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Monday, November 30, 2015

A Little Christmas

On Thanksgiving evening, after our yummy pub lunch and lovely nap, we headed down to Leicester Square to take in a show. The square had been transformed into a winter holiday park complete with a large ferris wheel and other mini-carnival rides. Little booths were set up with food and games and it was our first real encounter with the unfolding Christmas scene in London. While very different than the markets in Stockholm, it was fun to see people enjoying all that was on offer. Decorative lights had begun to adorn the streets as well.
On Saturday, we were joined by a fantastic group of volunteers to get the church decorated for Christmas and ready for Advent. The crew was fantastic and in the end the church looked truly beautiful. 
Sunday we celebrated the first of Advent. We continued our tradition from Stockholm of having a family light the candle along with a small explanation and it was great to begin our journey to Christmas in this way. There were definitely some longings for our traditions in Sweden. This is our first Christmas away from Stockholm so that isn't all together surprising. It's nice to be sharing the season with our current congregation but of course, those long standing traditions linger in our hearts.
Sunday evening, after a full and wonderful day celebrating the First of Advent at church, we took a little stroll up to Hampstead, about a 20 minute walk from our house where I had heard a Christmas market was taking place. There were loads of people on the street and booth after booth of goods on offer! Another ferris wheel was the centerpiece along with mini-carnival rides and a fun house! I guess these carnival rides are an essential aspect of what constitutes an English Christmas market. 
The mood was festive even if the local band were playing ABBA hits as opposed to Christmas carols. Admittedly, it is hard to listen to ABBA and stay in a bad mood so perhaps it was appropriate even if not seasonally correct. A cute German booth had mulled wine and bratwurst and the booth with the real, live reindeer was a real hit. Made me realize how common these quaint nordic Christmas scenes had become in my mind's eye after 17 Christmases in Sweden! But for the little British children, seeing a real live reindeer was quite a treat. I felt for the poor animal. It could not have been much fun for him given the noise and crowded conditions. We wandered up the street, taking in the festivities. I was amazed how many people were there! But it was fun seeing people enjoying the festivities and so nice for us to just be able to wander up there in the evening. I was impressed by the butcher shop and these huge cuts of beef but at £28.95 per kilo, we won't be tasting any soon! I also couldn't resist this basket given the name of the cheese!
I don't have any of my Christmas decorations with me here in London but felt the need to have a little something around so we spent today cozying up our place.I do love having this great fireplace mantle. I've always wanted a mantle and never had one in Stockholm. I love the garland and with the candles burning below, it's really quite lovely. Hanging lights in the front window along with a couple of wreaths has really helped too! And isn't that tiny fiber-optic tree just fetching?!
So Christmas is popping out all over London now! There are loads of things to look at, great activities to consider, and lights all over the place! It really does help to brighten up the landscape and propels us into the Christmas spirit.
We'll miss some of the traditions that meant so much to us in Sweden, but we are also excited to share new ones with our new church family and to savor the joy of being in London for the holidays.