Christmas is around the corner and it’s the perfect time to put aside the differences and celebrate togetherness. This magical season brings friends and families together to share the customs and traditions that have been around for centuries. The customs and traditions of Christmas vary from region to region, which adds to the beauty of the season. Today, we’ll take about the Christmas traditions in England. So keep reading.
Christmas Traditions In England:
Christmas in England began way back in 596 AC, when St. Augustine arrived at its shores with the monk to spread Christianity to the Anglo Saxons. A day before the Christmas is always busy for families in England. They spend their time baking cookies, wrapping presents and hanging stockings over the fireplace. The family also gathers around the Christmas tree for the Christmas story session.
After listening to their favorite Christmas stories, they write a letter to Father Christmas mentioning all their wishes. Next, the kids toss their letter into the fire, in the hopes that their wishes will go up the chimney. Kids even leave brandy and mince pies for the Father Christmas to eat and drink, he visits with the gifts for them.
On the Christmas day, the entire family gathers together for a midday feast and finds a Christmas cracker near their dinner table. A cracker is basically a wrapper covered tube filled with small gifts. When you pull the end string, you’ll hear a loud sound, spilling out the paper hat to wear at the dinner, a riddle to read out loud and small trinkets.
After the Christmas dinner, the family gathers in the living to hear the message delivered over television and radio by the Queen of England.
Christmas Celebrations In England:
Just like a lot of countries, carol services and nativity plays are very popular during Christmas. Some of the churches also hold Candlelight Service when the church is only lit up by candles.
The Boxing Day:
Some of the Christmas traditions are exclusive to the United Kingdom and the Boxing day is one of them. Boxing Day in England has nothing to do with fighting. This tradition began when people starting donating for the poor in the church alms boxes. These boxes were distributed on the 26th of December. Since then, people started gifting their friend’s small gifts of money to the news vendor, mail carrier and everyone who helped them during the year.
The Boxing Day begins with families enjoying pantomimes, the stage performances. This activity or play was supposed to be a drama without words or, actors who entertained or mimed without speaking. Today, Pantomimes features to all kind of plays performed during the Christmas season, such as “Peter Pan” and “Cinderella”, which delight young and old alike.
Besides the boxing day, wassailing is also a custom unique to England. It’s a bit ancient and is rarely followed today. The term ‘wassail’, obtained from the Anglo-Saxon term ‘waes hael’, means ‘good heath’. Wassail is basically a drink made from curdled cream, eggs, mulled ale, roasted apple, ginger, sugar, and nutmeg and served in huge bowls made of pewter or silver. The wassailing was a tradition observed on the Twelfth Night and New Year’s Eve, but some rich people would drink it on all 12 days of Christmas. Coming to the legend of Wassailing, it’s said that Rowena, a beautiful Saxon maiden presented Prince Vortigern a bowl of wine, toasting with the words ‘waes hael’.
Over the years, there have been several ceremonies around the custom of drinking wassail. There was also a time when the bowl of wassail was carried into the room with traditional carol about the drink and with great fanfare.
Mumming is another pagan custom exclusive to England. It was basically an excuse to party at Christmas. In mumming, which means ‘making a diversion in disguise’, men and women would put on masks, swap cloths and visit their neighbors dancing, singing and enacting a play with a silly plot. The narrator would be dressed as Father Christmas.
This custom goes back to the Roman times, when people would dress up for New Year parties. It’s said that the UK would celebrate it either on St. Thomas’s day or the shortest day of the year. In medieval times, mumming was also an excuse to go begging around the houses and committing crimes. The situation became so bad that Henry VIII had to bring the law stating that anyone caught mumming wearing a mask would be prison for three months.
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In the United States, St. Nicholas is known as the Santa Claus, which is basically derived from Dutch term “Sinter Klaas”, but in the whole of United Kingdom, he is almost exclusively known as Father Christmas. While Santa Claus and Father Christmas are considered the same person today, they have entirely different origins. The origin of our very own Santa Claus can be owed to Clement Clarke Moore’s poem, ““A Visit From St. Nicholas”. But the origin of Father Christmas can be traced back to the 5th or 6th century, when he first appeared as Saxon “King Winter”, who promised a mild winter if people were kind to him. But when the Norman invaded, the story of St. Nicholas was mixed with the Saxon story, which began resembling Father Christmas. Father Christmas was mentioned for the first time in a 15th century carol, “Welcome, my lord Christëmas”.
Christmas Food In England:
In England, the main Christmas meal is usually eaten in the mid-noon or at lunchtime on the Christmas day. The wassail bowl, brimming with spiced and hot wine tops the day’s feast. Yorkshire pudding, roast goose with currants, roast turkey with chestnut stuffing or roast beef, are the most popular dishes prepared in England during Christmas. One veggie that’s always on the Christmas table of the English people is Brussel Sprouts.
Another classic Christmas dish of England is the Christmas pudding. Dating back to the medieval era, the Christmas pudding is a boiled fruit cake doused in brandy, spiced heavily and set on fire briefly. There is also a specific set of instructions from the Roman Catholic Church for making the Christmas pudding. The pudding must be made on the 25th Sunday after the Trinity and must be prepared with 13 ingredients, which represent Jesus Christmas and his 12 apostles. It’s also said that each family member of the house must stir the batter from east to west to honor Magi and their journey. In earlier times, coins would be hidden inside the pudding as an instant gift, but this custom has now stopped.
Trifle is another popular Christmas dessert, made in a large bowl and consisting of a layer of sponge cake at the bottom of the bowl and then layered with fruits, custard, and whipped cream.
Before the feast, the only thing English people ate was Frumenty, a kind of porridge made from corn. The recipe has changed over the years, but fruits, egg, lumps of meat, spice and dried plums are generally added. The mixture is then wrapped in a cloth and boiled. This is how plum pudding came into existence.
Christmas Tea Tradition In England:
Christmas tea, rolling at around 6 pm is the round two of the sit down with the family. This isn’t much of a surprise because almost every English event involves tea. Apart from the tea, you may even get to see sausage rolls or mince pies.
Christmas Decorations In England:
Almost every town, village, and city of England are decorated with the brightest of lights during Christmas, the light of which is often switched on by a famous person. Every year, thousands of people visit the Oxford Street to watch this big ‘switch on’. The most famous decoration can be seen in Oxford Street in London, and it keeps getting better and bigger.
Most of the families put up a Christmas tree, or even two in their house during the Holidays. The Christmas tree decoration is a family occasion, with everyone helping and contributing. The tradition of putting up Christmas trees began in Germany, but it was popularized by Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria. Prince Albert was German and believed it to be a good idea to bring this custom to the United Kingdom. The English people even say that you must take down your Christmas tree within 12 days, or else you’ll be greeted with bad luck. Apart from Christmas tree, mistletoe, holly, and ivy are also used to decorate their buildings and homes.
Royal Christmas Message:
The royal Christmas broadcast by their reigning queen or kind is a mainstay of England. George V began the tradition of sending out a Christmas message to the public in the year 1932, and it’s still followed. Currently, the Queen reads out the message at 3 pm in England on the Christmas day. The entire family gathers around the television with their near and dear ones to see the Queen read out the message. The subject matter of the message is a reflection on all the events of the last 365 days and stresses the importance of togetherness.
We hope you enjoyed learning about the Christmas traditions in England. If you’re from England and wish to share most about Christmas in your region, let us know by commenting below.