An English Christmas Trip: The Top British Christmas Traditions We’re Looking Forward To


Ever since we decided to spend Christmas in England this year, our minds have been focused on all the things we’re looking forward to most while we celebrate our favorite time of the year in our favorite place in the world.

This post will be published on Friday, December 13th when we will already have arrived in London.

So, I thought it would be fun to put together a list of all the British Christmas things that we’re looking forward to.

Christmas TV Specials – Our passion for Britain is stoked by great British TV and it will be a treat to be in the UK watching all our favorite Christmas specials live as they air on TV. No downloading. No streaming. Just being there. I’m particularly looking forward to the Doctor Who and Downton Abbey Christmas specials (no SPOILERS from us!).

Christmas Lights – I’m a Christmas light junkie, so I’m very interested to see how they’re different in the UK. I plan to spend an evening in London walking around taking pictures of all the lights. I’d also like to do the same in Shaftesbury, where we’ll be staying over the festive period.

Crackers – Every year, I’m the damp squib that brings crackers to my family Christmas party and get strange looks. So, it will be quite  treat to actually be in Britain to pull them apart! This is one of the first things we’ll have to buy when we get there.

Christmas Lunch – Mrs. Anglotopia is going to do her best to attempt a traditional British Christmas Lunch. What’s the main course? Turkey. Yes, Turkey. So, I have a feeling our lunch will be a lot like Thanksgiving.

Boxing Day Sales – We like to shop just as much as everyone else, so we’re looking forward to setting out the day after Christmas and seeing what kinds of deals we can find.

Christmas Morning ChurchbellsUpdown Cottage, where we’re staying for Christmas, is on the same street as a Victorian era church with a steeple full of old bells. I cannot wait to hear them ring out on Christmas morn.

Christmas Carols – I love Christmas music and I’m really looking forward to seeing which ones the British prefer and if they sound differently that the ones we fancy back home.

Christmas Shopping in London – Mrs. Anglotopia and I have set a budget of £100 each for Christmas and we can’t wait to set each other loose in London to find the perfects gifts to put under our tree in Shaftesbury. I’ve already bought Anglotopia Jr. a special gift that’s waiting for him in England.

Christmas Evensong – If the kids co-operate we’d love to attend an evening service on Christmas Eve to hear the songs and celebrate the reason for the season.

Learning New Christmas Traditions – This is the highlight – we have our own set of family traditions for Christmas so it will be fun to learn and experience new ones that we can incorporate to future Christmas’s back home (that is if we don’t return to Updown again next year!).

The (Hope) For a Snowy England – Looking at the weather forecast for our trip, we’re going to be blessed with mild and sunny weather. Couldn’t ask more. Except that a little bit of holiday snow would be appreciated. Preferably on a day we don’t plan to drive anywhere. But I don’t think we’ll get it.

Mulled Wine – Mrs. Anglotopia is looking forward to this more than me as I can’t stand the taste of most wines. But I’m sure I’ll give it a college try.

Mince Pies – Anglophile confession time. I’ve never had a mince pie. I know. Gasp. So, I’m looking forward to trying them for the first time and I hope they become a favorite.

Christmas in London – What’s more magical than seeing London all lit up and decorated for Christmas. We’ll be living our own version of Love Actually minus all the sorrow!

What’s your favorite British Christmas tradition? Let us know in the comments!

Read More at Anglotopia


  1. avatarRowena Chiu says

    How about a traditional Christmas Pudding? It can’t be missed! Where are you thinking of going for your Christmas Evensong? St Paul’s or Westminster Abbey? If you can make it out of the city, Evensong @ Christ Church, Oxford, or King’s College, Cambridge, are amazing spectacles, although I realise you’ll probably be in London itself for Christmas.

  2. avatarCarrie says

    Love Christmas Carols, and mince pies! :-) I always look forward to the Christmas television but sometimes it lets you down. However, it’s always good to view the likes of Downton Abbey and suchlike programmes. I have never been to London at Christmas, so I don’t know what that is like.

