This December-in-review blog post is brought to us all by Sue Hillman of It’s Your London touring company.  Providing custom tours of London tailored to your personal interests, It’s Your London will help you make the most of your time in this phenonemonal city. (For more information, see our previous blog on It’s Your London as well visit www.itsyourlondon.co.uk)

If you’d like to see the beautifully festive photos that Sue has included with this post, please view them in our Facebook photo album at the following public link: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=12914&id=100000078146572&l=40bf9298fd

December 2009 has just ended and I’m really looking forward to 2010 and all the great things to come.  But before we rush into January, let’s take a moment to look back at December and all the fun we had.

December is a beautiful time of year with all the Christmas lights in the streets and some wonderful shop windows. I’ve attached a photo of the ones I voted best of each – the lights are in Carnaby Street (very 1960s peace and love!) and the shop window is at Selfridges. Selfridges, 100 years old this year, is a high end department store on Oxford Street, which claims to be the longest shopping street in the world.  Their Christmas shop windows are famous and people come into town to see them as a team of staff spends all year designing and making the displays, which have a different theme each year. 2009’s theme was pantomime and the photo shows a pantomime dame in full dress.

Panto, as it’s called, is a famous part of the Christmas traditions in Britain and is a comic stage show full of silly jokes and innuendo, outrageous dressing up and bad make up, pantomime dames who are never dames, ridiculous stories such as Aladdin and all round fun for young and old alike.  Key lines in the script are essential to the tradition, such as when the actors can’t see someone approaching and the audiences shouts out ‘behind you’ and a to and fro of ‘oh not it’s not’ with ‘oh yes it is’ plus very loud booing of the villain – well, you have to be there! Often well known actors take part and this year we’ve even had Pamela Anderson from Baywatch on our stages!

Other newer traditions include ice skating rinks, which you can find in some of the loveliest locations. These include the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace and my favourite in the courtyard of Somerset House and I’ve attached a photo so you can see how it looks.  Somerset House used to be government offices including the birth certificates record office but is now a wonderful public space used for ice rinks and concerts.

Carol singing is another important part of Christmas and I visited the Trafalgar Square free open air event next to the famous Christmas tree from Norway. They’ve been sending us a huge tree since 1947 to thank the UK for their assistance during the Second World War and its arrival lets us know that Christmas is well and truly on it’s way. The carol singing was lovely and festive and I’ve attached a photo of the crowd, the tree and the fountains.

Christmas day itself is spent with family and friends and the country shuts down ahead of Boxing Day. Boxing Day is 26th December and there are many and contradictory theories as to why it’s called that but now it’s fully enjoyed as an extra public holiday full of sporting events and the kick off day for the biggest sales in the shops. Many people take the time off work between Christmas and New Year and in London New Year’s Eve is a big event along the Thames with enormous firework displays next to the London Eye. It’s a cold and mad time but public transport going on much later than normal so you do have a chance to get home – at some point the next morning!

We also have big Christmas events such as the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park.  This was made up of a massive funfair and loads of festive stalls selling presents and festive food and drink, which pulled in large crowds including me and we all had a great time. I avoided the scary rides and really laughed at  the singing moose instead – wish you could have the video as the soft tones of ‘Silent Night’ made our night!

Looking ahead to 2010 we’ve got some great shows coming to town – theatrical, musical and exhibitions and the build up to the Olympics will be getting louder. I’m looking forward to getting to see ‘War Horse’ on the West End stage which everyone is raving about, Van Gogh at the Royal Academy, Art Show to kick off the art world’s year, a new musical event called ‘The Next Big Thing’ and even looking forward to the summer already – Wimbledon, the Proms, Notting Hill Carnival and Kenwood outdoor concerts. So much to come….

All the very best for 2010 to you all!

Sue

www.itsyourlondon.co.uk