Flying Home For Christmas. A Good Old Yorkshire Christmas in Leeds

Haworth,  West Yorkshire England
West Yorkshire
Most years, since my two children were born, we turned our backs on Greek Christmas and headed “Home” to Leeds.

My daughter, Nais, pleaded with me to write a post about these happy times, little did she know how her request, would evoke such an unexpected rush of nostalgia.

Planning for this exciting yearly occurrence began in late November, with the purchasing of plane tickets and checking that passports were all in order.

Flying home for Christmas
Flying home for Christmas

Suitcases were pulled from their hiding place, I had the most practical set, three, quite large ones, that nestled one inside the other, like Russian dolls.

Only two were used on the trip out, the smallest, and the medium, which was then placed inside the empty large one, this was to be filled with their Christmas stash on the return journey.

I can’t ever remember not paying excess baggage on the flight back to Greece.

Excess baggage
Excess baggage

Always excess baggage!

MGG (My Greek God) took us to Athens airport, it was not often he accompanied us, business would not permit it, on a few occasions, MGG did join us at a later date.

As their were no direct flights from Athens to Leeds, this meant taking two planes, either Athens-Heathrow- Leeds, or Athens- Amsterdam- Leeds, we usually chose the latter.

On arrival, Grandpa would be waiting for us, and after the asphyxiating hugs and kisses, and the 

 “Oh how you’ve grown”

 exclamations, first stop was the fish and chip shop, I love fish and chips!

Harry Ramsdens Fish & Chips
Harry Ramsdens Fish & Chips

White Cross, Guiseley, Yorkshire.

Once the best fish & chips in the world,
 sadly, not anymore.

 We devoured rather a lot of fish and chips over Christmas; I had to have my fill, to keep me going until the next Christmas.

My children became quite partial to them; especially the “Jumbo” sausages in batter, but mushy peas were a no no!

I do hope this is not what immediately comes to mind when they think about England.

 I would go as far to say; they are the only thing I miss, here in Greece.

Calverley Fish & Chips
Calverley Fish & Chips

Our local "Chippy"

I spent much time and money in there!
Worth every minute, and every penny.
On saying that though, I was invariably overcome with emotion, when descending over the snowy fields and dry stone walls, which surround Leeds and Bradford Airport, whose bright lights were winking in the distance.

Yorkshire Sheep
Yorkshire Sheep

There are lots of sheep in Yorkshire.
Farmers have been known to wrap them in blue plastic, not only to keep them warm,
but to make finding them in a snow drift easier!


This to me, this is a sheep, a proper sheep,
 not the scrawny Greek variety.

Just another ordinary day in Yorkshire
Just another ordinary day in Yorkshire

I do have a chuckle to myself, when, on seeing  sheep walking along the roads in Greece,
people say;
"Only in Greece do you see that"
They've obviously never been to Yorkshire.

I'm  home; this is Yorkshire, and as the saying goes;

“You can take the lass out of Yorkshire, but you can never take Yorkshire out of the lass”


Home Sweet Home
As a rule, we stayed with my sister, as she has two children, only slightly younger than mine, Sophie and Matthew, luckily they all got on like a house on fire, as you can imagine, it was pretty hectic.

Yiannis and Nais were now in “English mode”, I loved to hear Sophie, who took them under her wing, explain English words, and excitedly announce to them, what was on our Christmas agenda.

The first day was given over to Christmas shopping, the children’s presents that is, Ian, my brother-in-law, would take all four children out for the day, allowing my sister Gillian and I to get this job done, and out of the way.

County Arcade Leeds
County Arcade Leeds
Leeds has some wonderful architecture, and a plethora of arcades,
 absolutely beautiful arcades

The Corn Exchange Leeds
The Corn Exchange Leeds

I just adore this trendy, bustling market, filled to the brim with
unique shops and stalls.
One of Leeds icons

The victoria Quater. Leeds
The Victoria Quarter. Leeds

My favourite part of Leeds City Center, amazing atmosphere,
 amazing stone facades

Entrance to Leeds markets.
Entrance to Leeds markets.

Christmas tradition:
Stand pie (Yorkshire men and women will know what a stand pie is.
 This is a large pork pie for sharing between a number of people, one that was specially prepared for Christmas), and a large joint of pork for Boxing Day, bought here.