    • avatarCarol Irvin says

      We arrived on Christmas Day in 1995 and found it shut down completely. no prearranged transport left the 2 of us and 2 others off the flight taking a rogue taxi into London for 80 pounds each..That gypsy had a great Christmas on us. Boxing day was a bit better with some trains running so we were able to head south to the beach on very cold day…

      • avatarCarol Irvin says

        Forgot to say, Boxing Day was for gifting the staff and now is most known for Footy and more family, not shopping. Again little or no transportantion but its getting more like the US every year.. that disappoints me.

  3. avatarJude says

    Turkey at Christmas is a fairly recent choice. In my family it was always two birds, a goose (dark meat) and a capon (white meat). A capon is a male chicken that has been castrated, so it doesn’t expend energy chasing the hens and puts on extra weight.

  4. avatar says

    I too will be in the UK for Christmas this year. I love the abundance of Christmas Lunch. Roast Beef, Baked Ham, a Goose or a Turkey with all the trimmings for each: Roast Beef: horse radish sauce,Yorkshire Pud and a rich beef gravy. Ham: pineapple,cheesey cauliflower. Goose/Turkey: orange sauce,stuffing w/ chestnuts ,cranberries,sage n onion stuffing. Then the brussel sprouts, the roasted potatoes, creamy mashed potatoes,the mashed carrots n turnip, green beans, sausages in bacon and more! Truly a true Groaning Board that’s for sure. THEN desserts: Trifle with real fresh country cream, Mince Pies (little tiny ones) , a true English Fruit Cake, never to be confused by those Yankie ones,shudder~ and a lovely chocolate Yule Log. Oh, and not to forget the Cheese Board, crackers, grapes and after dinner booze: Port and other Cordials etc with the After Eights! The Queens Speech at 3 pm on TV. THEN the Christmas Specials on TV of your favourite TV show. I can’t wait! But not looking forward to the cold lol

  5. avatarTeresa says

    The big sales are January 1 not Boxing Day. Not much is open on Boxing Day or it wasn’t the last time I was in Manchester last year.

  6. avatar says

    What a great article! I have to say I love all of what you’ve listed here, but if I have to choose, i *love* crackers. Went to a big Christmas party/dinner a few years ago, with some friends, and they had them. I still have my “toy plastic mustache” I got that year. The crepe crown fell apart long ago, sadly. Have a great time and can’t wait to hear and see all about your wonderful Christmasing in the UK!

    • avatarMinerva says

      …in which case….make your own! They are so much better h/m anyway. Delia Smith’s recipe for mincemeat is a good one…….& you can make your own shortcrust pastry or buy a bit of frozen Puff pastry if you prefer…. the mincemeat (if stored properly) will keep for a year!

  7. avatar says

    Last Christmas I bought the christmas crackers for my family get together on christmas eve….I could just see my 3 sisters rolling their eyes but I think the kids enjoyed them. I have bought them again this year!

  8. avatarMark Geddings says

    In 1985, Christmas lights were few and far between in Suffolk.. in fact our Christmas Tree (set in the front window in our apartment on the High Street in Hadleigh) was often
    photographed and pointed out ( I have a minimum of 2000 lights in my trees every year) for each of the three years we lived there.

    the last Christmas there I saw several trees with just as many lights as we I like to think we had an effect on the local population… 😉

  9. avatarSusan Peterson says

    You must take the jr. Anglotopians to a traditional Christmas Pantomime. Cinderella and Aladdin are great favourites. Interactive theatre at it’s best.

  10. avatarVicki wood says

    Pantomime is a must to do. A great British Traditional family custom check them all out, they go into the new year too. Prices vary look for the old style theaters.

    I found all the shop made Minced Pies where not good? Just buy two jars of Mincemeat “it’s not real meat just fruit and spices” then make your pastry or buy it and use lids and a tin to pop them in and bake 15 mins. They taste so traditional. A British Christmas cake with Marzipan and a Christmas pudding with custard or Brandy Sauce.

    Try the local outdoor markets. Try the real fish markets like the one in Seattle WA, while in London you should try a real Pie and Mash Shop with Liquor,jellied heels.

