Many Christmas traditions started or evolved in Britain and spread throughout the Commonwealth and English-speaking world. Other traditions stayed at home, some begun only recently. What are these British Christmas traditions, both old and new?
The enduring popularity of the Charles Dickens' novel A Christmas Carol have led many to associate a British Christmas with Victorian England. Below are a list of the traditions and a few recipes for you to try!
Often accompanying food on Christmas Day, they were invented by the London baker - Thomas Smith - in 1846 and consist of a brightly coloured paper tube, twisted at either end. Two people pull the cracker, which ‘cracks’, and the contents of a brightly coloured paper hat, joke and toy fall out.
Eaten on the afternoon of December 25th and consisting of Roast Turkey, with ‘all the trimmings’, which typically refer to: stuffing, Brussels sprouts, parsnips, roast potatoes, carrots, pigs in blankets, bread sauce and cranberry sauce.
A traditional pudding that’s covered with brandy and set alight. It typically contains a coin or lucky charm.
Technically a tradition ‘borrowed’ from Germany, it did not become popular until Queen Victoria’s German husband, Prince Albert, introduced the custom to Britain in the 19th Century. Every year in Trafalgar Square, London, a tree is erected -- a gift from the people of Norway in gratitude for British support during World War II.
The name typically given to Santa Claus in English-speaking countries outside of the USA and Canada, although in practice, the terms are now interchangeable. In the past, Father Christmas was also referred to as Sir Christmas or Lord Christmas and was associated with good cheer and not particularly with children or gift-giving. Father Christmas dresses in red and white but used to dress in green, signifying his pagan roots.
A fruit based mincemeat, sweet pie that originated in the 13th Century. Mince Pies are widely available and eaten throughout late November and December.
Made from wine or cider with the addition of spices. It is served warm, with or without alcohol, and found throughout Europe.
Popular amongst British children (and some adults!), pantomime plays are song and dance adaptations of popular fairy tales and often feature innuendo, audience participation and contemporary jokes, i.e. jokes about celebrities, politicians and songs from popular culture.
The Christmas panto Cinderella, in the video below, features songs and original music by Philip Pope, Kevin Powell on bass.
The reigning Monarch broadcasts a Christmas Message on Christmas Day, a tradition that began in 1932 with radio broadcasts and in 1957 expanded to include television broadcasts as well. Now the message is broadcast on radio, television and the Internet--at 3pm, the time being chosen as a time convenient for the majority of the Empire. Since 1993, Channel 4 has broadcast an ‘Alternative Christmas Message’ lampooning the Royal Message and featuring a controversial celebrity.
To read the history of the Royal Christmas Message on the official website of the British Monarchy, click HERE)
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<- Video of first Royal Christmas Message broadcast on TV, 1957
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