Christmas At Anthro: The Way We Celebrate

As a company and as a nation, we are a melting pot of religions, cultures, backgrounds, family traditions and different walks of life. This year, we look at the festive period through the eyes of Anthropologie’s own, exploring the weird and wonderful ways we celebrate as individuals.

In our final festive installment, our District Visual Manager, Nicola St Louis, takes us through an eclectic Christmas day—including Christmas dinner with Caribbean influences and post-dinner dance-offs.

When do you start preparing for the festive season?

That depends if I’m cooking—if I am, I’ll start shopping for Christmas dinner a week beforehand, that’s to make sure that I don’t forget any of the details. From the melon and prosciutto for Christmas starters (a random Mediterranean choice, we like to mix it up!) to the honeyed ham, Christmas pudding, brandy butter and trifle.

What do you get up to on Christmas eve?

I can be found on the floor surrounded by wrapping paper putting the final touches on my Christmas presents. If the TV isn’t on (trying to swot up on some last-minute cooking tips) then its Magic FM for some Christmas tunes to get me in the spirit of things. When my grandmother was alive the whole family used to go to midnight mass at Westminster Abbey, which was incredibly atmospheric.

How about Christmas Day?

The Christmas stocking tradition is still going strong in the St. Louis house, so if we’ve all spent the night under the same roof we’ll all open our stockings together. I used to get a Smash Hits year book in mine every year until the magazine closed… I’m still mourning the loss.

As my mother owns and runs a dog grooming business, we always have some visitors on Christmas Day: Coco and Polly, my other ‘sisters’, are chocolate-brown miniature and standard poodles and they’re joined by at least 3 or 4 friends whose owners are away for Christmas. After lunch prep we take the dogs out for a Christmas morning walk and then get back to set the table with crackers and the infamous Christmas glasses. We have to make sure that everyone has a pair that’s different to the one they had the year before.

Present-opening and lunch are usually followed by a dance-off (working off those Christmas calories) and then a regroup for pudding (possibly my favourite part of the meal). Brandy on, lights off!

What does Christmas dinner with the family look like?

What we eat for Christmas dinner can look quite eclectic but is based around the international influences in the family. Aside from the traditional Christmas trimmings (my mum always insists on Brussel sprouts even though she’s the only one who eats them) there is a Caribbean flavour to the meal. We throw in essentials like plantain, sweet potatoes and callaloo with some sorrel as a Christmas tipple.

Two of my aunts spent a lot of their youth in Italy. Perhaps this is where the melon and procuttio starter came from. We also mix in polenta and a panettone for pudding. All of these are a tradition now.

All families have their own festive traditions, what are yours?

We all have to sneak into each other’s rooms to deliver the Christmas stockings. This has to be done in the dead of night and the aim is to secure delivery without waking up the recipient!

Another strange tradition that seems to have taken hold is ‘Santa wherever you are’.  Whoever is away for Christmas, the tradition dictates that you have to take Santa with you and send back Christmas photos of whatever shenanigans you get up to together. I have to say, I think I’m his favourite travel partner.

Have a favourite memory from the holiday season?

I’ve always put a lot of effort into trying to get people the perfect Christmas presents and I remember when I was little scouring the high street to with my pocket money and finding the most random bargains that I thought everyone would love. That was actually what made Christmas exciting for me, the hunting was my favourite part.

One Christmas when I was young we went to stay in a large house in Mountsea. It was set in acres of wild British countryside complete with rabbits and stags wandering around. We had a huge tree that sat at the bottom of this large staircase. It felt incredibly traditional and picturesque. Almost like a Christmas card.

How does your family decorate the house for the festive season?  

We tend to go big on our Christmas tree and it’s decorated with Indian wedding jewellery and rhinestones. Imagine it as the Elton John of Christmas trees. More is more!

My dad tries to add some traditional refinement and his favourites decorations are some painted papier mache bells that we picked up in India and some wooden humming birds from the V and A. So there’s something for everyone.

One of the best things about Christmas is the food, do you and your family have any favourite traditional treats or recipes you’d recommend?

One of my grandmothers had a special homemade lemonade cordial. Loaded with sugar, but so delicious that stealing someone else’s could spark a minor war! She used to give us a bottle each but it was so precious (no one else knew how to make it) we would try to make it stretch out for as long as possible throughout the year… and when yours had finished, the battles began.

