How To Celebrate Christmas Every Day
Depending on how old (and hungover) you are, a typical British Christmas Day begins bright and early with a glass of Champagne. In fact, they say that the average British family have their first alcoholic drink at 9.05am. Rise and shine!
Situated in the grand surroundings of St Pancras International station, Searcys Champagne Bar opens at 7am (Mon-Sat) and 8am (Sun), should you fancy some fizz with your sunrise. Hailed as Europe’s longest Champagne bar, this modern drinking spot boasts stylish banquettes fitted with ‘press for Champagne’ buttons. Seats are heated but if you’re still chilly, you can snuggle up under a blanket while you sip on your glass of bubbly.
For millions of people across the country, Christmas Day kicks off with a church service, not surprisingly given that the holiday is thought to be the day Jesus Christ was born. Every morning, the spectacular St Paul’s Cathedral opens its doors for morning prayer (Mon-Sat 7.30am; Sun 8am). Open to anyone and everyone, services here are often sung by the Cathedral Choir or visiting choirs from around the world. Even secular visitors will enjoy marvelling at this 1,400-year-old site, which has been built and rebuilt five times over the centuries. Look out for Christmas concerts in December, including the always-popular Ceremony of Carols by Benjamin Britten.
A bowl of cereal just doesn’t cut it for breakfast on Christmas Day. We Brits like to indulge in something a little bit special, whether that’s fresh lobster or a ‘full English’ with all the trimmings. Big enough to satisfy Santa himself, Hawksmoor Guildhall’s ‘breakfast for two’ is a full-on feast of smoked bacon chop, beef and mutton sausages, short-rib bubble and squeak, grilled bone marrow, trotter baked beans, eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes, unlimited toast and HP gravy. Too meaty? The lobster Benedict at this City favourite will leave you feeling just as special.
What would Christmas be without gifts? A lot less expensive perhaps, but where’s the fun in that? In Britain, if you’ve been good, you might get that DVD box set you’ve been dropping hints about for months. Even bad girls and boys can expect a pair of questionable novelty socks lurking under the Christmas tree. It’s a busy time of year for Santa and his many elves, but somehow he manages to make an appearance at grottos up and down the city. Grottos = gifts! You can catch old St Nick inside Christmas in Leicester Square, Kew Gardens, ZSL London Zoo and the Rainforest Cafe, to name a few. Children can have their photo taken with the main man before receiving a surprise present.
At 3pm on Christmas Day, families gather around TV sets to watch the Queen deliver her annual Christmas message – a tradition started in 1932 with a speech written by Rudyard Kipling for King George V. It might not be the most exciting thing on TV that day, but Her Majesty is not one to be interviewed, so we Brits relish the annual glimpse into her character.
Get your royal fix outside Buckingham Palace where the Changing the Guard ceremony takes place on odd dates (1, 3, 5, 7 Dec etc, subject to changes). Rumour has it that members of the royal family
like to gather on Christmas Eve in Sandringham, Norfolk, for afternoon tea – apparently they’re fans of gag gifts. Enjoy an afternoon tea fit for a queen at The Ritz in Mayfair and pick up some majestic stocking fillers at nearby Royal Warrant holder Fortnum & Mason.
We might aim for Christmas lunch, but with must-have components such as stuffed roast turkey, Brussels sprouts, roast potatoes, spiced red cabbage, honey-mustard parsnips, bread sauce and Christmas pudding – all made from scratch – it inevitably becomes Christmas dinner! Just don’t forget the crackers.
Let HIX Mayfair do all the hard work while you sit back and enjoy an elegant twist on festive favourites. Highlights include turkey and stuffing croquettes with cranberry sauce, roast breast of Ripley Estate pheasant with chestnut dumpling and Christmas pudding with rum sauce (available throughout Dec). Wash it down with a glass of eggnog or mulled cider, surrounded by original artworks by the likes of Rankin and Tracey Emin.
Nothing brings friends and families together (then rips them apart) like board games on Christmas Day. Wise Brits will arm themselves with plenty of mince pies and mulled wine to survive the spousal spats, sibling rivalry and geriatric cheating that goes on.
Cluedo, Chess, Monopoly, Scrabble – all the classics await you at the exhibition Game Plan: Board Games Rediscovered at the V&A Museum of Childhood. Get stuck in with hands-on interactive games while discovering historical board games such as The Game of the Goose, which some say dates back to the 16th-century. Or visit the city’s first board-game café, Draughts, in Dalston.
By nightfall, most of us have managed to eat and drink so much that there’s very little we can do except collapse in a chair (or pillow-shaped loved one) and settle down for a relaxing night of festive film-watching.
Put down the television remote control and head to One Aldwych this month for Film & Fizz with Curzon. Running most Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays this month, these evenings give you the opportunity to watch a Christmas classic in the Covent Garden hotel’s private 30-seat screening room with a glass of Champagne followed by a three-course meal at the incredible Indigo restaurant, which happens to be entirely gluten and dairy-free. Films include Miracle on 34th Street (4-6 Dec), White Christmas (11-13 Dec) and It’s a Wonderful Life (17-22 Dec).