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A jolly good knees up... 12 reasons why England wins at Christmas

1. Advent calendars. The Italian version of the advent calendar does not contain chocolate, which seems to me to defeat the entire point of its existence. I remember when I was about four years old, getting an advent calendar from my childminder that contained only festive drawings of deers behind every window. Luckily I had the real thing from my parents/ grandparents, but the disappointment of the one chocolate free advent calendar was palpable. Now, imagine that the pretty deer pictures were the sum total of what was behind the advent calendar doors for your entire childhood. It’s a sad thought, isn’t it? And this is if they exist at all – I have been informed that they do, but I’ve get to see evidence of twin advent calendars at the Bellomos, and December is now two weeks old.

2.       We have Hyde Park Winter Wonderland.

3.       We also have Christmas crackers. They don’t exist here. Wtf?

4.      Snow. Nothing says ‘festive’ like a glittery dusting of the white stuff, and over the last few years England has come up trumps in its provision of it. I find it extremely difficult to care about people not being able to get to work when the world is swathed in silver. The temperature here is autumnal, and the landscape is reflecting it. Rust coloured leaves do not say December to me. They say October.

      5.       X Factor. A poor one, I know. But it’s going on the list, despite it being (in the words of my mother) ‘crap – apart from Gary Barlow’. Since X Factor hasn’t been in my life this year, I’ve been clamouring for it. It is a Christmas tradition for the 21st century.  I have even forgiven it for providing the world with Jedward.

6    Christmas Costa. I don’t care if I’m in the coffee capital of the world; get me a Gingerbread Latte and a festive cupcake. Pronto.  

      7.       Christmas farm shops, particularly Cannon Hall Farm Shop at Haigh’s at Mirfield. Farm shops at Christmas, I feel, are a very British invention. Every year we troop to Haigh’s and buy our Christmas tree, and there is always a slight worry that it will not fit in the back of the Yaris. British farm shops make me stupidly content.

      8.      Love Actually. My absolute favourite ever; a beautifully put together piece of British cinematic festive fluff. It’s just so happy (apart from for Emma Thompson). I love Andrew Lincoln. I love Colin Firth. I love Hugh Grant’s dancing. I love Love Actually because it contains Andrew Lincoln and Colin Firth and Hugh Grant’s dancing.

9.       Christmas cards. Again, I see no evidence of this most traditional of Christmas traditions in Italy. Admittedly, the sending of Christmas cards has fallen over the last few years. But with all things retro currently en vogue, I sense a comeback. As soon as I’m home I’m going to make mine using pictures from Siena, and dash them off in the last minute first class post.

10.   Rudolph. In Italy, there is no Rudolph. There is no red nose. There are just... reindeers. That’s all. It begs the question, how do they understand the songs?

11.   Christmas songs. They are all in English. I refute the probable fact that this is because English is one of the world’s dominant languages, and instead choose to believe that it is because, quite simply, England is best at Christmas.

      12.   British Christmas television. Recent and not so recent years have provided us with Christmas Specials from The Office and Gavin and Stacey, amongst others, that have passed into the comedy hall of fame (if there is such a thing). What classics have I got to look forward to when I get back this year? Well, the annual Yuletide offerings: The Big Fat Quiz, the Royal Variety Performance, this year hosted by Peter Kay, and Micheal Buble all over my life, to name but three. We will also see Dickensian classics given a festive tint with Great Expectations and The Bleak Old Shop of Stuff, starring Robert Webb of Peep Show fame. And then there is the Outnumbered Christmas Special, and The Many Lovers of Miss Jane Austen, and the return to our screen of Edina and Patsy in the first of two Ab Fab specials. After Christmas we will be treated to the wisdom of Charlie Brooker in his 2011 Wipe. Yes, British television is the best. I’m possibly most excited about 4OD-ing My Big Fat Gypsy Christmas.

13.   Alright, I know I said 12, as in 12 Days of Christmas, but I’ve thought of another. Yankee candles from Mellow Moments in Huddersfield. Lighting them in our cosy dining room. Candles that match the wallpaper. Cinnamon, baked apple, spice, wood smoke, pine. Nom.
      I love Christmas, I love England; the two combined is a fairly winning combination. Add Baileys and a box of Roses and I’ll be utterly content until January rolls around. Now, I’m going to dig out the wrapping paper and toilet roll tubes. The twins have crackers to make.

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