The Christmas traditions
Typical British Christmas incorporates many traditional customs but most of them are actually recent, the first appearing during the reign of Queen Victoria.
Nearly four billion Christmas cards are expected to drop through letter boxes in the USA and in the UK this December. The average households send 28 cards and receives 28 in return!!! The first Christmas card was printed in 1843 by a wealthy Victorian entrepreneur who decided it wad easier to pre-print cards than to write individual letters.
The first recorded British Christmas tree was pout up in Windsor Castle in 1841 by prince Albert, the German husband of Queen victoria. At first, they were just decorated with candles but in 1880, Woolworths, the retail group, started selling specially manufactured ornaments to decorate the trees with. The biggest Christmas tree in Britain is put up in Trafalgar Square in London. Turning on the lights is a major event and thousands of people attend the ceremony. The huge tree is an annual gift from Norway thanking the British for their help during the second World war.
This is celebrated in Great Britain on the 26th of December. There are two theories about its origins and names. The first is that because servants were required to work on Christmas day they were given the following day off to spend with their families. As they were leaving, their employers gave them gifts of food, clothing, and money, known as “boxes”. The other theory is that the Church collected money in alms boxes for the poor on Christmas day and this was distributed the following day.
If Christmas day falls on a Friday, or over the week-end, Boxing day is celebrated on the Monday instead. By the way, Boxing day is a public holiday in Canada, New Zealand and Australia but not in the USA.
You see Christmas crackers by the side of every plate, mostly in Britain but often in the USA and Canada too, on Christmas day. It is an unusual tradition invented almost by accident, in 1847. The cracker is a small cardboard tube covered in brightly-coloured paper. When two people pull each end of the cracker, it burst open, makes a loud bang, and a paper hat, a small present and a motto falls out. Kids love them! The inventor was Tom Smith a London confectioner and cake-maker.
Carols were originally medieval songs of joy at the nativity. Throughout December, groups of youngsters go from house to house in their neighbourhood carol singing. They sing a carol at each house and in return they are usually given a little money. This custom has its origins in the Saxon custom of “was-sailing”. People would sing greetings to friends and would then be welcome with food and drink.
What about the Christmas pudding well you will have to wait for the next article…