Column: Holidays go over differently overseas

By Phil Collins

It seems that every time I hear the song “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas,” it actually starts to look a little bit more like Christmas. Mind you, not much in the outside world has changed. There isn’t any snow on the ground, only a few neighbors have put up their decorations and the reindeer are simply MIA. Still, I’m convinced I’m in a “Winter Wonderland” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” so we should probably “Deck the Halls” before he’s “Up on the Rooftop.” “Do You Hear What I Hear?”

Now that Thanksgiving has passed, nothing stands in the way of THE holiday season. It’s officially time to put up the tree, hang the mistletoe and start crossing names off that Christmas gift list. By this time of year we’ve received all the cues to turn our attention to late December. Whether these cues come from radio, advertisers or the calendar itself, there comes a point in the season where it seems impossible to avoid holiday cheer and everything that comes with it.

Personally (though I speak for several other people as well), I try to hold out for that last cue – the passing of Thanksgiving, no matter how many radio stations are playing Christmas carols by Halloween or how many stores want you to beat the Black Friday rush. Believe it or not, these cues don’t exist all over the world. When I studied abroad in Nottingham, England, for a year, I noticed a slower transition into the holiday season.

First of all, and most obviously, they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in England. Before I go any further let me say that Thanksgiving is one of the most depressing days for an American abroad. Think about going to class (in the rain, no less) and having residence hall food for dinner, like every other night. In any case, without Thanksgiving there isn’t quite as obvious a starting point to the season. On top of that, it’s likely there will not be any snow until late in December, as it really doesn’t get too cold. It does keep raining, though.

Without Thanksgiving, Black Friday also falls by the wayside. Black Friday is a concept that just wouldn’t work in England. For one thing, stores usually close around dinner time. Unless you’re in London, you probably won’t find much shopping after 6 p.m. So it’s kind of a stretch to ask people to line up to do their Christmas shopping at 4 a.m., even if that shiny new toy is finally on the shelves.

However, decorations abound as you would expect. Nottingham’s city center was nicely lit and featured a little Christmas village similar to ones you can find here. Visiting that village was probably the most Christmasy experience I had there. After all, nothing says Christmas like a big German sausage and hot apple wine.