Christmas is celebrated in England on the 25th of December. There are many traditions and symbols that we associate with Christmas including the Christmas tree, leaving cookies out for Santa Claus, and sending Christmas cards and Christmas presents.
The gift giver is called Father Christmas. He wears a long red or green robe, and leaves presents in stockings on Christmas Eve. However, the gifts are not usually opened until the following afternoon. Father Christmas delivers them during the night before Christmas. The Children leave an empty stocking or pillowcase hanging at the end of the bed. In the morning they hope it will be full of presents.
In England Christmas dinner is usually eaten at Midday on December 25, during daylight. The traditional Christmas dinner is roast turkey with vegetables and sauces. For dessert it is rich fruity Christmas pudding with brandy sauce.
One of England's customs is mummering. In the Middle Ages, people called mummers put on masks and acted out Christmas plays. These plays are still performed in towns and villages.
Frankly speaking, nowadays English pudding oftener is bought at the shop than it is made by the English themselves for to cook it’s both more expensive and gives a lot of troubles which are enough before Christmas as it is. But the tradition of Christmas pudding is believed not to die out in England. Many people make sweets even if they usually do not prepare anything more and they give away these sweets to their friends. Christmas pudding has gone down in history and English culture. It even played the main roles in English books. For instance here it is what Mrs. Ross out of detective by A. Christie `` Theft of royal ruby`` tells about pudding: Real Christmas pudding must be made in some weeks before Christmas and it must be left in coldness; the longer it is kept within reasonable limits, of course, the more delicious it is. I remember when I was a little girl and we went to the church every Sunday, so we wanted for a certain prayer, which was served as a signal to preparing of puddings. On Sunday the prayer was said and not later than next week my mother made Christmas pudding without fail. Everybody living in the house had to enter the kitchen to stir the pudding and to think of any wish. That is the long-standing tradition, sir, and I always follow it.” Christmas psalms, skating, garlands and other typical Christmas attributes accompany beginning of feast time in Great Britain traditionally. This year lighting ceremony of Christmas garlands in Regent-street, Old Street of London city celebrates its anniversary of 50 years. Historical royal places of London, remind about Christmas celebration in the past centuries. At the Tower of London Norman Christmas takes part from the 27 till the 31 of December that recreates atmosphere of 1098 year which is memorable; exactly there the king Henry 1 and his suite celebrated the feast after finishing of building of the fortress. At Hampton Court Palace Jacobean Christmas is celebrated from the 27 till the 1 of January; Jacob 1 and Ann Danish laid its traditions. The skating-ring getting up in best traditions of that time is opened also here. In Christmas Eve 12 showrooms at Geoffrey’s museum in an east part of London are festively decorated where some furniture and examples of interior of period since 1600 up to our days are exhibited. Visitors can find out what is the foundation of such traditions as kissing under mistle-toe and decorating of a fir-tree.
The happiness of the children
For English children Christmas appears indistinctly in October yet, at this time they sit at the table and putting out their tonguage tips with effort write Christmas list for Father Christmas. Shop owners sell different thematic togs just from this moment. In generally this is a long-standing tradition. In UK there are traditions, rituals, distinctive marks, Kinks and other crazy ideas, connected to winters festivities more than in all the rest of Europe. It being (There being) both long-standing traditions and relatively new ones, but they are got firmly cemented in the midst of Britain mentality. Here is an example; from the end of the 19-century Advent calendars come to England from Germany. First they had religious “grown up” aim but soon children started using them. And now each year from the 1 0f December whole juvenile Britain keeps counting to the Advent. And these Calendars can be wild: blinking, chocolate, waffle, of they can be even like heads of Martians. Majority of building are decorated only in two weeks before Christmas. Trees in many of which the leaves are left are enmeshed in tinsel, coloured lights and different ribbons. Lawns in front of houses are usually hidden almost completely with holly and ivygarlands and with statues of Father Christmas. In Christmas Eve children go to bed right after they are read prayers and thrilling Christmas stories. But before this they are sure to leave a pie with meat topping and some milk for Father Christmas and a carrot for a certain Rudolf to receive presents. And in the morning at this unearthly hour children rush upstairs to the living rooms where everything what they were looking forward to, is under the fir-tree in their stockings. At about 13 o’clock relatives and friends come to see each other, they kiss, other embrace, exchange their presents, discuss some trifles with delight and at last take their seats at Christmas table. Shrimp-cocktails are served up as a starter, for the main course turkey is with black currants dressing and Christmas pudding is for dessert. At 15 o’clock Queen Elizabeth appeals to English people with holiday speech. Then the best and the funniest telecasts are showed in TV. London is true Christmas House and a cradle of most traditions without questions streets are sparkled with thousands of lights and other designed enterprises. Fresh air pricks occasionally cheeks and nose and frost changes the city into Christmas Wonderland like by Dickens. London allows feeling all nuances of festival atmosphere. All kinds of choirs sing at churches, all public houses offer special menus and some peculiar amusements, streets, squares and theatres are flooded by organizers of entertainments, clowns and with pop-groups. But first of all X-mas is sure to do shopping for all people. For Christmas sales all the shops prepare before hand from about middle of October. These sales are the most substantial for the whole year. Shop windows are set with little angels, snowmen, deer broods and cohorts of Santa Claus.
