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Start of the Festive Season

Alice Alice | 15:10 UK time, Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Here in London the open-air ice rinks are up and ready - and we've been out enjoying them. This is Stephen and Alice concentrating hard on trying not to fall over.

In London the start of the festive season is marked by the switching on of Christmas lights in busy shopping areas.

People in the United States celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow. It's a secular holiday celebrating the harvest and giving people a reason to reflect and say thank you for the things and people they appreciate in life.

I read a blog that says people are using message boards to invite strangers into their homes to celebrate Thanksgiving this year. People who can't afford to make their own Thanksgiving dinners are being invited by kind strangers for a good meal.

What are you thankful for? Do you celebrate the harvest or the beginning of winter?

Words and phrases which might need explaining:

open-air - outside, not in a building
ice-rinks - skating rinks
festive season - the period from the end of November to early January when people celebrate Christmas, Thanksgiving, Hanuka and other holidays
secular - non-religious
reflect - to think seriously


  • Comment number 1.

    Hi Alice,
    Unfortunately here in Italy we don't have any particular festivity from now up untill Christmas. Is yours a recent pic? I will be in London soon (next week) and I would very much like to see your city decked.
    In the mall where I work there are lots of Christmas decorations, and we are just on november 24th!!! (to tell you all the truth they put it on on the second week of this month)Generally we start decorating on the first week of december. I think it is just a way for traders to start selling in advance because I also think that it would be a very poor Christmas due to the economic crisis. I'll write more later...I have to work! ;-)))

  • Comment number 2.

    Hi Carota - nice to hear from you. Yes this picture was taken this morning. It's cold here - but the sun is shining. I would really recommend you go skating on one of the open-air skating rinks. They get very booked up (people book tickets in advance) so you might want to book tickets before you arrive. I hope you have a lovely trip here.

    Have you thought about what you are thankful for?

  • Comment number 3.

    Hi. I am a new member. I am really appreciate leaving comment here. I've been in London for a year and half. I like here and I really want to learn English. I want to say THANK YOU for my lovely family. They are always with me and make me smile.

  • Comment number 4.

    Privet dear Alice! Hi dear friends!

    I’m glad I have at last a spare moment for writing a comment today! Winter came indeed! It has been snowing heavily the whole day today. It’s still snowing as I write. In Russia we usually begin getting ready for winter beforehand, but it always manages to take us by surprise. It’s our local joke. Today our roads are covered in tonnes of snow, and we celebrate the beginning of winter in traffic jams:). It usually takes me 10-15 minutes to get to my work by public transport but today was another story. It took me for about an hour to get to work. The way homeward took no less time. Our urban services turned out to be unprepared to deal with the snowfall. As usual. Well, it’s not the time to feel blue, winter came, and it’s wonderful! Even though there is no telling what the weather will be like (you can by no means trust the weather forecast in Russia, trust me), let’s hope for the better.

    Anyway, I like winter very much despite the fact it’s too cold sometimes. It’s so much fun to go skiing or skating, to play snowball fights with friends and kids or to wallow in deep snow, to built custles and fortresses of snow, to walk in snow-covered woods in a sunny windless day listening to stillness of Nature and watching how snowflakes dance around you. A couple of years ago there was an open-air ice-rink in the playground near my block of flats, it was made of real ice (not an artificial one). My husband, my son and I used to go skating almost every evening after work (even if it was freezingly cold outside). That was great, so much fun! It’s a pitty they no longer make such an ice-rink in our district, surely there are others, but it takes time to get there, this is a bit inconvenient. Anyway, winter in Russia can be a real pleasure, all you have to do is to enjoy it (traffic jams regardless). For those who don't like it I'd say, warm yourself with the thought that spring is inevitable, just wait a little!

    My teacher said once ‘be thankful for what you have, for what God gives you and don’t ask for more, ask only for you and your family to be in good health’. I think he had a point, I remembered his words. As a matter of fact, I’m thankful for many things, existence of good and kind people inviting strangers for a meal they can’t afford themselves included.

