England, not having anything for which to be thankful, has no real buffer between Halloween and Christmas. It barely has a Halloween; in the years since I first moved here, I’ve seen the American influence growing little by little. Now there are pumpkins available to buy from the grocery store, candy eyeballs proliferate, and trick-or-treating is more of a thing than it used to be. Trick-or-treaters won’t knock on just anyone’s door since they’re too polite for that. You have to put a pumpkin outside if you want kids to take your candy.
Now, though, all that is over, and there’s just the tiny bump of Bonfire Night festivities left before Christmas panic sets in. The stores have already been preparing for a couple of weeks and there is no escape from the reminder that you must buy things for the people you love, and the people you like, and even the people you can’t stand but have to do the polite thing for anyway.
At least it’s possible to feel good about yourself while you spend money you don’t have! In England, the sales from pretty much every single Christmas card you can buy (from fancy department stores like John Lewis down to the crappy newsagents on the corner) go to supporting a charity. This is where the troubles really begin: what if you love the design, but not the charity? I’m not gonna name names, but some charities aren’t the best at putting your money to good use.
This is why I look at the back of the cards first, to find the logo for the charity I like, and then the front. It saves on disappointment. Even though I’ve lived here for more than half a decade now, some teeny tiny part of me is still a hardcore Anglophile. I tend to go for the traditional English Christmas card designs, which are mostly cute little snow-covered cottages with holly wreaths on their front doors, old-style red phone booths or mailboxes, or robins.
English robins are the Platonic ideal of bird-ness. They’re nothing like North American robins, which are monstrous and terrifying in comparison. If you’ve ever read a Beatrix Potter book, you’ve seen a picture of a real English robin. It looks just like somebody took a puffball and painted it light brown, then added a fluffy orange-red front and two weeny black button eyes above its precious little beak. It looks like if you were to hold it in your hands and squeeze ever so gently, it would let out the tiniest and cutest of squeaks.
It actually sounds like this:
Which is still pretty adorable. If you really need to get into the Christmas spirit, you can look at these cute little so-and-sos for an entire hour: