A Student’s Guide To A British Christmas
If you’re visiting the UK in December, the country will be in the run-up to Christmas. In Britain, this is big business! There’s a real excitement in the (chilly) air as London lights up for advent. There’s lots to do and see that can help immerse you in British Christmas culture and give your homestay in the capital a real seasonal sparkle.
Most towns and cities in the UK light up their high streets with Christmas illuminations throughout December. Many have specific ‘switch-on’ events that are free to attend and feature a local person or celebrity ceremonially turning them on. You’ll find family homes riddled with fairy lights too, so even local strolls feel festive. Whilst not a set rule, Brits usually ensure their Christmas lights are taken down for the year ahead. Mark your 2020 calendars for the Twelfth Night (6th January)!
Christmas Food and Drink
Even if you’re not in the UK for December 25th, it’s worth indulging in a traditional Christmas dinner! Not dissimilar to a Sunday roast, a Christmas lunch includes a roast turkey with roast potatoes and vegetables. It is usually followed by a (flaming!) Christmas pudding. Mulled wine and mince pies are also enjoyed throughout November and December and can be found on most London high streets.
Christmas Church Services
It’s not uncommon for British families to celebrate Christmas even if they’re not Christian. However, there’s lots going on in the Church should you choose to visit. Services for singing Christmas carols and focusing on festive stories are open to all and can be attended to help deepen your understanding of the season.
As is with most countries, Christmas is a booming business for retailers. Families and friends exchange guests, and of course, Father Christmas (a.k.a Santa Claus) visits for children. Shops open until late during the Christmas season but tend to be pretty busy. Our advice would be to go early in the mornings! As soon as the big day is over, January sales kick in. Save your Christmas money for these sales as they can be better than Black Friday / Christmas sales. Head over to Westfield for your general needs, or over to a Christmas market for something a bit more special.
If you are spending time in your homestay this Christmas, it’s worth noting that almost everything will be closed for at least the day. Some businesses shut right up until the New Year. Most study centres will close too. Some convenience stores open for a couple of hours on Christmas Day, and local pubs often admit guests for a few hours to socialise briefly. The only guaranteed exception to Christmas closures is the NHS (National Health Service). So if you’re a medical student/intern, you may still find yourself working through the holiday.
Book a homestay
If you need somewhere to stay in London in November or December, or even through Christmas itself, get in contact with the HFS London team. We have host families offering accommodation throughout the festive period in all areas of the city, for both short-term and long-term stays. We’re the experts in homestays and can even recommend Christmassy events to attend and gifts to buy, so give us a call.