    Thank you Alice, and thank all the members of BBC LE.

    Best wishes,
    Svetlana, Russia

  • Comment number 5.

    Hi dear frieds.

    I am a new member and appreciate your comments here. In Greece also celebrate the festive Season by switching on of Christmas lights in busy shopping areas and main streets. The housewifes prepare Cristmas sweets named (melomacarona, curambiedes and diples)and cakes, and the children enjoying all that period without having going to scool (about 15 days)
    The kids also are singing Christmas and New Year's Eve carols on 25 December and on 31 Dec. Mostly in those two days the families are gathered eating lunch or dinner all together.

    Thank you.

  • Comment number 6.

    Hi Alice, Stephen and the rest of the group. How nice to see you enjoying at the ice-rink. You looked concentrated but happy trying to keep your balance. Here, in Buenos Aires we also started with the "festive season" but we are at the beginning of Summer and the weather is bright and warm. People and noise everywhere. We celebrate Christmas, New Year´s Day and children are given presents at Christmas and at the Twelfth Night (The Three Magi). Thanksgiving is not a tradition so far. But personally I usually thanks deeply for health, love, peace and companion. Essential to live. My best wishes for all of you. Beatriz.

  • Comment number 7.

    Hi Alice! Nice and interesting topic as usual!! Well if i've got to say thanks for something, it will probably not be for the noisy and useless neighbour's dog, nor for the extra weight i got to shed, no, certainly not, i think i will be thankful for not being a man. Yes that's it!
    Thanks, and happy festive season ^^

  • Comment number 8.

    Hello Alice,

    As it never snows in my city, the picture of You and Stephen on the ice rinks gives me the feeling of cold brrrrrrrrr... I am just making a picture of how beautiful the streets would look with those Christmas lights. It would be so lovely especially for the people who are out for shopping.

    Speaking of what I am thankful for, I am thankful for all that God has blessed me and I don't feel miserable for what I don't have but I feel very positive that I will get it one day when it's the right time. Along with this we recently celabrated Eid al Adha which is another way to thank God for His blessings, and just 2 months ago we had Ramadan which is another way to realise the importance of the blessings of God that have been bestowed upon us by observing fasts through this month.

    I send wishes everyone for the festive month ahead.


  • Comment number 9.

    Hello Alice,
    It seems that England is much further into the winter than Austria, yet again... Believe it or not, I harvested two tiny, but promisingly orange-coloured tomatoes from my (last surviving) plant just outside our front door yesterday! That may be something to be thankful for - though I'm not heavily dependent on those tomatoes; it's just a matter of curiosity to try and see how long they can survive in our present climate.

    What I am really thankful for - apart from family, friends, BBCLE (very much so), etc.- is those people who put all their energy into efforts to alleviate poverty, to fight injustice and exploitation. In particular, I'm thinking of some friends working for a fair-trade organisation who do a remarkable job.

    All the best,
    Elisabeth (Austria)

  • Comment number 10.

    Hi Svetlana,
    I've been amused to read that we obviously share that start-of-winter-traffic-jam phenomenon. It's a standing joke here in Austria too: Much of our country is dominated by the Alps - so who would have thought that there would be snow again? Surely, it must take us by surprise - every year... It has to be admitted though that the western, truly alpine regions are generally better prepared - it is us in the eastern, less mountainous regions of the country who tend to neglect getting properly equipped for the winter.
    By the way, they've announced snow for the next few days - so I'll be thinking of you when the jams set in!

    Elisabeth (Austria)

  • Comment number 11.

    Good morning folks, I'm just a little bit envious of you ;-(
    You tell me about snow stories while here it's only rain, fog and mud....and so will be up untill the next week as weather forecast say. I'm preparing for another rainy sunday :-(
    Coming back to Alice's question, I have to admit that I'm not a believer, so I'm not going to celebrate Christmas although I will spent these days with my family. There are some universal worth such as love, family, healt, peace and ...job we should be thankful for, but adding something less obvious to this list I'd like to mention KNOWLEDGE, in all its shapes. I'm grateful to my parents, my teachers and all the people I've met along my life who tought me something. Most of all I appreciate being introduced to a special world made of books, people and experiences to do! That's the reason why people like us, not young anymore, are here to improve themselves (our language skills in this case). So BE CURIOUS!

