At this time of year one goes through something of an identity change in the office, with colleagues referring to me as ‘Mary’.
And not because it’s my middle name (which it really is, not one of those ‘danger is my middle name’ kind of statements) but because, more often than not, I’m the bearer of all things festive.
Whether that be decorating desks with tinsel and fairy lights, coercing everyone into Secret Santa, or organising the work Christmas lunch. The latter proving lots more fun this year, with new team members from New Zealand and Australia joining us for their first taste of English hospitality.
Wanting to show them just how we Brits do it, I booked the most traditional venue I could find in the City – a 120-year-old pub with a 20ft tree, open log fire and a scent of pine needles and stale beer. Perfection.
And the menu? A real yuletide treat, with salmon starters followed by turkey dinner, figgy pudding or bread and butter tart.
While the rest of us felt a warm sense of nostalgia, our southern hemisphere workmates were delighted with the ‘kitsch and cute’ version of Christmas – just what they’d hoped for, or so they said. Maybe they just didn’t want to hurt Mary’s feelings.
While I love our traditions, it’s interesting to hear how others do it. Our friends of course were used to spending the holiday season in the sunshine (unthinkable!) with morning water ski sessions followed by shrimps on the barbie and a jaunt down to the beach.
And that’s not as alien as some country’s traditions. Take Norway for example, where people hide all their brooms on Christmas Eve, believing it coincides with the arrival of evil spirits. Or Greenland, where locals feast on delicacies including raw whale skin with blubber, or decomposed bird wrapped in seal skin. Makes brussel sprouts sound heavenly. Meanwhile in India, the lack of spruces means they decorate mango or banana trees instead.
Though probably not to our Scandinavian and Indian counterparts, who are no doubt baffled by habits of bucks fizz in the morning, turkey dinner by lunch, naps in the afternoon followed by bottle(s) of Baileys and bags of chocolate in front of the Downtown Abbey Christmas special.
Now you’re talking.
Roll on December 25th!