The Caribbean drink of the season is sorrel and the Grenadian. Half of my family have this on or around the Christmas table every year:

What you’ll need

  • 8 ounces fresh or dried sorrel
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 piece orange peel (fresh or dried)
  • 3-4 bay leaves
  • 12 whole cloves
  • 10 -12 cups water
  • 12cups brown sugar (or more to taste)

How it’s made

  1. Add water, sorrel, cinnamon, bay leaves, cloves and orange peel to a pot. Cover and bring to a boil.
  2. Cool and cover with foil or plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature to steep for 2 hours or overnight. (This step intensifies the flavour! If you are in a hurry you can reduce the cooling time by leaving uncovered)
  3. Strain the liquid through a fine sieve into a container. Sweeten to taste, diluting with water if needed. Beverage should be smooth and sweet but still a bit tart.
  4. Pour into glass bottle or jar and refrigerate.
  5. Enjoy chilled over ice for the PG version or pike with Clarkes Court Superior light for a very adult version

What are you hoping to find under the tree this year?

The biggest box of patience and common sense in the world to re gift to everyone on the planet. What can I say? I’m a sharer.

Tell us a Christmassy story, fairy tale or fable.

‘I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus’ isn’t about an child seeing their mother kissing a strange man dressed in a Santa outfit… the Santa was actually their father dressed up in costume: I’m not sure whether it took me longer to get over that, or that fact the father Christmas doesn’t exist. Mind: blown.

If you could spend Christmas anywhere in the world, where would it be?

In the past, I’ve alternated between spending Christmas in London or India. I love spending Christmas day in Goa—everyone gets on board and there’s real sense of Christmas spirit. Party hats, decorations and local celebrations on the beach as the sun is going down… it’s just that you’re wearing a Christmas swimsuit instead of a sweater.

Laura Bechara – Commercial Finance Manager

When do you start preparing for the festive season?

When I get off the plane at Sydney Kingston Smith!

What do you get up to on Christmas eve?

Usually last-minute Christmas present wrapping.

How about Christmas Day?

I get up super early and then wake the rest of the house up to open presents. After everyone’s opened their gifts I prepare food to take to my Sita’s (Grandma’s) house, then, in the evening we go to my other Sita’s for more food and lots of drinks.

What does Christmas dinner with the family look like?

Usually a BBQ and lots of Lebanese meze, tabbouleh is my favourite. All the family contributes a different dish and we all tuck in. However, my uncle Tony’s Turducken has never made a second appearance!

All families have their own festive traditions, what are yours?

Our tradition is to play a huge game of Dirty Santa. As we have a large family, instead of buying individual presents we all buy one present for the game, when it’s your turn you can chose to keep the present you have chosen from the middle or steal someone else’s from them. It can get quite heated if there is a good present to be had.

Have a favourite memory from the holiday season?

The first time my boyfriend spent Christmas in Sydney with me and he experienced Christmas day in shorts by the pool.

How does your family decorate the house for the festive season?

Our family always has a Christmas tree and my mum lays out a nativity scene next to it. Also, lots of table runners and wreaths—all fake however, because real ones don’t last five minutes in the heat.

One of the best things about Christmas is the food, do you and your family have any favourite traditional treats or recipes you’d recommend?

My favourite treat to eat at Christmas is a Lebanese desert called knefeh: it’s a milk custard served with a rose water syrup. I could eat bowls and bowls of it.

What are you hoping to find under the tree this year?

My boyfriend as he is spending it in the UK with his parents, but I’d probably make do with a striped grey knit jumper from Acne Studios.

If you could spend Christmas anywhere in the world, where would it be?

On Manly beach with my family and boyfriend, a BBQ and an esky full of beer close by!

Joty Kaur – PR & Events Assistant

When do you start preparing for the festive season?

For me, Christmas festivities begin in November after Halloween and Bonfire night. This is when I can begin to feel Christmassy. Decorations start to go up in my house at the end of November. I always try to fit in a winter break to a cold European city with Christmas markets during November or December—this year it’s Berlin and Prague!

What do you get up to on Christmas eve?

On Christmas Eve, I usually spend the afternoon prepping the meat and veggies for Christmas day. In the evening, I usually go out with all my friends from home. It’s like a massive reunion and everybody is there. I usually dance until the fake snow starts spraying on the dance floor (that’s when you know it’s actually Christmas day!) and then head off home to ensure I am fresh for the 25th.

How about Christmas Day?

