With only 12 days to go until the big day, ‘are you all set for Christmas?’ Whether you are planning a family affair, or a day in bed with a cuppa and a tin of Quality Street, in an uncertain world, and despite the marketing hype, remember, there are no rules.
In the last of the series exploring the Festive Holiday around the world, two expat Instagrammers share their Christmas plans. First up, an Italian working and living in London and secondly, a Yorkshireman returning home from Spain for the first time in more than a year of travelling.
Stefania Gatta: ‘An Italian in London’
Stefania Gatta is from Rome and came to the UK when she was 24 years. She now feels a true Londoner, as well as a true Roman. Stefania has worked in travel and tourism all her working life and loves her job of Press & Communication Manager @italiait. “I get to promote one of the most beautiful countries in the world and meet interesting people (like you)” she tells me. Aww.
So early riser or late lie-in on the big day? I usually wake up early anyway around 6am, but on the day I might have a richer breakfast than usual, hot chocolate for example.
Dressing up. A glittery dress – it’s Christmas after all – or your favourite Santa jumper? My maximum effort is to wear something red!
A festive lunch with all the family or a late romantic supper for two? We have a festive lunch with family on Christmas Day, usually fois gras, lobster, Beef Wellington, and then typical Italian cakes such as panettone, pandoro, torrone, pangiallo, and lots of chocolates.
Decorations up from 1st December, complete with flashing reindeer on the roof, or a last minute discreet sprig of holly? We usually dress the Christmas tree the first week in December, with lots of decorations and lights.
Gift giving, ‘it’s the thought that counts’ or ‘any excuse to splurge’? My birthday is very near Christmas Day so I usually get a big present for both occasions. I tend to ask my family what they would prefer so not to waste money on useless gifts.
Do you have your own Christmas traditions that make the season particularly special for you and yours? I keep the Italian custom of celebrating Christmas Eve with a traditional dinner based on fish (you cannot eat meat on that day). In Rome it is also traditional to play board games waiting for midnight.
Favourite festive film or TV special? Only Fools and Horses is always funny, no matter how many times you watch it.
Has the pandemic changed how you will be celebrating the festive season, and if so, how? No, not really, it’s always a small family celebration.
Stuart Fahy: travel writer, living in Spain
Stuart Fahy is originally from Yorkshire. Stuart is a travel writer currently living in Santander in northern Spain, and writes a blog about his travels. Follow Stuart on Instagram @just.travelling.through.
So early riser or late lie-in on the big day? I’d like to enjoy a lie-in on Christmas morning, however my younger sister has other plans in mind. It’s become a tradition that she will wake everyone up and it still happens every year, despite the fact that we are now all very much grown up.
Decorations up from 1st December, complete with flashing reindeer on the roof, or a last minute discreet sprig of holly? The decorations generally go up a week or so into December. Unlike the rest of month the Christmas lights are on all day on the 25th and over the years more and more have been added. The main instigator is my dad who has softened his previously ‘less festive’ approach since the arrival of his grandchildren.
Dressing up. A glittery outfit – it’s Christmas after all – or your favourite Santa jumper? Once the presents are all open preparations begin for lunch which takes most of the morning because of the turkey. While mum is cooking the rest of us greet guests, accompanied by yet more present exchanges. There’s no typical dress, usually whatever new clothes you may have received from Santa, although my mum, sister and brother are more likely to put on a festive jumper than I am.
A festive lunch with all the family or a late romantic supper for two? Lunchtime is the full works. Turkey, stuffing, Yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes, carrots, apple sauce, sprouts (although I hate them I have one as it’s Christmas!). There’s a starter of either melon (my task to prepare) or a giant Yorkshire pudding, and Christmas crackers to pull. Later in the evening we have leftover turkey, stuffing and chips. A much simpler meal given the amount we’ve consumed earlier in the day.
Do you have your own Christmas traditions that make the season particularly special for you and yours? With the exception of a couple of years spent overseas, Christmas has always been a big family event. Typically I spend it with my parents and siblings, and guests for the day. Earlier that was grandparents and uncles, and in recent years my nieces and nephews.
The (unwelcome) wake-up call is followed by opening presents while tucking into a selection box of biscuits. The Christmas stockings are the first to be investigated, followed by larger presents. The size of presents, and the amount, have reduced as we have grown older. But it’s still fun to see what we’ve been given. The traditional Christmas our family enjoys also extends to the names on the tags.
“Even as adults we still receive gifts from “Santa”, “The Elves” or “Rudolph”. My brother’s children get the same treatment although, as they’re actually kids, it’s less surprising.”Tweet
Favourite festive film or TV special? We’ve never sat down as a family to watch the Queen’s speech. Curiously, the first time I ever saw it was last year when I stayed in Spain with other expats. At home we’ll usually pick a new DVD to watch, unless there’s something particularly good on television. Some (my brother and dad) will pass out as soon as the movie starts and wake up just in time to see the end.
“We always watch The Snowman if it’s on, something we’ve done since we were kids. There’s an old VHS lying around somewhere with the original David Bowie intro.”Stuart Fahy, @just.travelling.through
Has the pandemic changed how you will be celebrating the festive season, and if so, how? Last year was only the second time I haven’t been at home for Christmas. After being unable to travel much due to the pandemic and spending 10 months with my parents, I needed time away. This year I’ll be heading home again so it should be a more traditional family holiday. After 14 months away, I still have last year’s presents waiting for me!
Follow Stuart on Instagram @just.travelling.through.
Scenes of Yorkshire photos Irene Caswell. www.hashtagtravelling.com.
… and to end
That’s the last in this series. Despite growing up in a large family and Dickensian-type holidays complete with snowy scenes, carol singing in the streets and homemade figgy pudding, it’s hasn’t always been that way since. I’ve spent the Christmas season on the beach in Egypt, in a magical festive Paris, a small fishing port in Mallorca, and even home alone a few times. This year a meal out has been planned but that depends upon the news here in the UK over the next 12 days. But whatever happens I know it will all work out well. There’s plenty to enjoy with walks in the winter landscape, a stack of books to read, films to watch and favourite foods to cook and enjoy, along with a decent bottle or two of wine.
Make the most of the Holiday Season in your own special way. Wherever you are in the world I wish you peace and joy.
Photo: Fancy dress for a big event. It was freezing! Photo hashtagtravelling.com
I hope you have enjoyed the Christmas Around The World series. Catch up with more festive interviews using the link below. And if you enjoy this one from the UK please ‘Like’ below so I know you’re out there! Share your own traditions and festive photos on Twitter and Instagram #christmasaroundtheglobe and tag @hashtagtravelin to link up.