Growing up, I was always around family for the holidays. I celebrated Christmas with my immediate as well as extended family on both sides. In December 2015, that changed. I backpacked the United Kingdom during the month of December, which meant I would be away from my family holiday traditions for the first time. I would miss out on Christmas on both sides of my extended family and cousin gift exchanges. With my immediate family, I would miss the tradition of Junk Food Day. It’s a day where we go to the grocery store and buy junk food we normally don’t eat. I wasn’t sure how it would go. To say I was blown away by my friend’s hospitality was be an understatement.
Every family I stayed with was incredibly gracious. I experienced my first English Premiere game, experienced the German markets in Manchester and Birmingham, and have a most festive Christmas in Liverpool. I’ll never forget having Christmas in Liverpool. I woke up Christmas morning and my good friend Jesse told me to come down for presents. My parents gave me money for my trip, so I figured I would watch him open his presents and celebrate with his family. When I get down there, his parents pointed to a pile of presents and told me they were for me. I was speechless. I had no idea this would happen. I still smile when of this memory. I thought “I have nothing to give back”, “How will I bring all of this home”, and “This is more than I get at home. I should try this more often”. We spent the morning opening and enjoying presents. That night, I took part in a very delicious five-course meal with friend’s family.
I had fun eating with my friends and their families and learning about how their traditions. I learned Boxing Day is an actual holiday. It’s a bank and public holiday, so families get another day to spend time together. Boxing Day originated in the 1800s. IT’s also a full day of watching futbol (soccer) and so I watched my friend’s favorite team Liverpool play. I celebrated that day almost as much as Christmas.
I learned the families I stayed with had more formal traditions than my own family. My family has a laid back Christmas. I fondly enjoyed dressing up and having nicer meals and afternoon tea. I could most certainly celebrate the holidays in England again.
**Looks like Nate Johnson had a BLAST backpacking during the holidays! A huge thank you for being a guest blogger!**