Merry Christmas, MeFites: UK 2018 edition
September 3, 2018 8:38 PM   Subscribe

As skies (maybe) cool and pantomines practice, so we near the big day. Supermarkets install storage and put up trees, grottos take bookings, chains reveal themes, cheese selections and lots of baking, while delighted shoppers can buy seasonal cards, puddings, wrapping paper, more puddings, chocolate reindeer and, of course, mince pies [Asda][Morrisons]. Or avoid the rush and buy Lego advent calendars online before a train ride, or go down the pub (also Bristol and Plymouth) or to your works do. As Christmas foods swiftly sell, will the i-Top be a popular toy, bubble and squeak be a popular sandwich, will Brits decorate rainbow trees, and will the brussel sprout smoothie return? In Australia, Woolworths defend their mince pies, but in Cork City, Ireland you'll have to wait.
posted by Wordshore (76 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
Just spotted that Tesco responded to one customer about why Christmas items are available in August.
posted by Wordshore at 8:47 PM on September 3, 2018


I've always wanted to stage a British-style panto, but I just don't think most American audiences would get it.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:02 PM on September 3, 2018 [3 favorites]


Flagged as "this is too goddamn early".
posted by hippybear at 9:05 PM on September 3, 2018 [17 favorites]


it is not candy cane time it is SPOOKY PUMPKIN time
posted by poffin boffin at 9:15 PM on September 3, 2018 [16 favorites]


it is not candy cane time it is SPOOKY PUMPKIN time

Maybe over there in the thirteen colonies for our distant non-tea drinking cousins, but here in dear old blighty Her Majesty is firmly in the pro-Christmas corner.
posted by Wordshore at 9:22 PM on September 3, 2018 [8 favorites]


I'm sorry but even crappy Woolworths and Coles mince pies are still excellent.
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:38 PM on September 3, 2018 [2 favorites]


If I carve punkins this year, they will all have candy canes sticking out of their mouths like bubble pipes.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:00 PM on September 3, 2018 [6 favorites]


Yes
posted by Wordshore at 10:30 PM on September 3, 2018 [3 favorites]


Here in the far left corner, a traditional Christmas gift has long been a delicious canned cheese produced as a part of the agricultural education program associated with Washington State University, known as Cougar Gold.

I simply could not let a cheese oversight pass in silence! Of course, it's a bit early for it, one supposes.
posted by mwhybark at 10:41 PM on September 3, 2018 [3 favorites]


The easter bunny comes down your chimney to give spooky chocolates to your girlfriend.
posted by adept256 at 10:50 PM on September 3, 2018 [6 favorites]


I've always wanted to stage a British-style panto

I was once told that I would make an excellent pantomime dame.

Years later, I'm still not entirely sure how to take that.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 11:06 PM on September 3, 2018 [5 favorites]


Right, except the last posting dates for International Economy (surface mail I assume) from the UK to Australia, New Zealand and many other international destinations is 28 September. And if you're the Mother-woo you are absolutely that organised and looking for cards in August.

(Actually she's normally a buy the cards for next year on sale in January sort, but sometimes that system fails).
posted by Helga-woo at 11:10 PM on September 3, 2018 [6 favorites]


I wonder what the cutoff to send Wordshore an international economy xmas card is? He's earned it, one would think.
posted by mwhybark at 11:38 PM on September 3, 2018 [5 favorites]


i demand to be enspookened
posted by poffin boffin at 12:32 AM on September 4, 2018 [5 favorites]


I turned the local radio station off in disgust the other day when an ad came on with sleigh bells and "ho ho ho, Santa Claus here reminding you to book your Christmas meal now to avoid disappointment!"

I saw mincemeat in Booths in July, right at the height of the heatwave when hopefully literally no-one was thinking of making mince pies. Incidentally, Booths has gone right downhill lately. It used to make Waitrose look like Kwik Save but these days is a fairly run-of-the-mill supermarket. Even the coffee grinder in the Knutsford branch has been out-of-order for months.
posted by winterhill at 1:23 AM on September 4, 2018 [3 favorites]


Dear Wordshore,

Have fun and good cheer
At your christmas bashes
We both know next year
You won't get the ashes

♥ Australia
posted by adept256 at 1:47 AM on September 4, 2018 [17 favorites]


Here's the thing, Halloween is just not as big a deal here in the UK as it is in America. It's just not. I really miss Halloween in America. I miss the costumes that range from scary to pop culture references. UK Halloween tends to focus on 'traditional' 'scary' costumes, ghosts and witches and the like and some candy on sale, that's it.

I used to live in San Diego and Halloween was like a City Event. They'd close off 5th and it'd basically be a massive street party (not sure it's still the case these days?). I saw people dressed up as a Slim Jim, a St. Paulie's Girl, "Cereal" Killers, etc. I miss over the top house decorations. It was so fun!

Also, Thanksgiving is not a thing here either, obviously. So that means after our August Bank Holiday, which was just last week, there is nothing at all to look forward to until Christmas. And despite the fact that nobody feels like eating a mince pie already, these stores have nothing else to promote except Christmas and by god they'll do it starting 1 September.

I really wish they'd move one of the May bank holidays (we have two) to October. I mean, the day is meaningless so it wouldn't offend anyone (it is literally referred to as "the second May bank holiday") and honestly we could use the distraction from the current Brexit/Labour anti-semitism news cycle.
posted by like_neon at 1:57 AM on September 4, 2018 [8 favorites]


Bonfire night is still a thing. Between August and Christmas we look forward to burning things.

Also Mischief Night, although I think that is being lost.
posted by Helga-woo at 2:04 AM on September 4, 2018 [1 favorite]


Also, this is wrong: You won't get the ashes

(Probably right, but unbelievably I still have some pride)
posted by Helga-woo at 2:06 AM on September 4, 2018 [1 favorite]


Yes, there is Bonfire Night but it doesn't really have a commercial impact for stores to latch onto, thus Christmas starts in September. As a transplant living here for over 10 years, I've never heard of Mischief Night, so it does sound like its significance is waning.
posted by like_neon at 2:24 AM on September 4, 2018 [1 favorite]


"the second May bank holiday"

I think you mean Whitsun? Don't you want to celebrate the holy spirit entering Jerusalem?
posted by biffa at 2:25 AM on September 4, 2018 [2 favorites]


Does anyone know any ordinary people that do themes because I have never met one and I would love to.

Since becoming a dad, my partner has lost all perspective on Christmas trees. We used to have the neat little 5/6fters. The Christmas after we became parents, when the bab was 6 months old, he returned home with a 10ft monstrosity that meant we couldn't watch TV in the front room whilst it was up. He's steadily getting better.

Winterhill I first saw the Booths Christmas catalogue a few years ago and it was so beautiful. We spent an obscene amount of money the first time we stayed near one.
posted by threetwentytwo at 2:31 AM on September 4, 2018 [1 favorite]


As a transplant living here for over 10 years, I've never heard of Mischief Night, so it does sound like its significance is waning.
It's a bit of a regional thing and takes place predominantly in the North West and North East of England - although less so in recent years. I don't think it's ever really been a thing in London. I know it's always been a fairly big deal in Liverpool and a friend who lives in Teesside says the same there.
posted by winterhill at 3:20 AM on September 4, 2018 [1 favorite]


Winterhill I first saw the Booths Christmas catalogue a few years ago and it was so beautiful. We spent an obscene amount of money the first time we stayed near one.
There's one in Media City now, presumably for the well-off long-hours office types to pick up a Charlie Bigham ready meal on the way home from work at 7pm.

It's definitely not what it used to be. They've cut the fresh produce right back - I was in the Knutsford store the other day and couldn't even get hold of an aubergine. I went round the corner to Aldi to procure said exotic item. It's partly Booths going downhill and partly other supermarkets catching up, but I find our local Tesco to have a better selection of 'world' foods these days.
posted by winterhill at 3:34 AM on September 4, 2018 [1 favorite]


Dear adept256

Don't lose your composure
It'll be five-nil to England
The Aussies turned over
Even if they rub in some sand

♥ The home of cricket
posted by Wordshore at 3:35 AM on September 4, 2018 [6 favorites]


We just returned from a vacation in the UK a few days ago; I saw multiple pub signs about making Christmas bookings and wondered if they just kept the signs up all year. Also definitely saw some Christmas food at either Tesco or M&S and was perplexed. This post is awesome and answered my un-asked questions! Also, it saddens me that Halloween isn't a big deal across the pond because there are so many places that are legit spooky! Salisbury and York seem like perfect places for spooky Halloweeny fun times.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 4:29 AM on September 4, 2018 [1 favorite]


We went to a home store Sunday, and they had all their Xmas items out and right up front. Next to the Halloween stuff.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:34 AM on September 4, 2018 [1 favorite]


Halloween is still a thing in the Republic of Ireland, at least my little cousins get dressed up in costumes. But then the Celtic countries are the home of Halloween (Samhain) one of the major feasts of the Celtic year.

Here in the states, disgusted to see Christmas stuff out so early, and did not know that was true of the UK as well. Bah Humbug!
posted by mermayd at 4:53 AM on September 4, 2018 [1 favorite]


I must be getting cynical in my old age, because I've been wondering how much of the really-really-early-Christmas stuff is simply shops trying to get themselves talked about on social media. If there's one thing "brands" love it's "social media buzz" and the cost of filling up some seasonal shelf space with inappropriately early Christmas cards or mince pies at a quiet time of year is tiny compared to the free publicity on Twitbook as people post "look what Tesco are selling in August!".

The whole thing, especially the shops' responses to customer questions about it on Twitter, seems a bit self-aware and knowing and wink-wink. They don't really think they're going to sell thousands of baubles in early September but it gets their brand name on people's social media feeds.
posted by winterhill at 4:54 AM on September 4, 2018 [1 favorite]


Don't you want to celebrate the holy spirit entering Jerusalem?

yes this sounds spooky
posted by poffin boffin at 4:59 AM on September 4, 2018 [5 favorites]


Here's the thing, Halloween is just not as big a deal here in the UK as it is in America. It's just not. I really miss Halloween in America. I miss the costumes that range from scary to pop culture references. UK Halloween tends to focus on 'traditional' 'scary' costumes, ghosts and witches and the like and some candy on sale, that's it.

It's somewhere in the middle in Ireland. Growing up, it was mostly a children's holiday, dressing up and going door to door (although pointedly not trick or treat - you'd often be asked to earn your chocolate or sweets by eg singing a song), bobbing for apples, ducking for apples, toffee apples (a very apple-centric festival in retrospect), sparklers, a communal bonfire supervised by adults, maybe some illegal fireworks purchased up north. If any vegetables were carved it'd be a humble turnip (like this example), pumpkins not being available for purchase.

Of course, like Paddy's Day, we sent this modest holiday to America, where it was supersized with a large coke and eventually sent back to us via American cultural exports. So now you have costume parties for adults (as you point out not limited to'scary' costumes), pumpkins outside people's houses etc. but not on the level I've seen Halloween celebrated in, say, Massachusetts or SF. The main homegrown evolution of Halloween is the illegal fireworks thing. Especially in working class areas, kids will steadily launch more and more fireworks night on night, starting around late September, and culminating on Halloween in a display so big that one of my French friends assumed it was organised by the government. There's also the not so coincidental fact that the period leading up the Halloween is magic mushroom season.
posted by kersplunk at 5:06 AM on September 4, 2018 [1 favorite]


...and wondered if they just kept the signs up all year.

This local one in The Quorndon Fox in Quorn was from the first day of August, but I started seeing them in local gastropubs and restaurants in late June. One of the local pubs said they were fully booked for lunches and dinners on Christmas Day itself a few weeks ago.

Just popped out to the supermarket, and their display of Christmas mince pies is empty. I thought they had not yet filled it with mince pies, but customer services said the lot went quickly this morning; people buying several boxes at a go. No doubt some of these were so people could do the minor shock value of turning up at home or work with mince pies.

But others (would have been me too) just love mince pies (the good ones, anyway). Take it out of the foil wrapper, put in the microwave for no longer than 15 seconds or it'll collapse, serve with double cream. Super-yum, and also a very cheap pudding.
posted by Wordshore at 5:11 AM on September 4, 2018 [2 favorites]


You can reduce the chance of collapse, when reheating pastry in the microwave, by heating on a lower power for a longer time. If you do this, conduction plays a more significant role in how the pie heats, so you get more even heating. This means that there's less issue with very hot areas releasing a lot of steam and encouraging sogginess and collapse.

Smaller items, like individual mince pies, are less prone to collapse anyway, so you can often get away with the technique Wordshore uses, especially if you don't have the extra 45 to 75 seconds to spare before devouring the pie.
posted by howfar at 5:59 AM on September 4, 2018 [2 favorites]


I legit know people who do their Christmas shopping a tiny bit at a time, starting in September. I used to be one of them when I had more money. I hate, hate, hate the shopping crowds from Thanksgiving to Christmas, and getting it done early helped me avoid that and enjoy the actual celebrations.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:43 AM on September 4, 2018 [3 favorites]


I legit know people who do their Christmas shopping a tiny bit at a time, starting in September. I

I'm pretty sure the earliest my mother-in-law has done Christmas shopping is January. I have no idea how she does it.

I also thought I saw Christmas stuff in Target months ago, but it turns out they were trying to market British style Christmas crackers as a Fourth of July thing.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:00 AM on September 4, 2018 [4 favorites]


What percentage of people eat Christmas meals with family in restaurants in the UK? I don't think I ever heard of such a thing when I was growing up (Chicago area, US) - meals out on Christmas were understood to be for people who weren't attending a family meal or did not celebrate the holiday, not for getting together with relatives. But it's obviously much more of a regular thing in the UK, what with the holiday bookings and so on - tell me more!

I've gone out for dim sum on Christmas (the happiest Christmas of all!) but that was more because I was invited by friends from other religious traditions than because it was a "Christmas" meal. (Although it did bring home the splendid nature of eating a big holiday meal while needing neither to cook nor clean up; I think I could be sold on restaurant Christmas dinners pretty easily.)
posted by Frowner at 7:39 AM on September 4, 2018 [1 favorite]


What percentage of people eat Christmas meals with family in restaurants in the UK?

This was something new to me! Well not Christmas, but eating out for Christmas Eve with my Scottish in-laws. Christmas day is usually a multi-course home cooked affair, but going to a restaurant for Christmas Eve is planned very matter of factly when I joined the family. We've usually done curries or pub dinners.

This is in stark contrast to my Catholic Korean American upbringing. Christmas Eve meant midnight mass (which was not actually at midnight because our Korean Catholic church thought it was too late and too cold for the parishioners so it was actually held at like 9pm), followed by a meal in the church cafeteria cooked by a few ajummas (usually something like galbitang). In my high school/college years a few of us would sneak off after the meal to a Korean cafe to drink and eat more food and stumble home in the wee hours and my usually strict parents obligingly let me do it without comment because I was with Church Friends.
posted by like_neon at 8:24 AM on September 4, 2018 [2 favorites]


Christmas always seems to be a big deal in the UK. I like that - the special holiday TV shows, special foods, the traditions... It is nice, from an outsider's perspective of course. That being said I'm a big believer in not seeing a lick of Christmas decor and music to at least until after Remembrance Day (ideally I prefer not to see or hear about Christmas until December 6th but obviously that's not going to happen).