The traditions of this holiday
In Great Britain present are ordered at Father Christmas. He was written detailed letter enumerating everything is wished and this letter is thrown into the fireplace. Smoke out of the chimney is thought to supply this list right its purpose. But of course to buy gifts one should go shopping. In the family circle the ceremony of gift distribution is run according to old-standing tradition, with a lot. And the custom of sending of postcards with Christmas topics is kept without fail. In the eve Britain Mass midi as report the traffic on the principle highways to be half-petrified for the Britains have rushed for the journey. The whole family is gathered to celebrate Christmas according to the tradition. And on the 24 of December traditional main service takes place at churches late in the evening. But nowadays some Britains, especially youth deviates from traditions of family holyday and they leave for having rest to mountain-skiing health-resorts or to warm South Seas.
In England Christmas pudding and cakes are being prepared in 6 weeks before the feast, as they must be infused to become spicy and flavoured.
In spacious and a little empty on usual days stores is agiotage, because first of all you should have time to buy a heap of presents and to store meals as on the 24th, 25th and 26th of December the shops are closed. The second reason is you may not miss the case to gain something been eager at a discount. The red patches “Sale” appear at the very beginning of December and by the middle of the month all the shop-doors and windows are glued over with them. At all stores including also groceries there are plenty of various Christmas toys: there are Santa Claus, little silver bells and half-moons and balls with wishes as well. Promptly after Christmas these toys will be piled up in the boxes beside the cash desk. And these boxes cost only 50 pence; if you buy 3 toys you get a discount, and if you take ten ore more ones so the discount is much more larger. But in that case the sellers will be very astonished for the next feast is in a year, you know. All the markets of London are very busy. The biggest of them is Petty-coat Lane market near by metro-station “Victoria”. This market is opened only on Sunday from 8 till 14 o’clock. The traffic is stopped at this time. At the market everything is cheaper than at any other shop. The most popular presents in December are Santa’s caps and eyeglasses with a big red nose and a little lamp inside it. Having bought this wonderful adornment everybody put it on immediately. It’s very funny to see a practical gentleman in a bowler and with a walking stick worn in clown’s spectacles with a nose, in deed. The little market on Greenwich Island is much more interesting. It’s not so cheap, but all the things are unique. Here you can find hand-working embroidery from all over the world, antiquarian bonnets, feathers, lamps, tables and huge pink shells too. You can also discover handmade articles of the English themselves; they are models of ships placed in the bottles that symbolize England as sovereign of seas. This museum in the open sky works only on Saturdays and Sundays. On Christmas Eve streets of London become deserted. The tourists scurry about only in Soho and Piccadilly. The really English stay at home the whole feast, going out only to mass. The most solemn mass takes place at the Westminster Abbey; those who couldn’t force their way crowd outside. To take a taxi it is almost impossible, for taxi-drivers are people too and they also spend the evening in their family circle. In the deserted streets and windows of the empty shops it is snowing and the toy deer are driving toy Santa Claus at that time. On the 27th of December the shops are opened and the English rush to buy some things at give – away prices: discounts in the week after Christmas are the largest. A few days before Christmas English supermarket Fortnum and mason usually sells products made of venison. Here you can gain pate and tinned stewed meat made of flesh of those animals that according to fairy-tales Santa Claus puts into his sledge. Firm Edible produces these products. This firm just specializes in preparation of exotic foods, for example, insects in chocolate or wine with snakes.
