HFS’s favourite Christmas Traditions
Here at HFS London, we’re getting well and truly into the Christmas spirit. The HFS homestay elves have been busy decking the office with tinsel, playing cheesy Christmas tunes and eating unhealthy quantities of mince pies. Besides this, our team each have their personal alternatives to the standard yuletide activities. We thought we’d share our excellent tips and carefully curated picks with you. If you’re a student staying in a homestay this winter, or a host family looking for ways to get your students involved in the holiday festivities, read on for inspiration.
For Rosie, our Host Family Relationship Manager, there’s nothing more magical than wrapping up warm and heading to one of London’s outdoor ice rinks. Although she may more closely resemble an emperor penguin than a swan, falling over is all part of the fun.
A special favourite this year is HFS London’s temporary neighbour, the brand-new City Island Ice Rink, just installed round the corner from our office. Since the rink is set up in the forecourt of the English National Ballet’s new HQ, you might even catch a glimpse of a world-class ballerina cutting a rather more elegant figure on the ice.
Arthur is an ardent movie buff, and there’s only one perfect picture for him at yuletide – his namesake, Arthur Christmas is sure to make an appearance on his TV each December. (what’s the synopsis of that film?) Synopsis: If you’ve ever wondered how Santa and his elves manage to deliver presents to the 2 billion children across the world in one night, this is the film for you. Turns out that underneath the magic is a top-secret high-tech operation. Give this one a watch if you feel the Santa Claus story needs bringing into the 21st century.
Our resident gastronome Mariame takes her food seriously – especially in December, that special time of year when we gather our family and friends to indulge in traditional family favourites and sweet treats. While being generally merry, Mariame loves to check out what’s on offer at the plentiful array of Christmas markets in London. A special favourite is Borough Market at London Bridge, where you can choose from a vast selection of street foods, foodie gifts, or ingredients to take home and share with your host family.
Ollie loves the panto… Oh no he doesn’t! Oh yes he does!
If it’s your first time in London, you have to experience this most British of traditions: the great British panto. You can expect catchy tunes, celeb faces, an alarming amount of glitter and the all-important audience participation. This year, Ollie’s just buzzing with anticipation for the Dick Whittington show at the Hackney Empire. This classic rag-to riches tale of real-life major of London, Dick Whittington, and his eponymous pet cat, will give you an excellent intro to the art of pantomime, and a dose of London folklore into the bargain.
Or, for an intriguing mash-up, go for Goldilocks and the Three Musketeers, on this year at the Battersea Arts Centre.
Katie is a whizz in the kitchen and huge Great British Bake-Off fan, as you can see from her social media thread (link – FB/twitter). When the weather turns chilly, Katie breaks out the flour and heads to the kitchen to warm up. The upcoming holidays are an excellent excuse to bake excessive amounts of cakes and biscuits while infusing the house in that cosy cinnamon-and-citrus smell that lets everybody know it’s Christmas.
Since she brings batches of freshly baked cookies into the office, the rest of the team highly appreciate and encourage her efforts in the kitchen.
When you’ve got kids, Christmas takes on a whole new meaning. In Andy’s household, this mean dressing up as Santa Claus. And we’re not talking about just the hat. When Andy does Santa, he goes all the way – suit, boots, beard, right down to the sackful of presents. One’s dignity may suffer, but it’s worth it for the look on the kids’ faces.
It was around 5 years ago that HFS gave away their office radio to charity. Why? Because Tony started singing – and it was great. Every Christmas we hear classics such as ‘Holly Jolly Christmas’ and ‘Rocking around the Christmas Tree’ being chanted from behind his desk. Possibly his true calling, Tony’s signature remix is his version of “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth.”
Paul’s idea of a perfect Christmas is staying in, warming up with a glass of mulled wine and putting on a classic Christmas movie. His all-time favourite: It’s a Wonderful Life. Paul makes a tradition of watching the 1946 classic every festive season. If you haven’t seen it, you’re in for a treat – the heart-warming story of George Bailey’s quest for meaning at Christmastime, featuring a guardian angel and plenty of Christmas cheer. It may have its tear-inducing moments, but remember – “no man is a failure who has friends”.
For more tips on the top seasonal events around London, check out our other blog posts on Christmas events and how to survive a British winter. And if you’re looking for a host family to stay with this December, get in touch with our team to run through our homestay options.