Christmas Traditions in the UK
What do you know about Christmas Traditions in the UK and how they came about?
I have done some research, and this is what I found out. Not sure how true they are, but they sound good to me!
How did Boxing Day get its name?
During Queen Victoria’s reign in the 1800’s, the 26th December was traditionally a day off for servants. On this day they were often given a Christmas Box from their masters. The rich often boxed up gifts to give to the poor and the name Boxing Day is said to come from this tradition.
It is tradition to hang a wreath made from holly on the front door of your home as a welcome to others. It is meant to symbolize the crown of thorns that Jesus wore, and the red berries symbolize his blood.
When you think about it, bringing a tree inside the house for a couple of weeks and hanging decorations on it is a bizarre tradition!
It is believed that the tradition started in Germany and became popular in the UK when Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert of Germany, brought one into their home. A picture depicted the royal family with a Christmas tree in the background and it became an instant hit, with others following their lead.
Eating Christmas Pudding
It is said that the first Christmas Puddings were eaten in the 14th century. Made from dried fruits, wines and spices, the recipes haven’t changed much over the years. It is traditionally eaten after Christmas Dinner and served with a white sauce, sometimes laced with brandy or rum.
A tradition of putting a sixpence in the pudding when mixing, is said to bring luck to the person that finds it in their serving! This tradition is thought to have been started during the reign of King Edward II but it wasn’t a coin, but a dried bean or pea added to the pudding.
Turkey for lunch
People in the UK would often have geese, boar or even peacocks for Christmas lunch many years ago. Turkeys were first brough to the UK in the 16th century and when the farmers were in need of their cattle for milk and chickens for eggs, British people started to eat turkey as their Christmas lunch.
The UK is one of the few countries in the world that exchange gifts on 25th December.
In Spanish speaking countries, they tend to exchange gifts on 6th January – they date the three kings were said to visit Baby Jesus.
In The Netherlands, St Nikolaus is said to visit on the evening of 5th December to leave gifts for children and many other countries have a tradition of exchanging gifts on 24th December.
Christmas Crackers were first created in the mid 19th century by a sweet maker called Tom Smith. He had been selling sweets, packaged with a small motto or riddle inside. After seeing logs crackling on a fire, he decided to try and add a ‘crackle’ element to his packaging. When the packaging was pulled apart they made a cracking sound from a snap hidden inside and became known as a Christmas Cracker.
Mince pies were originally made with minced meat mixed with spices, but over time, the meat was replaced with dried fruits such as raisins, currants and cranberries. The mixture is added to small pastry cases and served cold or warm at Christmas time in the UK. By tradition, one is usually left out for Father Christmas on Christmas Eve, along with a carrot for his reindeer.
Seeing a ‘panto’ or pantomime is a very British Tradition at Christmas. Always funny, they often have a story line based on a fairy tale and have lots of jokes peppered throughout. Usually, the actors would dress as the opposite sex, so men would dress as the ugly sisters and a woman would play the role of Prince Charming.
The Queen’s Speech (Now the King’s Speech)
King George V was the first British monarch to give a speech on Christmas Day. Since then it has become a big part of Christmas Day tradition for many British people across the globe.
As Queen Elizabeth II ruled for 70 years, it has been known to generations of people as the Queen’s Speech, but after her death this year, 2022 will be the first year it reverts back to the King’s Speech.