My partner spotted her first Christmas sales this past weekend while doing a bit of back to school shopping here in Canada. I was lucky enough not to see it as I likely would have raged. Generally I don't think of Christmas until December but I've been slightly thinking of Christmas at this time because I can fruit ketchup (essentially French Canadian chutney or mostardo made from ripe summer fruit) that we eat with our Christmas meat pies (and to a lesser extent Thanksgiving meat pies). Nice to have a bit of sun in the darkest time of the year.
posted by Ashwagandha at 8:35 AM on September 4, 2018 [2 favorites]


What percentage of people eat Christmas meals with family in restaurants in the UK?

Done this on Christmas Day itself three times now. Yes you usually pay more for dining out on that particular day (though, hopefully, some of the premium goes to increased rates for staff). But on all three occasions it was worth it as you avoid the buying in of food, the preparation, cooking, the washing up (my memory of childhood Christmas Days was the seemingly endless washing up), and the many complications in between. Fine if you enjoy all that, but good to have an alternative if you don't. All you have to do is get to the restaurant with an empty stomach and some cash. One of them, a few years ago, even wheeled in a TV so everyone could watch the Queen's speech, which was a nice touch.

Christmas dinner in a Balti restaurant in Birmingham a few years ago was great, and I totes recommend a good curry with all the side dishes for a meal on that day.
posted by Wordshore at 8:55 AM on September 4, 2018 [3 favorites]


Are British retailers still trying to make Black Friday a thing there?
posted by Automocar at 9:48 AM on September 4, 2018 [1 favorite]


A couple of years ago I heard a UK radio ad for booking a table for a company Christmas dinner on February 1st.

What percentage of people eat Christmas meals with family in restaurants in the UK?


I wouldn't think that big a fraction, an increasing number of pubs have been offering an Xmas dinner but many pubs don't open on Xmas day and those that do usually open for a few hours at lunch only. A lot of them for committed drinkers getting out of the house while the turkey cooks.
posted by biffa at 9:51 AM on September 4, 2018 [1 favorite]


Are British retailers still trying to make Black Friday a thing there?

The more local newspapers talk it up, but am fairly sure the reality is that it's flopped the last few years(?) I have a fuzzy memory of a tv report of a deserted shopping centre when several stores opened early on the day. This kind of thing.

There's a problem with Black Friday in Britain anyway in that, traditionally, we have Boxing Day sales (December 26th, sometimes slightly before with the online version) and the mindset has been to wait for them. That also coincides with Christmas Presents To Return Because You Did Not Like Or You Broke Them Day, so it's always a tad crowded.
posted by Wordshore at 11:31 AM on September 4, 2018 [2 favorites]


Evening Standard: Bah Humbug.
posted by Wordshore at 11:37 AM on September 4, 2018


We got notice of the date/location of our holiday party in July. I get it though, there are only so many places and dates available for a big party. I assume our summer shindig is booked in December/January.
posted by vespabelle at 11:42 AM on September 4, 2018 [1 favorite]


Councillor Ken Gowans, of Inverness South, shared an image of foil covered chocolate Christmas bunnies

Two nations, separated by a common chocolate rabbit.

Have you....always had chocolate Easter bunnies for Christmas? Why are chocolate rabbits Christmasy?

I'm telling you, I am so looking forward to finally having my finances in order and visiting the UK (it will happen!). Americans think it's all Benedict Cumberbatch and plum pudding and Jane Austen, but then you turn out to have, like, mari lwyds (maris lwyd?) and those enormous styrofoam boxes of mixed fried takeout and chocolate bunnies for Christmas.
posted by Frowner at 11:48 AM on September 4, 2018 [3 favorites]


can someone please explain the etymology of 'grotto' in a Christmas-oriented context here
like i get that they're basically the equivalent of 'Santa's workshop' or what have you, but why call them 'grottoes'
it just feels... somehow unsavoury
posted by halation at 12:07 PM on September 4, 2018


...and those enormous styrofoam boxes of mixed fried takeout...