    Have a nice day


  • Comment number 12.

    p.s. (for Alice)Unfortunately I arrive on monday evening and go back on tuesday at lunchtime, so I think I won't have time to skate :-(((
    Anyway I haven't been in London for 15 years and I confess that I'm so excited ...I have ants in the pants!

  • Comment number 13.

    Hi Elisabeth!

    You probably will laugh but it seems the weather here has gone nuts, so to speak. Yesterday was heavy snowfall and due to it our little town (with its mess on the roads) has become the top piece of news on the state TV channels. And today it’s been raining all day long, and there is the water everywhere I step, snow is melting, walking can be very tricky. They said the temperature would drop considerably next week. Such a dramatic change in the weather, it’s just crazy.
    P.S. You live in such a beautiful country. Surely every country in the world is beautiful in its own way, but you have the Alps and they must be stunningly beautiful. Never mind me, I just have a nostalgic moment remembering that ones I was deep in the mountains. It was two years ago. It’s unforgettable.

    Best regards,
    Svetlana, Russia

  • Comment number 14.

    Hello everyone,

    We are muslims starts everything by saying “in the name of God”(in Arabic ‘Bismillah). For instance when we start to eat something we surely should recall name of God and in the end of meal say “Thanks to God”(’Elhamdulillah’). We may have been bought our own meal or worked for it or received it from a friend as a present, by whatever we get it actual owner of it is of course God.

    We express our gratitude every time but there is a special season in which we especially express our gratitude towards the God, the season of Ramadan. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. It is the Islamic month of fasting, in which participating Muslims refrain from eating, drinking from dawn until sunset. One of the meaning of the fasting is to become aware of actual owner of foods , God. If God say ‘don’t eat at this time scale’, of course we don’t eat because they are not our actual possession. In this way we express our gratitude and obedience to God.

    No one deserve actual gratitude except God.

    Ali OZTURK

  • Comment number 15.

    Hi Alice,

    This is Xin from China,i am very glad to meet u here and learn English from u this month.
    You know, thanksgiving day does not exsit in China, but to have a grateful heart is one of important virtures in chinese traditional culture.
    Here i want to thank my parents to bring me to this world, thanks network to bring my husband to me, hehe, because we got to know via net.
    PS. you are so beautiful, and your husband also handsome, so i guess your baby must be very cute and pretty. hehe.
    Say hi to your whole family

    He Xin from Beijing China

  • Comment number 16.

    Hi everybody, it's such a cold day here in Italy today, I've not so much work to do, it seems to be a quiet day...I've just finished all the quiznet on the main page and I'm looking forward to read from you...come on! Is there anybody here?


  • Comment number 17.

    Hi Carota! Here it is the first bright day this week and the snow lies only on hills around here yet. And, I am deep in contemplation about our painting meeting tomorrow. I can´t wait to be there instead of sitting in my office. You know I am an old mate here without expectation to visit London one day so I don´t work so hard on my klowledge yet. But reading your second comment to Alice here I became satisfied that there are new people here excited as much as I would be by learning on this fantastic page. Nice weekend to you and all! marianna

  • Comment number 18.

    Hello. I am a new member. I am pretty glad to leave my comment here. I am in China.Nowadays,there are many festival from elsewhere.I and my friends had a meaningful and funny thanksgiving yesterday.I really appreciate my parents ,my lover and my friends.They always make me happy and encourage and help me when I face with difficulty and setbacks.
    We will also enjoy the happiness of Christmas about 20 days later which is popular in China.
    Thank you Alice, and thank all the members of BBC LE.

    Best wishes,

  • Comment number 19.

