Christmas Eve 2007 in Cambridge: The River Cam
So, here we are on Boxing Day. Boxing Day, December 26th, is so named because (according to lore, or in this case, Wikipedia) it's the day you give presents -- a BOX, perhaps -- to employees, the poor, people who work in various service industries, etc. It's really treated as a follow-up holiday, often with a another big meal, party, etc. More recently, it's also a big sale day. I'll be checking out that scene later today.
More Christmas things:
Christmas Crackers: No Christmas party table setting is complete without a Christmas cracker, a party favor of sorts. Its name comes from the fact that it's got a little bit of explosive in it (a really little bit), so when you pull it apart (our observation is that you share the opening of a cracker with the person across the table from you, yanking from either end), it pops, or cracks.
Crackers vary in quality and excitement value, but they always seem to contain a paper crown. And what's hysterical is that EVERYONE wears the paper crown. As we looked around the restaurant yesterday, people of all ages, all manner of dress had on their brightly colored paper crowns. When we left, we walked past the more upscale Bistro at the Hotel du Vin, and everyone in there was wearing a gold or silver foil crown. (They must have had posh crackers.)
Then, there's usually a joke in the cracker (typically a dumb joke) and party favor of some sort -- on Christmas day, I got a keychain and JT got a pen, but JT's favorite was at the company party, where his Christmas cracker contained a protractor.
Then, after you've made it through the dinner wearing your silly paper crown, you eat Christmas pudding. First, "pudding" is a synonym for dessert, not a specific dessert item made by Jello or Cozy Shack. You hear people use "pudding" far more often than "dessert." Christmas pudding, though, is a very specific pudding. You start making it a couple of months in advance from various candied fruits (raisins, sultanas, currants, etc.), sugar, eggs, spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.), breadcrumbs, and booze (rum or brandy). Then you steam it in the oven for 6 to 8 hours. Cool, and place in your cupboard until Christmas. Douse again with more booze, steam for another couple of hours and serve with some sort of heavy, rich cream perhaps also spiked with booze.
Or you can go buy a mini one at the store for the sake of the blog.
This one is steeped in Courvoisier. It's also disgusting. It could also be because it's 10 a.m. Not breakfast food, that.
Finally, you finish your Christmas meal with coffee and mince pies. Once upon a time, mince pies actually contained meat, but these days they're diced fruit mincemeat, spices, and some more booze in a pastry crust. They're typically individual-sized, and an American friend here in Cambridge explained described the taste perfectly: "They taste like Christmas," she says. Indeed they do.