Today is our one year anniversary! I can't believe that this time last year we were getting married! Jason was thinking we would have to exchange gifts that had something to do with paper but I told him since its not 1870 we really don't need to follow that tradition if we don't want to. I didn't see the point in us getting each other things that may or may not be useful so I suggested that as a joint gift to each other we get a Blu-Ray DVD player. Right now the sales on items like this are really great so we were able to get our Blu-Ray player for 25% off. I figured since it is our anniversary it should be something we can use together and we do watch a lot of movies. We have a subscription to something similar to Netflix/Blockbuster Online and we can get Blu-Ray discs through this service for what we already pay each month.
Backing up, my first Christmas here was a lot of fun and very memorable. On Christmas Eve we did go to church. It was a very nice service and the church was really beautiful and it looks really old but by English standards it is actually a fairly new church, built in 1886. The oldest existing church in Hartlepool, St. Hilda's, was built in the late twelfth century. The service was very nice and surprisingly similar to what I am used to at home. I was expecting it to be much different but the whole liturgy was almost exactly the same as the Lutheran liturgy so I felt very comfortable there.
We went to a 6pm service so after church we headed out to a pub. The first place we went to was horrible, I just don't want to hear "The Thong Song" after coming out of a nice peaceful Christmas Eve service. After that we headed to a quieter pub and were fortunate to run into some friends there so the post-church festivities weren't a total bust.
Christmas morning was fantastic! I asked Jason for a food processor, and I thought that was going to be my "big gift" so after I opened that I was happy and content and figured the rest were just little things. The last box I opened I thought was going to be a sweater, but it was actually a brand new laptop! A MacBook Pro! I really needed a new computer so I was over the moon! After we played around with our new toys for awhile we headed to my in-laws' house for Christmas dinner.
The night before when we were at the pub someone asked me if I was bringing anything to Christmas dinner, and I said yes to which they responded "That is so American!" I guess here people don't bring a dish, its always just the host who cooks the meal and the guests just bring drinks. My mother in law had told me that I could bring something if I wanted because she wanted me to feel at home so I brought over my traditional cinnamon Christmas bread and party potatoes.
Before dinner, everyone opened their Christmas crackers. They had little jokes inside, a small trinket and of course a paper crown.
Me wearing my paper crown!
Jason and Abbie
Kirsty and Abbie reading their jokes
After we had way too much to eat everyone relaxed and we played some Wii games. Jason's sister Diane and brother Thomas both stopped by with their kids after they had Christmas dinner with their spouses' families. It was nice to see everyone for Christmas day and exchange gifts. My in-laws really spoiled me this year and made me feel at home.
In England the day after Christmas is also a holiday known as Boxing Day. Traditionally Boxing Day is meant to be a day of giving gifts to less fortunate people. However, most English people don't know this is the traditional meaning of the day, it is more or less like Black Friday in America. It marks the beginning of a shopping season. The day after Christmas is the day that all of the "January sales" begin so this is one of the biggest shopping days of the year. It is also a day for adults. Christmas day is all about the children so Boxing Day is a day when the adults like to unwind, especially those who had to prepare a big meal for their family the day before. The pubs are very busy on Boxing Day and everyone just kind of kicks back and has a good time.
A local tradition here in Seaton Carew is the Boxing Day Dip. This is an event where people raise money for charity and then wear silly costumes and jump into the North Sea. The North Sea is always very cold and on December 26th the air is only slightly warmer. Jason and I walked down to the beach and it was pretty funny to watch. Everyone who is running meets at a pub up the road where they get a little drunk to prepare themselves and then they all jog across the street and down the beach and into the frigid water. I took this video, and below are some photos of the event.
Overall, my first holiday season in England has been wonderful. I didn't feel like there was anything missing, and although I did miss spending Christmas with my side of the family, my in-laws made me feel comfortable and welcome.