Ye Olde English Christmas


By: Neil Cunningham
Head Women’s Soccer Coach

This is without doubt one of my favorite times of the year and also the one where I miss my family back in England. Having enjoyed many great Christmas it is hard not to reminisce about those times. I accepted a long time ago that you have to move on and start your own traditions with family and friends, but some things always bring a smile to my face at this time of year. Whether it is eating and drinking too much, watching bad TV re-runs, shouting in Grandmas good ear and doing a Houdini act when the Karaoke machine makes an appearance, either way, you cannot help but crack a smile. Here are a few of my favorite traditions I left behind some 15 years ago.

Traditional Foods:  You are supposed to have turkey at Christmas. I know you guys have that Thanksgiving thing a month earlier so after turkey, turkey sandwiches and the inevitable turkey soup I guess you have had enough, but I want Turkey! What is with Beef and Ham? Who promoted them to the big house? Turkey, roast potatoes, fresh vegetables and Christmas pudding for dessert (with custard of course) are my favorites.

TV: Without fail on Christmas day when I was growing up the television schedule would be full of old movies and ones that had nothing to do with the holiday season. The Wizard of Oz and the Magnificent Seven were staples. Sandwiched in between was of course the Queen’s speech where she would talk about the year passed and the year ahead. I am not a Royalist in any way but there is something very cool about knowing that the Queen broke off from eating Turkey, or maybe playing a game of Twister to talk to the nation.

Boxing Day: This is the day after Christmas and one of the biggest sporting days on the English calendar. After a whole day previous with family everyone is itching to get out and see a soccer game. Fish and chips at the game, a couple of beers to wash it down and the chance to shout at your team make for a perfect day. It is the best way to get rid of the frustration of spending the day prior with the Mother-in-law ( I do want to point out here that my Mother-in-Law is fantastic).

Mind Games: When I was a kid I remember on more than 14,000 occasions hearing the words, “Santa is watching…” “ If you don’t behave…..” Really, how many times can your mom or dad say that in the course of December? Now as a parent of two little kids I understand why.  A W&L alumna sent us an Elf on a Shelf.  Basically this Elf comes and lives with you and watches the kids to see if they are behaving. The kids are totally into this guy.  His name is Phil (the kids named him). The first thing they do every morning is get up and look for him. Every night he flies back to Santa to give a report on the kids behavior but returns by the next morning in a different place in the house. Absolutely brilliant idea! Its mind control for kids for the month of December.

Board Games: I love board games. I don’t know what it is about Christmas and games but even the more reserved aunt/uncle or neighbor goes nuts for a good game of Pictionary, Catchphrase, or Trivial Pursuit. Some say it’s the copious amounts of alcohol and egg nog. I prefer to think of it as people just letting go and getting into the spirit of togetherness. It may also have something to do with the fact that you will not see Aunt Judy for another 12 months. Whatever their reasons, who cares.

However whether I am here in the USA or back in England, it is a time to truly count your blessings. It is a time to appreciate what you have and the people that share your life, help someone less fortunate and try to be a good citizen.  It is a time to take a moment to tell the real Christmas Story, the one that did not include Rudolph. So, enjoy your family this Holiday season – even when they get on your last nerve!

Merry Christmas!!

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