Christmas day is always spent in my family home. People are usually surprised when I say I take control of the Christmas dinner in my house, but after I wake up in the morning I’m usually in the kitchen up until 2pm until the food is served. After dinner, we sit around in Christmas jammies, watch a movie and have some red wine and a cheese platter for dessert!

What does Christmas dinner with the family look like?

Christmas family dinner looks quite traditional—my family tell me I make the best Brussel sprouts. I love seasoning vegetables with lots of herbs and spices (my family is Indian and stereotypically loves spice, so it makes its way in to the Christmas dinner).

All families have their own festive traditions, what are yours?

On Christmas day while the food is cooking we have homemade samosas!

Have a favourite memory from the holiday season?

Every Christmas gets better and better, as I get older Christmas becomes a time to properly catch up with family that you haven’t had the chance to do all year.

How does your family decorate the house for the festive season?

Décor-wise we’re very traditional. We decorate our Christmas tree and I love putting wreath garlands along the stairs… but we often switch it up each year with new colour schemes and ornaments.

What are you hoping to find under the tree this year?

Experiences over possessions!

Tell us your favourite Christmassy story, fairy tale or fable.

The story of the Elves and the Shoemaker! Long story short, elves secretly help a poor old couple who own a shoe shop to become successful. They come into the shop at night when the shoemaker and his wife are asleep and made dozens of shoes which are sold, and the money is used to make another pair of shoes that are given to a poor traveller.

If you could spend Christmas anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Home, always!

Luella Lane – Head of Creative

When do you start preparing for the festive season?

Growing up my family moved every two years, I also had one set of grandparents in Switzerland and the other set in Thailand, so Christmas was always on the move. It has rarely been at home or in the same destination more than twice. Since rooting myself in London and having two girls the Christmas holidays have become the most important time of the year because it’s the one time my mother and brother get to see my children. The rule is that Christmas happens somewhere warm. The location continues to move, this year to Thailand!

What do you get up to on Christmas eve?

My mom makes a Christmas feast which is a fusion of East meets West. It’s all about eating, laying around, going for a walk in the sunshine and watching Christmas movies—we love Elf.

How about Christmas Day?

The girls are the first to get up. “Santa” has had his milk and eaten all the cookies, the reindeer have also eaten the carrots. Santa also now knows to have different handwriting and wrapping paper from Mama and Papa. We dodged a bullet last year. Soon it’s time to have Christmas leftovers for lunch… and then dinner again.

What does Christmas dinner with the family look like?

This is the best part. Thai spring rolls (secret family recipe) that my brother and I fight over. You dip them in “pric nam pla” traditional fish sauce, which is magic on anything. Then there’s green curry, rice, Thai fish cakes, Chinese dumplings, Pad Thai, turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. A real mash up.

All families have their own festive traditions, what are yours?

No matter where in the world we were, my paternal grandmother would always send the biggest care package you have ever seen. Filled with gifts all wrapped in different paper and ribbons and she would always tie a Christmas ornaments onto them.

Have a favourite memory from the holiday season?

Probably Christmas of 2017. We were all in Florida, the sun was shining and my daughters were meeting their niece for the first time, and they still believed in Santa. It was fun to see them get excited about celebrating with the family. We also all got roller skates for Christmas. Both my husband and I grew up in roller skates when we were younger, so sharing this past time with our girls was the best. It’s become a family activity… we have to bring those skates everywhere. We took the girls to an American style roller skating rink which blew their minds!

How does your family decorate the house for the festive season?  

It’s a mobile event, so depending on where we are, we have to make do with what we have. My mom always tries to wrangle up a tree. I’m not sure how she’s going to make this work in Thailand this year. She normally brings a selection of the decorations my grandmother gave to us over the years, then I will bring some of the decorations I have in my collection and we make it work.

What are you hoping to find under the tree this year?

It’s all about the kids at Christmas now, I don’t need anything! But quietly… I wanted a new camera. My husband ended up getting one for me, but he was so excited to gift it he’s already given it to me. Bless.

If you could spend Christmas anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Anywhere where there is sun and my family.

Dana Ali – Digital Designer

When do you start preparing for the festive season?

I start with decorating the tree at the beginning of December, listening to Christmas tunes and eating those advent calendar choccies!

What do you get up to on Christmas eve?

I tend to be hiding in my room doing last minute gift-wrapping, doing a spot of baking for Christmas Day—and running off to the pub with friends from home in the evening.

How about Christmas Day?

Christmas Day starts with opening gifts in our jimjams, then helping mum to cook and clean before the rest of the family arrives for dinner. We always end up eating too much and playing board games until late into the evening.

