Planning to live, work, or study in the UK? Working with British companies? We help explain some of the mysteries of British culture, customs and the English language.
Turn on English subtitles to read the text while listening.
Dan: Hello everyone, and welcome to the British Culture Club. The podcast, online magazine, and videos exploring British culture.
Well, Christmas is getting close. The Christmas lights have been switched on in Bath, and there's a Christmas tree in the Abbey courtyard. So in this episode, we're going to be looking at Christmas traditions, carol singing, giving gifts. Rosanna is going to be talking to Julia who has a gift shop, and Su who organizes a choir
We're going to start with Rosanna speaking to Julia about giving gifts at Christmas, and Christmas decorations.
Rosanna: Hi Julia, lovely to have you with us. So with me, I've got Julia Davey who has a fantastic shop in Bath full of lovely gifts. Why do you think people enjoy giving and receiving gifts, especially at Christmas?
Julia: Well, I think England, as much as I love it, tends to be a bit grey and wet at this time of year. So I think it really cheers us up at Christmas to have some lovely gifts to give, some bright colors, some golds and silver, it's just a really lovely pick-you-up in the middle of winter, and it's a real chance to connect with people. So, if you give a thoughtful gift, I always think that rather than, getting something in a hurry, if you've really put some time into it, you can connect with someone and find a deeper connection with that person.
And so is there a lovely opportunity to do that at Christmas?
Rosanna: It is yes. I sometimes think it's so nice to see the facial expression of someone opening their gift and how pleased they are. Love doing our "secret santas" here at Languages United and seeing what exciting gifts we can all give and receive.
So in terms of decorations, we love a decoration here in the UK, but what are some of the most popular ones that you see people buying, to decorate their homes and their trees at Christmas time?
Julia: We always have wreaths on our doors. So really beautiful decorations made out of the foliage, sort of holly and bits and pieces that people find locally sometimes now on their walks and things. They like to think it's come from the nature around them. And little tiny decorations for the tree, because I think a lot of us in Britain like to buy a new one every year to add to our tree. So we always try and find unusual little decorations, normally by people that are artists, and small makers, for the tree because it makes it a little bit special to invest in that new decoration each year.
Rosanna: What else makes Bath so special at Christmas, it is somewhere people love to visit and come and see what's on offer here .
Julia: I adore the Abbey and we have a huge Christmas tree that goes up outside the Abbey, and it looks beautiful.
They light it up and it's really special because in the Abbey itself they have regular Christmas carol sessions. And I've always gone along to at least one of those when I've done my Christmas shopping at the weekend on the run-up to Christmas, because it makes you feel part of something in a community.
There's something wonderful about going into the abbey and how big it is and vast. And yet hundreds of people come together on a Saturday afternoon and sing and it really, it really does make Christmas for me.
Rosanna: What are some of your favorite Christmas traditions that maybe you have with your family or friends, or just ones you enjoy doing by yourself, maybe.
Julia: Well, I have to say, I do like to eat quite a lot of food at Christmas. So as a family, we have a Boxing Day walk. So we go on a walk with my dog and my children. We get a bit of a breath of fresh air, but also make some more room to come back and attack the table of leftovers again.
So I really enjoy that as our tradition and also I have very small children. So, we like to leave out a carrot and a mince pie for Father Christmas. And, it's lovely to rediscover that, after years of being a boring grownup, who doesn't think about Father Christmas as much anymore, it's amazing to find magic and, and have fun with their imagination with that tradition.
Dan: That was Rosanna speaking to Julia about giving gifts, Christmas decorations, Christmas food, and Julia mentioned the Abbey and carol singing. Which is something that Rosanna also speaks to Su about.
Rosanna: Could you tell us a little bit more about carol services that take place across England and the UK near Christmas?
So, you know, especially here in Bath, we have lots of carol services going on at the Abbey. What can you tell us about them?
Su: Well, in a normal year, you will have, you will have lots of gatherings, and sometimes there'll be as a ceremony of light and everyone will take their own candle. It's togetherness in the dark times, I suppose.
And each church will have one, and the most important one is the one which is on Christmas Eve when, even people who don't normally go to church, you'll find that they all go, because it's also quite a romantic thing, you know, to be inside that service and lots of people, even if they don't know any hymns of the church, they will know the Christmas ones they'll have learned them at school.
Rosanna: Where else can you find people singing carols?
Su: In Bath, the best place to hear them is in The Circus, which is that round of houses it's like three crescents stuck together with enormous plain trees in the middle. And under there. on one night before Christmas, everybody gathers and they take a lamp and sometimes the salvation army play.
So you have brass instruments and lots and lots of singing. That's my favorite. But you know, you go to town in a normal Christmas and you'll find choirs on on loads of corners, and also sometimes little choirs will knock on peoples doors and do Christmas carols.
Rosanna: It's a really magical atmosphere, especially when you're walking through town and the Christmas market's on, and you can hear everyone singing. It's magical. Yeah. And why do you think people enjoy singing, especially around Christmas time?
You mentioned before how, even people that don't usually go to church, they go to the Christmas Eve service. They like the magic feel of lighting a candle and singing all together. So why do people really enjoy it during Christmas?
Su: Well I think singing is really good for you, it's good for you mentally, physically, spiritually, every way.
It's good for you, you know, letting your breath be out and letting your voice be a part of something this increases togetherness. But I think at Christmas people allow themselves to be a bit freer. and they allow themselves to sing together. Some people find that in a football match when they're on the terraces or rugby match, it's the same thing. It's everybody together giving their little bit of positivity. I think that's all part of it.
Rosanna: Would you be happy to sing us a verse of a popular Christmas carol or one you enjoy singing or one your choir enjoy singing?
Su: Yes. my, my favourite, I love all the upbeat ones when it's with a lot of people, but in my heart, I love the ones that have beautiful poetry and, and they're not always big jolly, joyful things. I like the quiet ones where you can feel it, the snow falling, that kind of, that kind of one. So this is, this has always been one of my favorites.
Rosanna: Well, that was beautiful. I'm sure lots of people will agree that that's their favorite too.
Su: It's a lovely, creates a lovely picture.
As Su said that paints a lovely picture of the winter scene. And I hope this episode has given you some insights into Christmas in the UK. There's more information in our online magazine. So do head over to our home page britishcultureclub.org. There's a link in the show notes below.
That finishes this episode, I'm going to leave you wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from everyone in the British Culture Club team.