Ian’s favourite place to take them, seemed to be some small farm, open to the public, which permitted children to pet the animals, afterwards, he would feed them; burgers or fish and chips was the usual, wasn’t he good?

We visited Haworth, no more than a few miles away from our village of Calverley, Bronte country, no Christmas was complete without this day out, and we visited every year.

The Apothecary Tea Rooms Haworth
The Apothecary Tea Rooms. Haworth.

It must be an old photo, notice the " Non smoking sign?
It goes without saying today, well, at least in England, Greece is another story!

Haworth is a delightful little village, tucked away in a valley, flanked by the daunting Yorkshire Moors.

 No wonder the famous Bronte sisters churned out such amazing books, they were surrounded with inspiration.

Yorkshire Moors.
Yorkshire Moors.

Bronte country.
Can't you just picture a brooding Heathcliff skulking around up here?

Here in Haworth is the Worth Valley railway station, made famous in the film “The railway Children” starring Jenny Agutter.

Haworth at Christmas
Haworth at Christmas.

To give my sister a rest, I would take Yiannis and Nais into Leeds city center.

 This trip had to be taken by bus, and we just had had to sit upstairs, the excitement!

We don’t have double-decker buses in Greece!

Leeds bus
Leeds bus

Yiannis And Nais were in their element on the top deck of a bus.
They'd never seen anything like it!

On alighting from the bus, first stop was Lewis’s department store, after inspecting the amazing window display, best bar none in Leeds; we made our way to the third floor, toys!

Lewis's Christmas window display
Lewis's Christmas window display

Never disappointing!

The third floor at Lewis's department store.

A veritable children’s paradise. 

I don’t know how many hours we must have spent there over the years.

Third floor Lewis's toy department
Third floor
Lewis's toy department

Of course, we had to visit Santa in his grotto; my heart would sink when I spied the length of the queue.

  Yiannis met Santa, and so did Nais!
Yiannis met Santa, and so did Nais!

Remember this Yiannis?
 I think we may still have it.
I'm sure I could find it if I looked hard enough.
Then it was off to the top floor of Lewis's for lunch, it was Christmas, self-service was a novelty for Yiannis and Nais, they were allowed to choose what they wanted.

I must say, sometimes there were some rather strange food combinations on their trays!

We spent the rest of the day combing the city shops and returned home, weighed down with shopping bags, again on the top of a double-decker bus, tired, cold and glad to be home, a stiff drink for me and fun and games upstairs for Yiannis and Nais, overjoyed to be back with their cousins.

One more traditional Christmas expedition was to Roundhay Park, taking in Canal Gardens and Tropical World.

Roundhay Park Leeds
Roundhay Park Leeds

John Atkinson Grimshaw

Nais, you loved Meerkats and saw your first one here at Tropical World, before Aleksandr Orlov, was ever made famous through the adverts on television.

Meerkat Rounday Park Leeds Tropical world
Roundhay Park Leeds
Tropical World

This place was so humid, it played absolute havoc with your hair!

Then there was Harrogate, why did we seem to choose the coldest day to visit there, or is it perpetually bitterly cold in Harrogate?

 Never mind, we warmed ourselves with the mandatory scrumptious tea at Betty’s Tea Rooms.

Christmas lights on The Stray, Harrogate.
Christmas lights on The Stray, Harrogate.

Every year the same, never boring, a joy to see.

Betty's famous Tea Rooms, Harrogate.
Betty's famous Tea Rooms, Harrogate.
We went the rounds of friends and relations, we took time to see the many wonders of Yorkshire, and we consumed enough food to feed an army, all this on the run up to the highlight of our trip, Christmas Eve.


The Minister in the background

York in winter
York in winter

You would truly be hard put, to find a more magical place.

The atmosphere throughout Christmas Eve was electric, the children hyper.

 Good old Ian would take the children out somewhere or other and Gillian and I would knuckle down to Christmas Day preparations, unfailingly not going to plan, due to much Christmas spirit.

Bathed and decked out in Christmas pyjamas, the four children took their places on the sofa, Gillian in the middle, the book “The night before Christmas” open on her lap.