What does Christmas dinner with the family look like?

Think a traditional Christmas Dinner with an Iraqi twist. We have the standard roasted veg and Yorkshire puddings—and then we have a massive pile of rice with lots of murag (stew), so there’s always lots to choose from.

All families have their own festive traditions, what are yours?  

Ever since we were little my parents have done this thing where they tell us to close our eyes and hold out our hands… and we get a Kinder Surprise Egg each! We always know what’s coming, but we close our eyes anyway.

Have a favourite memory from the holiday season?

Probably when I was still a child and still experienced the surprise of seeing gifts appear magically under the tree.

How does your family decorate the house for the festive season?

We just try to match our festive décor with the middle-eastern style of our home. I like to incorporate a bit of myself in there too (like the dinosaur ornament sitting not-so-subtly in the tree and calligraphy place cards).

One of the best things about Christmas is the food, do you and your family have any favourite traditional treats or recipes you’d recommend?

Dessert is always best. Mum makes her mahalabi (milk pudding with rose syrup), and we snack on all other baked goods and Christmas chocolates with a good cup of chai.

What are you hoping to find under the tree this year?

Lots of treats for my family—they deserve it.

Tell us your favourite Christmassy story, fairy tale or fable.

When I was little, the idea that an old man called Father Christmas would be on our roof at night would honestly creep me out. On Christmas Eve, I’d convince myself I could hear sleigh bells or something.

If you could spend Christmas anywhere in the world, where would it be?

I can’t imagine having Christmas anywhere else but at our cosy home with my family.

Gemma Ford – Junior Content Manager

When do you start preparing for the festive season?

Festivities for me begin any time after the 29th November because that’s my birthday! I usually arrange a trip home back to North Yorkshire around this time to see family, exchange presents and kick of the festive season. I love going back home as I live in a rural area surrounded by natural beauty. A weekend of cold country walks, misty moorland, red wine in the pub and watching the Christmas tree take centre place in the village market square, that’s when it all begins for me.

What do you get up to on Christmas Eve?

Christmas Eve for me is centred around friends and family. I love the anticipation of the day ahead and usually spend the evening cosied up in the local pub catching up with old school friends that I haven’t seen since last year and wishing everyone well for the big day.

How about Christmas Day?

My Christmases vary hugely as I’ve spent them in so many different locations; France, Australia, The Old Spud Shed in Bath and of course, home, but I always carry my traditions with me. The morning kicks off with a glass off Buck’s Fizz and I delve into my stocking before breakfast. Ever since I was little I was given After Eights and tangerines in my stocking and it’s the one day of the year when it’s totally justified to eat chocolate and drink bubbles before breakfast. We always play Motown classics and fall into a sleepy coma on the sofa after food. Then comes present-opening, followed by a fresh country walk.

What does Christmas dinner with the family look like?

Around midday, the kitchen is in full swing; pots and pans are boiling; the oven is roasting, making the windows all steamy and everyone is merry and rosy from the bubbly. We have the ultimate feast with a turkey or a goose and a ham. Later, we have the annual turkey sandwich making competition, which is basically the whole of Christmas dinner leftovers crammed into one epic sandwich, drizzled with gravy and served with all the trimmings. This is swiftly followed by food coma number two.

All families have their own festive traditions, what are yours?

Gran’s earrings! Each year she dons a different festive pair. The more outlandish the better. We’ve had baubles, ones that flash, ones that sing, ones that are too heavy to wear throughout the day. She’s incredibly stylish but the earrings are just ridiculous and over the years it has become a real family tradition. I’m already wondering what her 2018 edition will be.

Have a favourite memory from the holiday season?

Last year, me, 10 friends and a sausage dog named Wilson hired the Spud Shed in Bath and held our own multi-cultural Christmas. My friends come from Japan, Sweden, Jamaica and England so we decided to cook a dish from each region over the festive period. There was SO much food! And we incorporated traditions from each country into one big mish-mash of Christmas. I loved it. So did Wilson.

How does your family decorate the house for the festive season?

We go all out. Wreaths, holly, fairy lights, mistletoe, the tree, it’s all there. Perhaps the most unusual are the hand-knitted bells made by my boyfriend’s brother’s Polish wife. They come out every year.

One of the best things about Christmas is the food, do you and your family have any favourite traditional treats or recipes you’d recommend?

