On Liquor and the Xmas Season (2005)

Christmas in England is not celebrated simply as Christ’s birthday; instead, it is celebrated as one of the days when people get together (obviously, for a reunion and most importantly for a drinking spree) and give presents… It is the time when most people would take their time off from work and go on holidays with their families (for some, it would be because they can’t cope with the below freezing temperature during the winter season). Everyone, despite the religion, celebrates Christmas in many different ways.

I have never felt the spirit of Christmas in this part of the world until our company’s Christmas Do, which was held in Café Uno. I can’t really say that I had a blast during the party ‘coz I wasn’t sure if it was right to get hyper with people whom I’ve just met a few months before, but yeah, I had real fun…

Since we were early for our dinner (for most Englishmen, dinner means lunch!) reservation at Café Uno, our group (of 15) went to a nearby pub to, of course, start the typical English day – drink liquor! I was having a conversation with Claire, Sarah, and Andrew when Andrew passed on a glass of clear liquid to me. “Sprite, ” he said. I shot a look at Andrew. “Gene and Tonic with ice and a slice,” he confessed. Hmmm… I have never been a fan of liquor in my entire life, although I am an occasional alcohol drinker of the infamous San Miguel Beer and vodka (and yeah, some red and white wine). But some of my colleagues said that my visit to their country is a waste if I don’t try to live the English way. Well, yes, I didn’t argue with that ‘coz learning and living the culture was exactly what I wanted to do.

It was almost 2 P.M. when we decided to head to Café Uno. While waiting for everyone to be sitted, some of us started tugging the Christmas crackers laid on the table. I got a fancy ring, a Christmas hat, and a not-so-funny riddle (I think!).

Our party formally started with the giving out of presents, which was called the Secret Santa. Contrary to my country’s way of exchanging gifts, the giver’s name should be kept a secret and should never be told. After everyone opened his / her pressie from Secret Santa, the second drinking session started. Red wine was poured in the slim wine glass in front of me while the entrees were served. Not really good… I thought to myself. It had to be white, but then, I really had no choice. Red wine had been ordered. When the main course was served, everyone smiled. Turkey… Can’t really say anything except that the chef did a fabulous meal! As the hours passed by, I noticed that aside from the music playing, the restaurant seemed to be noisier than when we first walked in. I looked around only to find out that we were the only guests left in the restaurant! Liquor seemed to be really doing a fine job.

At around 5 p.m., we walked into a nice, old Victorian pub in the city. Claire started getting everyone a drink and another kind of drink was placed in front of me – vodka and tonic with ice and a slice. The conversation was beginning to become exciting and before I realized it, Chris ordered me a bottle of lager. What was more exciting was I noticed that our group was becoming happier. Three hours later, our big boss came and again, got everyone a drink – this time it was my favorite – a pint of apple sider.

I was guessing that everyone wanted to see me drunk, but surprisingly for them, I still wasn’t, even after mixing different kinds of liquors. I admit though, that I was a bit tipsy after starting with the sider, but it was unnoticeable. I didn’t know that the result of mixing lager and sider is what they call snakebites, until Alison mentioned it.

After a while, the snake bit. My colleagues now got what they wanted but it still wasn’t the end of the story. Helen stood up and got everyone another drink… I thought she was getting me another pint of sider but then, she got me a sprite. I realized that when the snake bites, conscience (and not liquor) works. That was my last drink for the night. It was a freezing 14th of December and, contrary to my previous self-made belief, THE LIQUOR DIDN’T REALLY KEEP ME WARM.

This was my first ever experience of a Christmas Do in a country where drinking alcohol is a significant way of life… and indeed, it was an evening to remember.

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