Christmas celebration here has been very festive. Earlier this month, there was a Christmas dinner organized for the International Office. This dinner was only for new international students who haven’t experienced British Christmas before. It was fun and delicious. I got to see my international friends whom I met on the Orientation Week. I also had a chance to try traditional British food like Yorkshire pudding, gravy, Sunday roast, and of course, turkey!
Last week, there was another Christmas dinner. This time, the Christian Chaplaincy organized it. The dinner was hosted by Zoe, a lovely lady that I met on my very first day here. I had another wonderful food and made new friends from many countries. Most impressive above all is a conversation with Zoe’s husband Fren. I was amazed how knowledgeable he is. When he talked to students from Bangladesh, South Korea, Japan, Portugal, Spain, Germany, Kenya, and Mauritus, he managed to say some detailed facts about each country. He even mentioned some facts about Mauritus which I never heard of before (or it’s probably only me).
When it comes to my turn, he responded “Oh Indonesia. It’s amazing how many islands you have. How many are there? 17,000 or something. Have you been to the island of Sulawesi? It’s funny because it shapes like the “K”. I want to see ancient tribes in West Papua.” He didn’t mention it all in once, but I was impressed how much he knows about a country he has never been to.
Today I had yet another Christmas dinner with a British family. This is also organized by the Chaplaincy to allow international students to experience the British culture and for British families to share their culture and joy to a new person. I was matched with a lovely Donnan family. They are a family of five, originally from Australia but have been in the UK for 16 years. I went to church with them, played video games, and walked around their house, and had a delicious dinner. They have been sweet and welcoming. They even picked me up in the morning and dropped me off in the afternoon.
Out of those Christmas experiences, I observed a few interesting things.
Church service doesn’t have to be serious
I went to a church service with the Donnan family this morning. To my surprise, it was very entertaining. The church emcee (the one who led the prayer) cracked jokes. Best of all, she played an amusing video about the birth of Jesus. Despite its laid-back nature, the service was meaningful because the church emcee explained the actual meanings behind the funny anecdotes and videos.
Christmas pudding for everyone
Early this week, my friend told me that some British people don’t like Christmas pudding that much even though they have it every Christmas. True enough, during the dinner today, only Jeannette the mother and I tried the pudding. The rest of family didn’t want to try it. Why do British people have pudding every Christmas then? It’s a tradition I guess. Although it’s not my favourite either, it’s actually not too bad.
This is another interesting tradition in British Christmas. Christmas cracker is a cardboard tube covered by paper and twisted at both ends. On the Christmas dinner, two persons will try to pull the cracker. The cracker will make a loud sound and break the tube. The person who gets the bigger part of the cracker wins and can take the prize inside the cracker. Inside the cracker, there are a Christmas crown, a toy, and a joke (a dry one).
Letters to Santa Clause
From what I heard children writing a letter to Santa is common in other countries. Something unique about this in the UK is that children send their letters to Santa by burning them. It is believed that Santa can read from the smoke. Although the children give Santa a hard time to read from the smoke, they get their presents anyway. Hehe