<#315 London Report>
My Christmas and New Year Spending in London
By Jung Hana, Overseas Correspondent
London’s Christmas seemed to be over after around more than a month of celebration, but still people over here might not have finished. Spending Christmas abroad was one of my wishes, which luckily I have finally achieved. I could feel Christmas was coming a long time ago. There were plenty of decorative Christmas lights hung between buildings across roads, traditional Christmas foods put out in every market or special promotions, choirs singing carols on the streets and the massively increasing people visiting London for the Christmas holiday. I could have enjoyed it just in London, but I really wanted to experience the real Christmas in the U.K. so I decided to plan for it.
The first thing I did was book coach tickets out of London to Bath and Birmingham to visit some traditional German Christmas markets in the U.K. Why German markets? Because in bygone times, marking Christmas was banned for a while and since it was lifted, the original Christmas market place, Germany, has affected the celebrations in the UK. The German Christmas market has become an English Christmas tradition and ironically, more people are coming to the U.K. for it. When I got there, the markets in both cities absolutely lived up to my expectations. In Bath, there were 129 German themed traditional wooden chalets around Bath cathedral offering unique and handmade gifts, mulled wine (red wine with spice served warm) and sausages. In addition, they decorated their chalets peculiarly to attract people or for fun. Birmingham’s market was basically same as Bath’s but it is the longest and largest market in the U.K. Moreover, as the second biggest city in the U.K. the so called the city of shopping, some people said they would stay there for two days on average. What a nice chance for the U.K.!
The strange thing was that most shops, including supermarkets, closed earlier than usual on Christmas Eve at around 3 or 4 in the afternoon and they did not open on Christmas day. Buses and tubes did not run as well. When I discovered this I could not understand it. I am used to busy and loud Christmases in Korea. Usually I would go out to the street and do something but, people in the UK normally gather and spend the time together with their families on this day. So instead of going out with my friends from Spain and Italy I stayed at my flat and threw a party for two days making food and playing games. We talked about the way we spend Christmas holidays back home as well and they were shocked when I told them about the things that Korean youths do on Christmas day like going to see a movie or shopping with their girlfriends or boyfriends. One of my Italian friends said, “Really? But for European people Christmas is all about sharing dishes, giving presents and playing traditional games. People should be with their family.” That’s right. At that moment I thought about the real meaning of Christmas and came to like the European people’s thoughts about it.
The day following Christmas is ‘Boxing day’. On this day the majority of shops including department stores and shopping centers give big discounts on their products from 30% to 70% off. That is the first and last chance of the year to get expensive items at a cheap price. I had heard that there were going to be a lot of people and long queues to many shops especially the popular ones. I went to Selfridges which is one of the most famous department stores to see how crazy it was. Even before arriving there, the roads were packed with cabs and cars. When I finally got to Selfridges, the first words which came out of my mouth were ‘OMG! (Oh, My God)’. Loads of people were waiting in line for their turn to look around shops and they were already carrying 2 or 3 paper bags. It was 11 in the morning! When did they arrive there? It was hard to even take one step. I left after just an hour and chose not to shop that day because the big sale continues the entire first week of January but I think there will be less things to buy then.
My overall impression of Christmas in London is ‘people’ as in people who cared for their traditional Christmas markets, people who love to be with their family wishing for a ‘real’ merry Christmas and people enjoying celebrating for themselves by doing things like shopping. I want to learn to be like the first two kinds of ‘people’ when I go back to Korea. I know we don’t have any traditional Christmas markets but we can spend time with our family members. Now, I’m looking forward to a fantastic New Year’s Eve with my friends.