Christmas in Strangeways – What the festive period is like in HMP Manchester

Everyone has little differences in their Christmases – whether that be the selection of Christmas veg, when you open your presents or any other variety of strange traditions – but none matches the uniqueness of Christmas inside Britain’s prisons.

Yes, the inmates of the UK’s prisons celebrate Christmas too – and you might be surprised as to quite what it’s like.

The main event of celebration for inmates at HMP Manchester is a Christmas tree decorating competition between the different wings of the prison.

Inmates contribute to their wing’s Christmas tree which is then judged and the best tree is chosen.

All inmates who contributed to the winning tree receive £10 phone credit added to their account, to be used to speak with friends or family.

Of course the central part of many a Christmas is the Christmas Dinner, and even convicts get something special during the festive period.

On Christmas Day they have a choice of roast turkey with stuffing, roasties, potatoes, veg, pigs in blankets and gravy, or Tandoori chicken with Bombay potatoes, rice and naan.

There is also the vegetarian friendly version of Vegetable Wellington for non-meat eating inmates.

Finally, prisoners also get the choice of Christmas Pudding and white sauce or Christmas Cake for dessert.

For tea later in the day inmates are treated to a sandwich or wrap, sausage roll or vegan alternative, as well as scones with jam and butter, cheese and crackers, biscuits, yogurt, fruit, and a mince pie.

This might sound like a decent spread, but each portion only costs between £3.93 and £4.47 – try and serve your own Christmas dinner on that budget!

Both Boxing Day and New Years Day also have their own celebratory meals.

On Boxing Day, the choice consists of braising steak, chicken curry, or lentil dhal curry for main, with a Christmas Muffin and Custard for dessert.

Then a sandwich and pork pie, as well as scones, crisps, biscuits and even a satsuma later in the day.

To ring in the New Year, inmates have a choice of gammon steak with pineapple, potato wedges and peas, chicken fillet with gravy, or vegetable lasagna and garlic bread – with Genoa cake with custard and a mince pie to round it off.

For tea on New Year’s, it’s again a choice of baguettes, a packet of crisps and a chocolate bar, orange juice and a banana.

Even though these alterations aren’t the norm for most of the year, Her Majesty’s Prison Service allocates the funds for these events and meals in their budgets – meaning they come at no additional cost to the tax payer.

So how does this version of the Christmas Season compare to yours?

Although you might be able to avoid annoying relatives or the inevitable family games arguments, I think most of us treasure freedom to swap for a Christmas at HMP Manchester.

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