LAST weekend I headed to the UK for Christmas – for the first time in about ten years! And although I am a self confessed Spanofile who would normally rather stay here and import the relatives instead, I have to say that I had a great time and really enjoyed the British Christmas spirit.

For some reason, it’s just not the same in Spain. For a start, the weather’s generally pretty good and although we drink mulled wine and eat a traditional English Christmas lunch with all the trimmings, crackers and hats, silly jokes and Rudolph antlers for the dogs, there’s still something lacking.

On Christmas Eve, Spanish families on the Costa del Sol congregate at home and sit down to a meal of fresh fish. The Brits, on the other hand, go out on the lash. If my sisters are visiting, they tend to want to go out on Christmas Eve but the streets of Estepona are usually deserted and so we end up having a not so festive Chinese meal. One year, best left forgotten, we even endured a drunkard serenading us on the karaoke machine while we ate our Chinese. Not very festive.

The cold weather in the UK definitely adds to the atmosphere – perhaps it’s just what we’re used to. This year, I loved wrapping up in my coat and scarf and fighting my way through the last minute shoppers on Christmas Eve, bundling our huge shopping bags on to a crowded (and freezing cold) train and then trundling down the street with them, being careful not to slip on the ice.
And then of course there are the Christmas decorations. Houses festooned with twinkly lights, shopping centres showing off their enormous trees and town centre streets boasting energy saving decorations. My mother-in-law loves Christmas and her house is always full to the brim with multicoloured flashing lights, tinsel around the mirrors, Father Christmases bouncing off the door handles and trees in every room. And the outside of the house sparkles with lights, wooden deer in the garden, a real life fox who visits in the evenings and, for this year’s white Christmas, a snowman!

Of course the Spanish have their decorations too and I love to visit the nativity “belénes” in our local towns and villages each year. The Christmas lights are always beautifully arranged, particularly in Málaga, but still I find Christmas here is over before I’ve really cottoned on to the fact that it’s arrived.

However, I mustn’t forget that it’s not all over here and we’ve still got the best part of the Spanish festivities to come with the wonderful Reyes processions which will be taking place all along the Costa del Sol during the afternoon of 5th January. Don’t forget your carrier bags for scooping up all those sweeties that the Kings will be throwing from their floats!

And spare a thought for those back in Blighty – they’re already battling their way through the sales, the best bargains have been snapped up and according to the British press, they’ve got a mini ice age to look forward to. I think I’m better off here!

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