    I could see the Christmas tree decorating with eliminating lights. It is great to watch with ice everywhere in the picture. You and Stephen are really enjoying. The picture shows that all your enjoyment. It is right time to celebrate thanks giving before celebration starts. We, the Indians actually do thanks giving services in the church on the 31st night before the commencement of New Year. I was wondering how you could invite the thanks giving party for the strangers. It is a nice idea to invite them. I went to give my pants for stitching for Christmas. We are going for Christmas shopping to get dress for my children. The advent season begin from this Sunday onwards. When I saw your blog the Christmas mood just began. We usually exchange gifts between the family members and friends during this festive season. We well have real fun in the coming month. I wish your happy mood continue all through this season.

  • Comment number 20.

    Christmas begins now - thank you for the blog. Outdoor ice skating is a wonderful experience. Best wishes to everyone for December. Keep warm!

  • Comment number 21.

    Hi Alice! We do not have a holiday like Thanksgiving over here in Italy. We are usually in a thankful mood when it is Xmas or when the new year gets near cause we weigh up what went right and what went wrong in the outgoing year. I am bloody hopeless at skating. Chow!!

  • Comment number 22.

    Hi..Alice!! I would like to introduce myself first. My name is Mookrawee but you can called me Mook. I'm from Thailand and I'm a new member here. In Thailand, we have many festivals such as Loy Kratong (in November), Songkran Festival (water splash festival, in April) Have you ever heard about these? They're very interesting and enjoyable festivals in Thailand. If you wanna know how they are? You have to come here to check it out. :)) Actually, I knew about the American Festivals too; for example, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Halloween and so on. Because I have been in USA in year 2008-2009 to be an exchange student. I learnt many new festivals there and I had lots of fun with it. By the way, if you want to get more information about my festivals you can look up to the Internet. It will give you more information. Thank you by for sharing everything to me. :)))* Have a wonderful day, Alice and everyone on here.!!

  • Comment number 23.

    I'm from Thailand. After reading your post...it's really interesting season. I wish I could go and enjoy this happy time in London. In Thailand, the weather here is very hot, that why I want to stay in cold weather. And I would like to know more about Secular holiday. It's interesting me and I've never heard that before. We have holidays for thankful festival like Loy krathong and Songkran etc. If you want to know more about these festival, you can ask me. Nice to talk to you and thanks for your post.

  • Comment number 24.

    Hi Alice,
    also in Germany the Christmas season has started. Today the first candle out of four was lighted. In every city Christmas markets have been opened. You can trink Glühwein and eat something, buy small things. Glühwein is a special wine which you can trink only during the Christmas time and which is warm. You can enjoy it only if it is cold outside. Today, it has been the right weather to do so.
    As many people I'm thankful for the health but also to myself. For my patience to achive goals, to stay on the right way. Thankful to people who gives me possibilities for development.
    Have a nice Christmas time.


  • Comment number 25.

    Hi Alice
    I'm from Thailand. We have alot of nice festival. One of the most festival that I would like to introduce you is Songkran Festival. It's Thai New Year and the longest holiday in Thailand. This extended period often signals a return to home provinces, time for family get-togethers, serious merit making, and massive water splashing. Thai people will spend time with their family. Thai people will visit their elder relatives and perform a ‘Dam Hua” ceremony or gently pouring scented water on the elder’s hands, which is believed to show respect and love to them. I'd like you all to come to Thailand on the summer and enjoy this festival.

  • Comment number 26.

    Hi everyone!

    In Poland today is snowing. All the streets, windows' shop are decorated by lights so we can see that Christmas is coming. We are waiting for Santa Clause Day on 6-th December. I regret that we didn't have Thanksgiving here in Poland.
    I would be thankful for health. If you are healthy you can do everything.
    I'm thankful for my siblings and friends too.

    Best wishes
    Kate (Poland)

  • Comment number 27.

    Hi Alice!
    I'd love go skating on one of the open-air skating rinks it sounds like amazing, but I'm so far from London. Here in Brazil we don't have snow and to be honest with you I think our winter is almost like your summer. We don't have thanksgiving, but I'm thankful for health and peace.

