What does Christmas mean to the people living in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole?


What does Christmas mean to you?

For many of us, Christmas fills our heads with thoughts of family, exchanging presents, and sitting down to a big roast turkey with all the trimmings.

But across our community live people from a diverse mix of cultures, who bring with them their own traditions. For some, Christmas Day is just another working day; whether that’s saving lives, helping others, or keeping our many local hotels and eating establishments running.

We spoke to a handful of different people from the local area, to see what Christmas Day will bring for them. 


Nick is the executive chef at Macdonald Elmers Court Hotel, Lymington. He is taking his first Christmas Day off in over 20 years, and opened up to us about the impact his job has on his family life.

Of spending Christmas away from his family, Nick says: 

Nick St Peter

Credit: nose2tailphotography (Kris Hall)

“Working over Christmas used to be a royal pain. You already miss everything throughout the year – friends’ birthdays, anniversaries, weddings and Saturday nights out with friends – then you’re expected work over Christmas as well!

However, as I’ve been in the industry for over twenty years now, I find that this is pretty standard. It’s not easy, but you build up a defence against the sadness of missing out. My mother and brother got used to me not being around.” 

“Now I’m a parent myself, the idea of missing the look on my eldest daughter’s face when she sees all the goodies Santa has brought her really smarts. 

My family are special people who wholeheartedly understand the industry and what it requires. They always go out of their way to include me in the special moments, from waking up at an ungodly hour in the morning to open stockings, to holding off on the feast until my return in the late hours. Failing that, we celebrate partially a day early, or a day late.
The stress that leads up to Christmas cannot be avoided in the kitchen, and finding time to go shopping, wrap presents, or enjoy a mulled wine, is always tricky.”

“I love what I do”

We were interested to know how Nick feels seeing guests having fun, knowing his family are at home celebrating without him.
“Making people happy with great food and hospitality is exactly why I love what I do, and it’s at the heart of why I joined the industry. It can be tough to know your own family is at home enjoying Christmas while you’re sweating it out at work, but that’s the same as most days of the week to be honest. It’s easier to deal with as you spend more time in the industry. 
This year I’m taking Christmas Day off for the first time in over twenty years, and spending it with my two little girls and my wife. We are all over the moon, however I know that in the back of my mind I will be worrying about whether the guests are happy, how the team are getting on…and that they haven’t burnt down my kitchen!” 
But the all-important question is, will Nick be cooking the Christmas dinner at home?
“Of course,” he laughs. 


Fred is a firefighter for Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue. He will be working Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

He tells us:
“Christmas is a busy time for the fire service. Fires will always keep us busy, with common problems being electrical Christmas decorations, candles, or chimney fires. As the nights are much colder now, meaning you’re more likely to have a fire lit in the evenings, do make sure your chimney is swept regularly.”
“On a personal note, it becomes harder to try and get that work / home life balance right at this time of year.

Credit: Fred Sedgeley

As it goes with working a shift pattern, this year I’ve ended up working over Christmas and New Year’s Eve. The days off I do have are unfortunately when my loved ones are at work. This definitely does have an impact on my family life, but everyone is understanding. I know my hours well in advance, so we’re able to plan head. We work out what days we will have together, and make sure they are special ones.” 

“Working over Christmas isn’t all doom and gloom”

“The advantage of working a shift pattern with a watch, is that everyone becomes like extended family. I am lucky to be part of a great watch; we all get on very well, and know that we can rely on each other for support.
Fred and his colleagues

Credit: Fred Sedgeley

We will do little things to make Christmas fun, like wearing festive jumpers and bringing in treats. Recently, our managers cooked us a nice meal. If I didn’t work as part of such a close team, I think I would find this time of year a lot harder.” 

Stay safe this Christmas! Do not leave candles burning unattended, and always be sure to turn off Christmas lights before you leave the house. 

Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue

We were also interested to speak to the religious communities within our towns – both the ones who celebrate Christmas, and the ones who don’t.

Rev. David Thompson

Rev. David Thompson

Credit: Rev. David Thompson

Rev. David Thompson is the Priest in Charge at the Holy Epiphany Church in Bournemouth.

He tells us:

“People often say to me ‘Christmas must be a busy time of year for you’. Of course it is; with school carols, children’s nativity service and three services on Christmas Eve alone, I shall, like many others, fall into bed around 1am on Christmas morning, absolutely exhausted.” 

Inside of the church

Credit: Rev. David Thompson

“However, Christmas is special to myself and all Christians, not because of the busyness and everything we do, but because of what we believe has already been done by God in sending his son, Jesus Christ, to earth. Each Christmas we are reminded of God’s longing to surprise us with his gift of joy, love and new life. It’s the greatest present we can receive and share with others.”