That would be The Munchie Box, a delicacy from the kitchens of Glasgow which can now be found in more of the culinary establishments of Scotland and some parts of England.
posted by Wordshore at 12:11 PM on September 4, 2018 [2 favorites]


Just saw the advert during the Great British Bake Off break for John Lewis / Waitrose. It has the epic-ness of an annual Christmas ad production, but isn't. Still may turn out to be better than the forthcoming Christmas ads though, especially if you've memories of being in a British primary school play.
posted by Wordshore at 12:33 PM on September 4, 2018


I'm telling you, I am so looking forward to finally having my finances in order and visiting the UK (it will happen!). Americans think it's all Benedict Cumberbatch and plum pudding and Jane Austen, but then you turn out to have, like, mari lwyds (maris lwyd?) and those enormous styrofoam boxes of mixed fried takeout and chocolate bunnies for Christmas.
This is basically it. A lot of Americans think the UK consists solely of Central London and a few chocolate-box Cotswold villages but the day-to-day lived experience of the majority of the population here is a lot more raw and windswept and dare I say it, bleak. Not in a miserable way, just that this country is a lot more chaotic and cacophonous than the tourist brochures make out. It's probably an amazing place to visit if you get off the London-Stratford-York tourist trail.
posted by winterhill at 12:37 PM on September 4, 2018 [3 favorites]


can someone please explain the etymology of 'grotto' in a Christmas-oriented context here
like i get that they're basically the equivalent of 'Santa's workshop' or what have you, but why call them 'grottoes'
it just feels... somehow unsavoury


There have been several thousand years of caves with water being called grottos before Hefner turned up. the most famous is probably Lourdes which is a site of an alleged religious vision.
posted by kersplunk at 12:40 PM on September 4, 2018 [2 favorites]


There have been several thousand years of caves with water being called grottos

...but caves don't seem particularly Christmassy? Unless the throughline is somehow "Santa Claus ---> St. Nicholas ---> religious phenomena ---> grotto" which seems convoluted at best.
posted by halation at 12:44 PM on September 4, 2018 [1 favorite]


You know, I could murder a munchie box right now.
posted by Frowner at 12:54 PM on September 4, 2018 [2 favorites]


You know, I could murder a munchie box right now.
I am:
a) hungry
b) 75 miles from the nearest parmo shop

This is not a good state of affairs.
posted by winterhill at 12:57 PM on September 4, 2018 [1 favorite]


It's probably an amazing place to visit if you get off the London-Stratford-York tourist trail.

Definitely. One of many examples is to avoid the supremely disappointing tourist trap that is Stonehenge, and go to Avebury instead.
posted by Wordshore at 1:08 PM on September 4, 2018 [4 favorites]


I liked Stonehenge! I liked Avebury, too! Pretty much drop me anywhere in the UK and I'll be happy, though.
posted by cooker girl at 1:10 PM on September 4, 2018 [1 favorite]


I don't know how the term came to stand for "place where we put Santa and a few elves for Christmas photos with the kids," but grottos were caves with water and temples in pagan times and then got associated with the Nativity not long after. A lot of early Christian art shows the Nativity happening in cave or cave-with building-ish stable.
posted by PussKillian at 1:26 PM on September 4, 2018 [3 favorites]


On the Grotto point, I grew up nr the Forest of Dean, where the standard Father Christmas visit was to Clearwell Caves, a cavern and iron ore mine, where the man himself sits in a little nook of the cave. So my standard Christmas vision does involve Caves, but I appreciate that this is an unusual case [as with much in the forest].
posted by threetwentytwo at 1:28 PM on September 4, 2018 [2 favorites]


On further questions about food in the UK: What is Aldi's market niche in the UK? In the US, it's a very cheap place to get food, home of off-tasting frozen pizzas, rubbery mozzarella balls, cookies that are almost but not quite unlike Famous BrandsTM, produce that is not refrigerated and while perfectly adequate is basically at the end of its shelf life, plus the occasional unusually good thing - the chocolate bars are German, they have some imported cheese, etc. There's a quality of ersatzitude to a lot of US Aldi goods.