The Night Before Christmas
The Night Before Christmas

A yard stick of how much Christmas spirit had been consumed by Gillian!

If Gillian managed to pronounce all the names of Santa’s eight reindeer correctly, we knew she’d taken it easy with the Christmas booze!

With pillow cases clutched tightly in their little hands, they climbed the stairs to bed, sleep did not come easily, and numerous times they needed to be threatened with;

“Santa won’t bring your presents until you’re asleep”

At last; all through the house, nothing was stirring, not even a mouse.

Waiting for Santa
Waiting for Santa

Trying to be as silent as possible, gaily wrapped presents were stuffed into pillow cases, at the foot of beds, to be discovered later, to screeches of delight;

“He’s been, he’s been”

This was invariably at the godforsaken hour of five or six in the morning.

Christmas Day passed in a blur, of booze, wrapping paper, endless Christmas goodies, people coming, people going, the occasional harsh word, and the ubiquitous Christmas snore.

Santa Claus Per Breihagen
Santa Claus
Per Breihagen

What made Christmas Day special were the children.

 The glee on their faces, the wonder in their eyes.

They believed, they still believed in Santa.

After that, Christmas is never the same again.

Read about Christmas in Leeds, 70's style,  HERE


Anonymous said…
Here it goes... off the cuff !
Brilliant “Ghostbusters Xmas” in the back room – Slimer was the best present ever and “Who you gonna call???” was the song of the day.
“Dress-up as ninja turtles” Xmas out in the drive – Matthew had this Donatello body suit, he wore it all day, and we used to run outside and jump as high as we could. “Cowabunga” !!!
“Gillian dancing in front of the fireplace” Xmas – Twirling like there is no tomorrow!!! You were out and you came back to this magnificent moment.
“Home Alone” Xmas – You took us to the Home Alone premiere and I ate my very first sweet popcorn (discusting)
“The Talkboy” Xmas – Every kid wanted the Talkboy voice recorder from the Home Alone sequel. I was lucky enough to get it!!!

I could go on for ages… Let me just add, Grandpa’s visits accompanied by a pack of maltesers, going to see Robert and Val (I ate my very first Chinese meal during one of these visits), the place with the Xmas ornaments – Yiannis bought all those beautiful birds, the drive into Leeds City Centre to see the Xmas lights and the giant pool park Ian took us in mid-December.

Should I worry that I mostly have food flashes???

I would give anything to go back in time... I waited all year long for all this.

Sue-Sue, Leeds Christmas rules!!!!!!!!!

Beautiful! Really enjoyable to read. I especially like the comment about finding the sheep in the snow. Lol! I never thought of that.
Thanks Linda, I could tell you many more sheep stories from Yorkshire,the poor things are forever having to be dug out of snow drifts!
I forgot to put in the post about my daughter being chased by a sheep, we have it on video...hilarious.
I think you should have written this post Nais, the things you remember!
Haha, Matt and the turtle suit, I think he slept in it as well.
We did have good times, Yes, Leeds rules.
Anonymous said…
Yorkshire life , Bradfordiane life , fantastic on 1972 till 1977 !!!!!!!!!!!!
Yorkshire life, maybe the best kind of life!
Anonymous said…
Perfect post !!!!
Thank you, and thank you so much for reading.
Wishing you a very Happy New Year.
Thank you for your wonderful description of Leeds - I studied there in 1995 and, reading your evocative post, all the great memories came flooding back! Leeds was such a special place with lovely, friendly people (and sooo many pubs!).

On a different note, it's funny that my mum and dad (their parents had come out from Greece in the 20s) and all of our families always have done an 'anglo' Christmas - pudding, Christmas cake, glazed ham, roast turkey, roast pork with crackling.... all prepared in the Australian summer heat! Someone will throw in a Greek dish for good measure, though : )
Ah, yes, lots of pubs! Yes, Leeds is a great place.
Your family Christmas sounds a lot like mine, well, apart from the heat, lots of Greek stuff, but mostly it's an English traditional Christmas. Not making the cake though, this year, no one but me likes it, jeans feeling very snug, so not a good idea to eat a whole cake!
A very happy Christmas to you.