It’s an obvious choice but my favourite traditional thing is the Christmas cake. Each year my Gran makes one and I have such vivid memories of her making this from a young age. Her marzipan is just the best and each year she tops it with an icing snow scene.

What are you hoping to find under the tree this year?

A big juicy coconut—this year I’m spending Christmas and New Year in Sri Lanka and I can’t wait to spend some time by the beach, eating fresh coconuts and surfing with friends.

Tell us your favourite Christmassy story, fairy tale or fable.

My favourite festive fairy-tale is the story of the marzipan pig; a weird and wonderful story illustrated by the great Quentin Blake. The marzipan pig falls down the back of the sofa, he is discovered and eaten by a mouse and parts of the pig’s feelings are transferred to the mouse, who is overcome by his sweetness.

If you could spend Christmas anywhere in the world, where would it be?

I’d go back to Australia. A couple of years ago I spent Christmas in my old apartment over-looking Bondi beach with my closest friends. We cooked a traditional Christmas Dinner despite the 32-degree heat and spent the afternoon on the beach. I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.

Juliana Pinto – Ecommerce Production Assistant

When do you start preparing for the festive season?

Back home in Portugal Christmas celebrations usually start mid-November. My family takes a trip to the beach where we pick moss from a beautiful forest beside the shore, to be dried and used in a Nativity Scene. Then around the 1st or 8th of December (both dates are bank holidays in Portugal) we hang up our Christmas decorations.

What do you get up to on Christmas Eve?

In Portugal, Christmas Eve is just as important as Christmas Day. It’s highly celebrated as it’s when most families reunite for the first time and exchange presents at midnight.

We spend the day readying the house. While my mum cooks the main dish (cod with potatoes, cabbage and olive oil) my sister and I set the table. We reunite in kitchen to finish the appetizers and the desserts, until my mum kicks us out of the kitchen—apparently, we’re not nice little elves.

All this is done while we have both fireplaces running in the kitchen and living room. Tradition says they should be lit from Christmas until the New Year, although this is rather unlikely…

How about Christmas Day?

Christmas morning is spent with my extended family in church for Mass. They display a Nativity Scene and a Baby Jesus so we can kiss his little feet as a way of saying welcome. This is followed by a visit to our loved ones that have passed away. Christmas Dinner is BIG and as lengthy as possible, fueled by laughter, and food on a table that never seems to fit us all! Our typical meal is: cod, potatoes and cabbage.

All families have their own festive traditions, what are yours?

My family is very traditional so we adhere to one of our village’s traditions of eating “Farrapo Velho”, which is can only be described in English as a cod stir fry. Each family has to eat theirs from a big serving platter, so you end up sharing it with your parents, partner or siblings… or sneakily taking a bite from someone’s else platter if you think theirs is better!

Have a favourite memory from the holiday season?

My favourite Christmas memory is eating the chocolate Nativity Scene with my cousin after my auntie bought it—we had already broken all the porcelain pieces by playing with them. She was furious when she found us feasting on Joseph’s chocolate figure, surrounded by chocolate wrappers.

How does your family decorate the house for the festive season?

My mum loves seasonal décor (I believe she might have passed this onto me). She has typical decorations plus a few odd ones: two Christmas trees, one for the living room and one for the kitchen, Christmas-themed bathroom towels… but the highlight must be: a life-size baby Jesus with an especially dapper outfit just for Christmas.

 

One of the best things about the season’s celebrations is the food, do you and your family have any favourite traditional treats or recipes you’d recommend?

Our favourites are the desserts: Pão de Ló (a cake that turns into pudding when you try to cut it), Aletria (sweet spaghetti, basically), Rabanadas (bread soaked in mulled wine with cinnamon or an egg custard) and Bolo Rei (cake with crystalized fruits) – a sugar overdose!

What are you hoping to find under the tree this year?

I’m not a fan of surprise presents so every year I create something I call “Juju’s Amazing Christmas Wish List” that I send by e-mail or forward as a Pinterest album.

Tell us your favourite Christmassy story, fairy tale or fable.

Tradition says that if you eat Bolo Rei Cake (a cake with crystallized fruits) and find the small prize inside you need to pay for next year’s cake! But due to health and safety reasons we’ve dropped this tradition. Now you can eat Bolo Rei without the chance of choking or having to pay for one the following year!

If you could spend Christmas anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Either a snowy cabin somewhere in Northern Europe or on a paradise beach with a cocktail in hand. Two polar opposites!

Feeling festive? Find everything you need for Christmas here.