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Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Eve in London

December 24th is upon us once again. I am up a bit early on this Christmas Eve morning, enjoying listening to music by candlelight, pondering the day ahead, remembering treasured traditions from Sweden that are now in our past, missing my parents, looking forward to new celebrations here in London. We will have a candlelight service at 6.00 p.m. and then we'll head to some friends for some fun. Tomorrow we'll enjoy a quiet morning together and be with another family for Christmas dinner. We'll miss the chaos of the big open house on Christmas day but a slightly more relaxed celebration is also quite all right with us as well!
We have had a great time taking in all things Christmas in London. It really is quite a Christmas town with streets and stores pulling out all the stops to create a festive atmosphere.
Hyde Park hosts an annual Winter Wonderland carnival with huge rides, lots of food stalls, and an attempt at creating a German Christmas market. Temperatures were so balmy this year that the mulled wine and hot chocolate could've easily have been replaced by iced tea! I can't get over how carnival rides are part of the Christmas markets here!
Last week some dear friends from our Stockholm days, all Brits, happened to be in London at the same time. We took advantage of this rare chance to be together by having a Christmas brunch and white elephant gift exchange. The gifts were epically good and good fun was had by all.
That afternoon we ventured into the heart of London and took in Regents, Oxford and Carnaby streets, all dressed up in Christmas splendor. Oxford: Regents had these magnificent circles hanging across the street above and changing images were projected onto them. It was very cool! Store windows with extravagant decorations delighted passersby. We even ventured into Hamleys, the giant toy store. It was only a little crazy!
The Liberty House was beautiful! Floor upon floor of loveliness. It was more of a look not buy kind of place!
By far the most extravagant and fun store to experience was Fortnum and Mason. I have never seen such over the top indulgences. The displays were absolutely gorgeous. The windows filled with decadent displays. Buying something was completely out of the question but looking was free and fun! They had an entire wall of Christmas Crackers...a full-on tradition here in England! Apparently on Christmas each person has one on their place setting and once pulled apart, they pop like a little firecracker and are filled with little treasures. Each one contains a hat and a joke and usually a little prize. We did purchase (not at F&M however) some for our own table this year!
Carnaby street was just dazzling with great decorations and a wonderful atmosphere. We popped into an area called the Kingly Court and had a nice afternoon refreshment. 
I am still very much a kid at heart when it comes to taking in Christmas decorations and London did not disappoint. I only regret that we never got to a Christmas concert at the Royal Albert Hall. And we never saw carolers dressed in Dickens apparel. But our own home is cozy this Christmas even though we don't have our usual decorations. Candlelight and greens add a festive touch. And we have one another which is the best gift of all. In a year that has brought much change and loss, we remain thankful for our life together and the blessing and joy we experience in sharing the journey with one another. And of course, the central message of Christmas, that God, out of his great love for us, sent his son Jesus to come into the world to lead us out of our darkness into His light remains. We are blessed to continue to get to tell this story at the American International Church this year.
I did not get Christmas cards out so let me take this chance to wish each and everyone of you who takes time to read my little blog a very Merry Christmas and a blessed and happy new year.