  • Comment number 28.

    Hi everyone

    Thanks for all your lovely posts.

    Welcome Oya, Anatol, BruceYin, XinHe, Mookrawee and all the other new members!

    Dommi - has your neighbour's dog quietened down?

    Carota - get prepared for snow! Unusually it is snowing in London before Christmas this year. That doesn't happen very often. I think you'll find it quite funny - we have a couple of inches of snow and everything closes down because we are not very well prepared.

    It's great to read about all the things you are thankful for. Health, family and knowledge.

    Fon - tell us more about the Songkran Festival. Is Thai New Year a lunar festival? Is it connected to the movements of the moon? Which month does it take place?

    Best wishes to you all

    from snowy London


  • Comment number 29.

    Dear Teacher Alice,

    Today is the last day of November and we are closer to Christmas.

    I'd like to wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year antecipated.

    Also, I'd like to thank you for all of your support and words, and please forgive for any words that you can not like.

    At the end. I'd like to thanks Sthephen a very good person and Carrie, too.

    Many thanks for this opportunity. In fact, i'd like to know more about your language, your culture (England), your people. I've already saw lots of movie about your history, but in fact, i'd like to know about your people (commom people), how you live, your problems, your things.

    I'm working wth a English Project Manager, here in Brazil, and when we go to the lunch time, he lets me know about a little more your people, and your history. He told me that you have a lot of accent in a shot distance. Here, in Brazil, the distace between cities are very, very big.

    I really like to know about your language and culture, and of course to speak better, or to understand better.

    So, cheers - Natanael - Rio de Janeiro - Brazil

  • Comment number 30.

    Dear Alice, my Londoner adventure has just finished and I am so sad!
    I arrived on monday afternoon in the middle of the tube strike...it was terrible and it took me all the afternoon to reach London Bridge from Gatwick. On the way I met some other foreign people trapped by the strike like me and It had been a good occasion to practice my English! Then, on tuesday morning I had a job meeting, but as soon as I woke up I realized that otside there was a snowstorm! I was a bit worried about the tube, but it worked as usual. London in the snow was so romantic... unfortunately I had to leave very soon in the afternoon and I didn't have time to mess around. Anyway I enjoied so much, and I hope to come back soon.
    Have a nice day


  • Comment number 31.

    Good evening, Alice! I'm for the first time here. I'm from Russia. And for the beginning I'd like to say that my dream is to visit your country, esp. your capital as it seems so wonderful. And I dream of communicating with native English- speaker. It's interesting to know what Englishmen are, if they are really so reserved as it is written in different books. Can you answer my these questions? I'm looking forward to your answers! thanks a lot. I'm very grateful to you for the time you'll devote to my letter and my questions.
    Best wishes, Tatiana.

  • Comment number 32.

    hi i m new member here and very delighted to be so! a nice topic and a very beautiful pic i envy you hehe here in my country i ve never seised the opportunity to walk on snowy roads if any time i visit your country it will be of course in the festive season!wow well i hope so!as we all know every country has its traditions we dont celebrate christmas nor thanksgiving...we have other feast (aids in arabic)regarding muslim calendar or which is called moony moons...as ramadan,moharam...so i ll be thankful for our God He blesses us by giving us every good thing (life;brains...)aren t they?thankful for being capable of writing those few lines and thankful for being at home now in this cold weather...

  • Comment number 33.

    Hi everyone! Welcome Hadjer and Tatiana!

    Well Carota summed it up right by saying London (and most of the UK) is at a standstill. It took me almost 3 hours to get to work this morning! The doors of the train kept freezing and couldn't open and shut.

    We're not very good at moving snow in this country!

    Hope everyone is well.

    Natanael thanks so much for writing such excellent posts this month. I think everybody really enjoyed reading them, and finding out about Brazil and its passions. I'm sure other blog writers here will agree - we'd all like to come and visit you in Brazil!

    Well - I've really enjoyed writing to you this month and will continue to look at your posts.

    All the best



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