An international relocation to London includes learning about new foods and traditions as you adjust to British culture. That’s all part of the fun of moving to London once the challenging relocation logistics (like finding and moving into your London apartment rental) are behind you. One thing that’ll never get left behind, though, is the cultural knowledge you’ll learn after living in London a while.

Christmas was a case in point for my husband and me this year. While they can be found in the States at import stores like World Market or even Starbucks, Christmas crackers from Marks & Spencer traveled overseas in our luggage to add an extra dazzle to our Chicago Christmas Eve at my parents’. I’m not talking something you can eat with cheese—“crackers” in this context are cylindrical poppers that two partygoers pull from each end in opposing directions to crack them open and delight in the little prizes found inside. Contents can range from little toys to card games to even fingernail clippers and mini screwdrivers (as my siblings discovered), but every cracker will contain a joke and paper crown. Such a simple, quirky thing, but, man, did it get everyone hyper and unite us in laughter—children and adults alike! It was a new and special twist to the holiday, and I’ll always treasure the image of everyone wearing their colorful crowns. 🙂

It’s believed that the crown might derive from Twelfth Night celebrations when a king and queen presided over festivities, and the idea of wearing a hat at parties goes all the way back to the ancient Romans’ Saturnalia celebrations around the 25th of December. The Christmas cracker itself dates back to 1846, when it was originally a sweet wrapped in paper twisted at both ends; rather than a joke, it contained a love poem as it was traditionally a gift given by men to women. The banger (the chemical strip that makes the cracker pop) was added around 1860. As time went on and imitations were made, the original creator, Thomas Smith, replaced the candy with a surprise gift, and,  in the early 1900s, his sons replaced the poem with a joke and added the crown.

The second British invasion of our holiday took place on Christmas Day, when we cooked some traditional fare for my mother-in-law: deliciously golden chicken pie with homemade cranberry sauce, brussel sprouts with bacon, and gingerbread stuffing on the side. That last deviation from the traditional turkey stuffing was compliments of British presenter Nigella Lawson, whose Christmas Kitchen special made us salivate and inspired our meal. The dishes were a flavorful success, and if you’d like to try the same, the pie and stuffing recipes can be found at the BBC links below:

Chicken pie:
Gingerbread stuffing:

How might an international relocation to London inspire your future holiday traditions? There’s only one way to find out: move on over here! Your London Relocation agent is here to help.

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