And so...it is impossible for me to imagine my local Aldi stocking a duck/guinea hen/goose rolled roast or an artisanal chocolate carousel as given in their holiday range preview. Why do we not get these things? I couldn't get a three-game-bird roast at the fanciest grocery store in town, and while these may be the provinces I still live in a rather large city.
posted by Frowner at 1:33 PM on September 4, 2018 [1 favorite]


"foil covered chocolate Christmas bunnies"

The ones in the picture are clearly foil-covered chocolate Christmas reindeer - you can tell because the pattern on the foil covering their "ears " is different, making them antlers. I've only recently noticed this, but Lindt's seasonal chocolate creatures are both the same shape, just differentiated by the wrapping.

Charity shops here all had their Christmas cards on display in August .
posted by Fuchsoid at 1:41 PM on September 4, 2018 [2 favorites]


On further questions about food in the UK: What is Aldi's market niche in the UK?
It's cheap and reasonable in quality. The two German discounters, Aldi and its rival Lidl, have taken quite a chunk out of the market share of the main 'traditional' supermarkets like Tesco, Morrisons, Asda etc.

They stock a consistent but limited range of regular staple foods and ever-changing and occasionally baffling specials (like the chocolate merry-go-round!), meaning they can get away with smaller shops, fewer staff and lower prices. A lot of the products use packaging that's very similar to well-known brands but are actually own-brands, so they have more leverage over suppliers and much of the stuff is EU imports.

I use Lidl most weeks because it's my nearest supermarket and in walking distance, and while some of the stuff is fairly cheap and nasty a lot of it is just fine, I always drink their coffee. I'd rather pay 40p for a kilo of cheap pasta in Lidl than £1 for the same product in Tesco. I also like the smaller shop with a consistent layout - I value my time and being able to get around the place much more quickly than some of the mega-supermarkets that are the size of small towns.
posted by winterhill at 1:47 PM on September 4, 2018 [1 favorite]


How can I get a job as Head of Christmas at John Lewis, pls? Might they open a shop in New York and I can try my luck then? Thank you in advance.
posted by droplet at 1:59 PM on September 4, 2018 [1 favorite]


why call them 'grottoes'

I think it's just that they are done up to look like a magical cave, and, in the 19th century, "grotto" was a word with romantic Italianate connotations, due to artificial caves, referred to a "grottos" having been, on and off, a fashionable concept in garden design in the 18th and 19th centuries.
posted by howfar at 2:32 PM on September 4, 2018 [3 favorites]


The more local newspapers talk it up, but am fairly sure the reality is that it's flopped the last few years(?)

Yes, I think the reality is that a lot of people resent the effort to impose Black Friday. If only someone could give Amazon a ring to let them know.

I just want some leberkuchen. And they won't be in Aldi for weeks yet.
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 3:23 PM on September 4, 2018 [2 favorites]


Aldi/Lidl, I can't remember which, maybe both? make a play of stocking similar special goods to the ones found in the high-end supermarkets, Marks and Spencer and Waitrose mainly, but much cheaper. To the point where one of them had an advert that was ripping off M&S adverts.

This is not a Metafilter comment, this is an M&S Metafilter comment braised in Somerset cider and hand-finished with the finest Belgium dark chocolate.
posted by Helga-woo at 3:55 PM on September 4, 2018 [5 favorites]


Are British retailers still trying to make Black Friday a thing there?