For more details of the services being held at Holy Epiphany, please visit their website.  

Holy Epiphany Church


Tariq and his family are Muslim. While he doesn’t celebrate Christmas, he tells us that he still enjoys this time of year, and sees it as a chance to spend extra time with his loved ones.

“For me as a Muslim, Christmas is a normal bank holiday – except all the shops are closed! Generally, we use the day off to visit relatives, or host gatherings with lots of good food. It’s a great time to catch up with family who you may not have seen for a long time, or who live far away – thanks to the added bonus of the roads being clear.”

We were interested to know a bit more about Muslim holidays, and find out what Tariq looks forward to each year.

A typical Eid ‘snack’! Credit: Tariq Ahmed

“Eid is a very exciting time in the Islamic calendar. We celebrate it twice a year; the first is celebrated after fasting during the month of Ramadan, then the second time is celebrated after the main pilgrimage. There are no set dates for these celebrations, as the Islamic calendar is lunar based.” 

Learn more about Eid


Deborah is Jewish, so didn’t grow up celebrating Christmas. She told us about her own traditions, and how these have changed since marrying someone who celebrates Christmas.

“I grew up not celebrating Christmas, but never felt like I was missing out! I was aware of all the festivities of course, and my parents were happy to let me join in with Christmas activities at school and with friends – I even played the angel Gabriel in my school Nativity!”


The menorah, which is lit on each night of Hanukkah. Credit: Unsplash

“We also celebrated Hannukah during December, and my sisters and I had presents so I guess we didn’t feel we were missing out. As Christmas day is a national holiday, we always spent it together as a family, often with my grandparents – eating and watching movies, without any of the pressure of creating the perfect Christmas.

I guess that is what has stayed with me now that I am married with a family of my own: I love being together with family, but don’t feel any pressure to create the perfect day.”

“I embrace the sense of hope, the gift of giving, the family values…and a little sprinkling of magic now we have kids to share the day with.”

“We do stockings and leave food out for Father Christmas and his reindeer. We take homemade desserts for Christmas Day, and always provide the meat for the Boxing Day buffet. On Christmas Day, we tend not to have the TV on – as we are such a large family, we are normally too busy talking, eating and playing games!

On Boxing Day we all sit down to watch a family film in the afternoon, which often ends up with most of us asleep before it’s even got going! I love the twinkly lights, the festive cheer and the sense of community that this time of year always brings.

I always like to bake homemade Christmas goodies and have made fab Christmas cakes and Christmas puddings (courtesy of Delia!). My favourite tradition so far has been making a gingerbread house and decorating it with my step-daughter, as it’s a chance to get creative. 

We still celebrate Hannukah each year and get together with family for the lighting of the candles, traditional festive food of doughnuts and latkes and, of course, presents. We have read the story of Hannukah with the kids and hope that they will learn the traditions of both families, and enjoy the best of both worlds as they grow up.”

Learn more about Hanukkah


Credit: Sara Vercesi Tierno


Sara is originally from Portugal, and has lived in Bournemouth since 2013. Of her Christmas traditions, she says:

“Back home, we celebrate Christmas mostly on Christmas Eve and at lunchtime on Christmas Day. Traditionally, we have a family dinner on the 24th and open the presents at midnight. Then, we gather around the Christmas table again on the 25th to share a nice lunch.”

“The most traditional Christmas meals in Portugal are a salted cod fish dish on the 24th and roast turkey on the 25th, although this varies from region to region. We also have a rich tradition of Christmas pastries and desserts and most of them involve loads of sugar, deep frying and chocolate – pure bliss, if you ask me!”

Sara always flies back to Portugal for the holidays, but during the run-up to Christmas she says she enjoys the atmosphere of Bournemouth.

“My favourite things are the Christmas food fair and Alpine bars in the town centre, and seeing the town and seafront beautifully lit and decorated.”

Learn how to make salted cod


Marek lives in Bournemouth, with his wife and two daughters. He hails from Poland originally, but usually spends Christmas in Bournemouth.

Pierogi. Credit: Pixabay

He told us: 

“According to Polish tradition, the main celebration is the dinner on Christmas Eve.”

We sit around the table and eat 12 traditional dishes: fried carp, cooked sauerkraut, beetroot soup, and pierogi with sauerkraut and mushrooms, among others!

Snowy Poland

Credit: Marek Kielak. Nr. Ostroleka, Poland, Dec 2018

Though he is staying in Bournemouth with his family this year, he says he misses home, adding that “it’s more about the people than anything else”. He also misses the Polish weather, as there is very often snow at Christmas.

That said, Marek says one of the massive perks of staying in Bournemouth at Christmas is being able to go to the seaside on Christmas Day!

Learn how to make pierogi



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