But before I do that, I have to address the other question that Beth posed which is to explain what this whole business with the paper hats at Christmas is. This might bore people who are very familiar with paper hats at Christmas but because Beth is my very best friend who is learning all about British culture from the worst possible source (read: me) I feel I owe it to her. Was that a run-on sentence? I think it was.
So yes! The Brits wear paper hats at Christmas. I’ve heard from many sources that they also wear paper hats at other festive occasions (birthdays, anniversaries, etc.) but I have yet to witness this first hand so I assume it is mostly a Christmas thing. I did a bit of research on the subject (ha ha! I did a Google search when I was half in the bag on New Years and clicked the first link) and the source of the hat thing apparently goes back to Roman Saturnalia where they wore hats or it could be because of the Twelfth Night thing when the king and queen overlooked the whole proceedings – basically no one really knows, they’ve just been doing it for forever. You can’t blame them though. We Americans have many nonsense traditions that we blindly follow year after year without questioning. I mean, we expect candy to be thrown from parade floats, we don’t question why. Anyhow, paper hats are always contained in the famous Christmas cracker.
A Christmas Cracker: You can put cheese on it but I can't verify how good it would taste.
The cracker will usually include a groaner joke, the paper hat, and some little trinket toy (like a mini magnifying glass or a tiny pad of paper) which you will marvel at for approximately 5 seconds before you try to sneak away and throw it in the trash before the person who bought said cracker sees you. I personally love the paper hats. Ever since I heard of their existence 8 years ago I have added them to my Christmas holiday and enforce those around me to do the same. Here’s Christmas 2007 as proof:
A California Christmas with the folks.
OK then, the debauchery stories. The first one is Boxing Day. For Beth again, Boxing Day is the day after Christmas and is also a legal holiday that everyone gets off. I guess back in the day, it was the day when people would box up gifts to give to their servants. Since nobody has servants anymore besides the queen, it is now simply an extra day to do the things that you wanted to do on Christmas but couldn’t because you were obligated to spend the day with family. Ha ha.
Because my mother-in-law is incredibly awesome, she had offered to take Henry for the night on Boxing Day. She does this, in her words, so that we can get some rest. In our defense, we really did want to rest on Boxing Day. The plan was to watch a bit of television, order some Chinese delivery, go out for a couple drinks, then be back home in bed by 10 PM. Everything was going swimmingly until the Chinese delivery portion came up.
I had placed an order on Just Eat for the Chinese place that we always go to. They accepted our order and stated that it would be 45 minutes until the food arrived. An hour and a half later, the food still hadn’t come. We called the place up but they weren’t answering their phone. I went back on Just Eat only to discover that the Chinese place had now declared their restaurant closed for the night and weren’t accepting orders. Basically, we were not at any point going to get our food.
With nothing in the house, we decided to go out to the Penny Lane Wine Bar which usually serves food. Of course, upon arrival, they weren’t serving any food but we decided to have a drink there before we continued our search. I suppose I should clarify to say ‘my search’ as Andy had already given up that we were going to be eating anytime in the near future.
The night wore on. We continued to walk pub to pub having a drink in each. I will admit that there finally came that magical time in a drinking session where food just didn’t seem important anymore and I announced that the little bag of peanuts would be quite enough to “fill me up”.
At the last pub we ventured into it was incredibly packed so we asked these too older women in their 70’s if we could possibly share their table. They agreed and we soon struck up a conversation. The two women seemed to know quite a few people in the pub and I was amazed that every 20 minutes or so, a younger man would come over with a fresh rounds of drinks for them – including shots. The women had mentioned that although the shots brought were nice, Slippery Nipples were ‘lush’ which of course prompted me to buy a round of them for the table. One mere Slippery Nipple later and I’m drunk texting the world. If tequila makes me dance, and whiskey makes me both chatty and tearful, then Sambuca makes me want to tell the world how precisely hammered I am.
It was shortly after said shot that we thought it best that we head home. I did end up making a box of macaroni and cheese despite stern Welsh warnings that you should never drink and cook.
Now on to New Years… We had decided to stay over at Andy’s mum’s house on New Years so that she could watch Henry while he slept and we went out. We had no intentions of going into Liverpool and planned just to stay and drink in the New Year at a little pub in Crosby.
I had told Andy that I wanted to get to the pub by 8 PM so that we could get a table. Andy laughed at me and said that would never happen- that it would be too packed by that time. When we arrived there at 7:30 PM the place was practically dead. We found a table in the corner and quite peacefully drank there until midnight having a lovely conversation and a bit of a debate about religion. The pub never got properly busy and I was really disappointed that when midnight struck, nobody was at all bothered. There were no streamers, or hats, or horns and definitely no champagne. I, having had quite a few double vodkas at this point, did a very obnoxious American thing by yelling “5! 4! 3! 2! 1!” with the countdown which only produced a few annoyed looks by the locals. We decided to move on.
In all fairness, there was quite a bit of commotion going on outside in the village center and I saw a bit of streamer debris on the sidewalk. Basically, we missed the party in our quest for a quieter pub. We popped into a more lively bar for one last drink and I again made an ass out of myself by trying to request dance-y songs to the DJ.
“Can you play Blue Monday?” (which probably came out, “canna you plaaaay boo monda?”
“I already played that 3 times tonight.”
“How about Dee-Lite?”
“Played 2 times already.”
“uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh, Wombats! Play Wombats! Dance Joy Division!” (It’s ‘Let’s Dance to Joy Division’ but I was hammered)
So we danced to our Wombats song, downed our drink and got some food at the chippy to end our evening. Hello 2012!