I dunno about physical retail, but based on my experience with e-commerce, Black Friday is definitely becoming a bigger and bigger thing in Britain. There's also Cyber Monday, but they all start on Friday anyway.

The Wal-Mart rampage you see in America is not a thing though. Without Thanksgiving, Friday is just a normal workday Friday here, nobody is queueing up at dawn for an X-Box. But hitting up some online sales at your desk? Sure.
posted by like_neon at 2:37 AM on September 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


For *reasons* I once filled in an online form stating I was CEO of a company (I am very much not).

It made my spam email weird for a very long time.

The most disconcerting thing I recieved was an invitation to tour a hotel/health spa with a view to booking it for a Corporate Christmas Meal & Retreat.

In April of this year.

Bookings had to be paid for in full by May.
posted by Faintdreams at 4:16 AM on September 5, 2018 [2 favorites]


UK Halloween tends to focus on 'traditional' 'scary' costumes, ghosts and witches and the like and some candy on sale, that's it.

Not quite; they also have the depressing “Sexy _” costumes (i.e., generic short skirt/revealing top, only with the bare minimum amount of colour/pattern alluding to whichever thing-that-is-not-a-scantily-dressed-lady it's meant to be).
posted by acb at 6:59 AM on September 5, 2018


There's a problem with Black Friday in Britain anyway in that, traditionally, we have Boxing Day sales (December 26th, sometimes slightly before with the online version) and the mindset has been to wait for them.

My parents did that for a few years -we'd exchange homemade girts and stocking stuffers on Christmas Day, and then get our "big" present at the after-Christmas sales.

I remember my surprise at going to England and finding out that Cadbury Creme Eggs are sold year-round there. We only get them at Easter, and in recent years the Halloween version ("S'creme Egg").
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:27 AM on September 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


I remember my surprise at going to England and finding out that Cadbury Creme Eggs are sold year-round there.

This is how debased our culture has become
posted by dng at 10:54 AM on September 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


This is how debased our culture has become

Ironically, I read that comment while working through a delicious dark chocolate easter egg.
posted by Wordshore at 11:20 AM on September 5, 2018 [3 favorites]


I remember my surprise at going to England and finding out that Cadbury Creme Eggs are sold year-round there

I think that technically they're only on sale between Jan 1 and Easter, but in reality they end up lingering on for months, only eventually becoming scarce in late autumn. I observe this sort of thing like some sort of depraved chocolate Springwatch.
posted by howfar at 2:32 PM on September 5, 2018 [6 favorites]


Cadbury's Creme Eggs are only on sale between New Year and Easter in the UK.
posted by Helga-woo at 2:33 PM on September 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


Jinx!
posted by howfar at 2:37 PM on September 5, 2018


Ok ok, I'll undo the jinx: "Helga-woo".
posted by howfar at 2:39 PM on September 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


My local Tesco have now got a full aisle of Christmas things out - cards, presents, lots of wrapped chocolate, various savouries, and of course mince pies and Christmas puddings. I think that means all my local supermarkets, except Marks and Spencer (who have a halloween display) have got Christmas food for sale.

So this evening I bought these. And the mince pie was really good - twelve seconds in the microwave was about right. Though I noticed the best before date on the box...
posted by Wordshore at 4:50 PM on September 5, 2018


To be fair, mince pies do freeze pretty much perfectly. On the other hand, buying a perishable item in order to store it for months in a freezer doesn't seem like a particularly convenient or efficient way of spreading out one's purchases.

I don't really object to supermarkets doing whatever they want with their stock: we all know that there is no ethical Christmas under capitalism, no matter what. But it is mildly frustrating that it seems like they're being a bit sketchy about the rationale, as catering to people stocking up in advance doesn't seem to be the whole story. I just think it would be interesting to know the full reasoning behind certain decisions.
posted by howfar at 5:03 PM on September 5, 2018


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