The holiday season is very close. We all know it as the time to be with family, a time of gifts, feasts and celebrations. That’s Christmas in most of the world; but each country has their own Christmas traditions. Through this article, we will try to transport you to the typical Christmas in England, so that you know their curiosities and how their people live it.
The British people take the Christmas celebrations very seriously. Its’ people celebrate it with very entrenched and unique traditions.
One of the first things to notice is the sense of decorations. Garlands, bells and mistletoe cannot be missing in any house. The gardens are also frequently adorned with lights, reindeer and snowmen. And of course, the star decoration element: the Christmas tree, under which Santa Claus will leave the gifts for the whole family. One of the elements that is almost never missed in any house that has children is the Advent calendar. This tradition consists of children opening a box that contains a chocolate for each day from December 1st to 24th, serving as a “countdown” of the days left until Christmas Eve.
In addition to decorating the house, British people love to write and send cards, and this festive season is the perfect excuse to do so. The first Christmas card was sent in England in the 1840s, and today more than one billion cards are sent every year in the United Kingdom, of which many are sold as charity aid. In England, some have Christmas card clotheslines in their homes with all the cards received from family and friends.
1. Christmas markets and carols
Among all the festive events organised in London with the arrival of Christmas – such as the famous ice-skating rinks – is the street markets. Normally set up in wooden booths, you can find all kinds of gifts and handmade objects. Usually, a visit to these markets is accompanied by a stop at the food stalls. You should try the mulled wine, with which you will quickly get warm and surely feel the festive atmosphere of London’s Christmas.
In addition, the streets are filled with countrymen singing carols, an important part of a British Christmas. These are sung around the Christmas tree and, in most churches, there is a special service for singing Christmas carols by candlelight. Many people attend the midnight service on Christmas Eve. Most of the popular Christmas carols were written in the 19th century.
2. Traditional Christmas meals
A traditional Christmas menu in the UK consists of stuffed roast turkey, accompanied by pigs in blankets (a kind of sausage wrapped in slices of bacon), gravy (sauce prepared with natural turkey juices while baking), cranberry sauce, roast potatoes, Brussels sprouts and other vegetables. There is usually a starter (first course) before the turkey, which can be, for example, cold meats and salmon or a prawn cocktail.
For Christmas Day dessert there is no room for discussion: Christmas pudding; a dried fruit cake that is made with such a great variety of dried fruits, in addition to egg, nuts and spices, all of which give it that characteristic and marked flavour. It is served with rum or brandy sauce and custard. They also serve mince pies, a kind of tartlets filled with a mixture of dried fruits and spices called “mincemeat.”
In addition, they have a very special Christmas tradition before dinner: Christmas crackers, also known as bon-bons. The cracker is a cardboard tube wrapped with colourful papers which contains a surprise such as a small toy, and often a joke, or Christmas message.
3. Christmas tree
The Christmas tree became a popular feature after Queen Victoria’s husband, Albert, included a tree in the celebrations held at Windsor Castle in 1840. Since 1947, Norway delivers a large Christmas tree to England every year, and it is placed in Trafalgar Square to commemorate the Anglo-Norwegian cooperation during World War II.
4. Boxing Day
December 26 is traditionally known as “Boxing Day.” This day is one of the dates with more history for the English people, and its roots date back to the 19th century; when the alms boxes were opened in the churches and the money was distributed to the poor, while the servants received gifts and boxes from their employers. Traditionally it is a date to visit family and friends and a day of celebration. This date is a public holiday, so stores and banks are closed.
5. A message from the queen
A traditional aspect of the afternoon of December 25th, is the message that the Queen sends to the nation on radio and television. The tradition began in 1932 with a radio broadcast from King George V. In the British armed forces, officers tend to attend to others during Christmas dinner. This custom dates from the Middle Ages.
6. Christmas Ballets
From the end of November, the entire month of December and the beginning of January is the time of the year in which the classical ballet shows proliferate in London, many of them with a Christmas theme created for the occasion, such as the nutcracker. The best places to see ballets in London are the London Coliseum Theatre (home of the English National Opera) and the Royal Opera House.
7. Pantomimes – A type of musical comedy
These are an integral part of the Christmas celebrations. These are fun performances where the role of women is represented by men and vice versa, a fact that makes spectators laugh the most. In addition, there are several participants who shout among the public when an actor is behind the main actor, with the aim of creating expectation among the spectators. Many famous actors participate in one of the pantomimes that are celebrated throughout the country. For the English, there is no Christmas in England without a Pantomime. Read more
8. New year
London’s New Year’s Day Parade, which is a charity parade held in London is another annual event. It is listed as the largest street parade in Europe, as more than 10,000 artists from about twenty countries participate in it and is seen by half a million spectators over three kilometres.