    Some villages have the old steam trains that have Santa on them for afternoon train rides, just like the Harry Potter Train.

    Take some old fashioned jar candy back home you find the jar candy in a village Post Office or a news agents, next time buy a rail card and go up to Birmingham to the Cadbury Chocolate Factory World great family day out.

    Most towns and villages do tours or days out events so get with the locals and get on board a bus Christmas bus tour.

    • avatarMinerva says

      Panto is a good plan….matinees in the afternoons are especially good for smaller children that cannot sit still/quietly for long. Audience participation is a MUST! Just shout when everyone else does, be aware that at some point sweets may be thrown into the audience from the stage, & don’t be at all embarrassed if your child shouts anything at all when no-one else does….it’s all ‘expected’, & totally alright!

      The above poster’s ‘jellied heels’ should perhaps be read as ‘Jellied Eels’

      I’m not quite sure what is meant by ‘jar candy’….other than perhaps sweets (candy) that are stored & can be bought in small quantities loose from a jar in a Sweetshop or Newsagents??? There are some interesting names/flavours to discover……& are bought in small enough quantities for it not to break the bank if you have acquired something you aren’t keen on.

      As for, ‘most towns & villages do tours or days out events, so get with the locals & get on board a bus Christmas bus tour’….that isn’t strictly accurate. Larger towns DO have local bus companies that do day trips, but villages don’t very often. If you are going to a smaller place, the village pub or shop is a wealth of local information. Offer the ‘publican’ (owner of the pub) a drink & ask away……if he/she doesn’t know the answer, you can bet they know someone who does.

  11. avatarVicki wood says

    Santa brings his gifts the morning after Christmas Eve, no gifts before bed time and put an Orange in bed sack with the toys under the tree.

  12. avatarVicki wood says

    The best part about England are all the local people and all the different accents that can change in a space of 30 miles.

  13. avatarMJ says

    Jonathan & Jackie— Do your research because Christmas & Boxing Day are very, very, VERY quiet! Few things are open, although some of the big hotels can be counted on for special meals; they may cost you dearly…

  14. avatarlaura says

    Make sure you have everything you need including a bit of brandy to flame the pudding….NO shops open on Christmas Day.
    That said….enjoy the day. Stoke up the fire, eat too much and then collapse with a groan into a comfy chair and watch all the TV specials. Oh yes! Make sure you have a box of Roses chocolates to snack on save me the purple wrapped one (with caramel and hazelnut inside).
    Here’s raising a glass that, one day, you’ll get your wish to live in England. Its the best country in the world.

  15. avatarDavid Ashford says

    Carnaby Street Christmas lights were brilliant last year; it’s not just Oxford & Regent Street. Also, China Town was brilliant at night. I’m really feeling quite homesick just thinking of it.

  16. avatarLinda N says

    When we were stationed with the US Air Force in East Anglia, we would take the train to London on Christmas eve. We liked to walk down Oxford and Regent Sts. to admire the beautifully decorated shops windows and Christmas lights. We also enjoyed the many buskers performing carols and the roasted chestnut vendors selling their goods on the street corners. Great memories.

  17. avatarFrances says

    I miss Christmas at home so much that it’s full-on English Christmas in our home. I traded with my husband – we do whatever he likes at Thanksgiving (affectionately referred to by my American hubby as “Thanks for Going”), so that I always get my Christmas just as it always was growing up. Including bucks fizz at brekkie, full dinner of roasted turkey with my mothers homemade chestnut stuffing (in the bird) and Paxo sage & onion stuffing on the side along with cranberry sauce. All pots and veg are roasted (Brussels, carrots and parsnips), pigs in blankets, homemade Christmas pudding, ignited with brandy and lashing of hot custard of course. No self-respecting household would go without crackers of course.
    Pressies are exchanged after the dinner has been cleared away and cleaned up.
    Top of my bucket list would be a white Christmas – never had one!
    Yes, Jonathan I literally did gasp at your confession of never having had a mince pie. Do try making your own mincemeat too, Delia Smith’s mincemeat is excellent as has been said further up in the comments.

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