you pull them from both ends. If you have too much money and no time to make your own, Fortnum and Mason's Glad Tidings Cracker could take your fancy.
This luxury Christmas cracker consists of requisite paper hat, joke, plus a selection of silver-plated gifts including - listen to this - a tea strainer and caddy, sugar dredger, mustard pot, place card holder, napkin rings and an eggcup and spoon set. A set of six costs £1,000.
Or if like me you prefer the homemade crackers, here's an entertaining how-to video that you may enjoy.
Christmas in Europe is not complete without mulled wine. A winter drink originally created as a way to conceal the taste of bad wine, it is now one of the most popular winter beverages found in nearly every pub in London. You can even buy bottled mulled wine in the stores - just heat it in the microwave and finish with a slice of orange, and you've got a blissfully delicious drink. It's also very easy to make, and here's a recipe I've tried and highly recommend.
For those who simply want to see how mulled wine is made, this beautiful video by Tiger in a Jar should satisfy the curiosity:
Last night we learned that the Queen's husband, 90-year-old Prince Philip, had had a heart operation for blocked coronary artery. He's reportedly doing well, but instead of spending Christmas with family, he may need to stay in a hospital bed. The Queen is expected to touch on this unfortunate event in Sunday's Royal Christmas Message.
Health is something that many of us don't fully appreciate until it's gone. Over the years I've found that proper rest is the key to living a good life. While sleep is obviously very important, so is giving yourself the time and space to reflect and savour all that's around you. After dinner sit a while. After supper walk a mile. Now that's a wise advice.
Have a restful Christmas and a safe and happy new year. See you in 2012!
~ Eileen ❤
A journalist's travel blog following all things beautiful -- in London & around the world.
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