By the way, would you remember everything can be given as a presents for Christmas in England, it depends on your tastes and opportunities. The latest tendency is to manage somehow and to buy something what nobody dares call tags or junk. For example helicopter airing is very popular now. The most popular gifts are considered tourist vouchers, books, DVD, CD and clothes as well. The English regard Christmas extremely seriously like any other tradition. The houses and appartments are cleared very careful in a week before Christmas. Out through the windows can see decorated fir-trees. On the door of every house there is a green garland of mistle-toe, and above the door there are a lot of coloured lights.In Great Britain present are ordered at Father Christmas. He was written detailed letter g is wished and this letter is thrown into the fireplace. Smoke out of the chimney is thought to supply this list right its purpose. But of course to buy gifts one should go shopping. In the family circle the ceremony of gift distribution is run according to old-standing tradition, with a lot. And the custom of sending of postcards with Christmas topics is kept without fail. In the eve Britain Mass midi as report the traffic on the principle highways to be half-petrified for the Britains have rushed for the journey. The whole family is gathered to celebrate Christmas according to the tradition. And on the 24 of December traditional main service takes place at churches late in the evening. But nowadays some Britains, especially youth deviates from traditions of family holyday and they leave for having rest to mountain-skiing health-resorts or to warm South Seas.
Christmas celebrations around the world
It is interesting to see how different countries celebrate Christmas. We asked some of our friends to explain what happens in their countries. This is what they told us:
On the sixth of December Sinterklaas or Saint-Nicholas is celebrated, which is an entirely different holiday from Christmas. Santa Claus in Belgium is called de Kerstman or le Père Noël and he does come around on Christmas day to bring children presents. There are different cultures in Belgium, the Northern part being Vlaanderen (speaking a Dutch dialect), the Southern part being Wallonie (speaking a French dialect) and the Eastern part speaking German.Small family presents are given at Christmas too, under the tree, or in stockings near the fire-place, to be found in the morning. Christmas breakfast is a special sweet bread called 'cougnou' or 'cougnolle' - the shape is supposed to be like baby Jesus. Some families will have another big meal on Christmas day.
Father Christmas is called Papai Noel. Many Christmas customs are similar to USA or UK. For those who have enough money, a special Christmas meal will be chicken, turkey, ham, rice, salad, pork, fresh and dried fruits, often with beer. Poorer people will just have chicken and rice.
Finnish people believe that Father Christmas (Santa Claus) lives in the north part of Finland called Korvatunturi, north of the Arctic Circle. People from all over the world send letters to Santa Claus in Finland. (It is only fair to say that the people of Greenland say that really, Father Christmas lives in Greenland!) There is a even big tourist theme park called 'Christmas Land' in the north of Finland, near to where they say that Father Christmas lives. Everyone cleans their houses ready for the three holy days of Christmas - Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day. Christmas Eve is very special, when people eat rice porridge and plum fruit juice in the morning. They will then decorate a spruce tree in the home. At mid-day, the 'peace of Christmas' is broadcast on radio and TV from the Finnish city of Turku by its Mayor. In the evening, a traditional Christmas dinner is eaten. The meal will include 'casseroles' containg macaroni, rutabaga, carrot and potato, with cooked ham or turkey. Many families will visit cemeteries and grave-yards to place a candle onto the burial graves of family members. Cemeteries are very beautiful at Christmas-time. Children receive their presents on Christmas Eve, usually with a family member dressing as Father Christmas. As children grow older, they come to realise that 'Father Christmas' is really a bigger brother, sister or family member.
In France, Christmas is always called 'Noël. Everyone has a Christmas tree, sometimes decorated in the old way with red ribbons and real white wax candles. Fir trees in the garden are often decorated too, with lights on all night. Father Christmas is called Père Noël. The Christmas meal is an important family gathering with good meat and the best wine. Not everyone sends Christmas cards.
Germans love to decorate their houses at Christmas. Many houses will have little wooden frames holding electric candles in their windows, and coloured pictures of paper or plastic which look beautiful from the outside at night. Often too, they will have an 'Adventskranz' - a wreath of leaves with four candles. (Advent - meaning 'coming' - is the 4 week period before Christmas). On each Sunday of Advent, another candle is lit. Most homes will also have little wooden 'cribs' - a small model of the stable where Jesus was born, with Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, and animals. Father Christmas - 'Der Weihnachtsmann' - brings presents in the late afternoon of Christmas Eve (December 24th), after people have been to a church meeting. The presents are then found under the Christmas tree. One person in the family will ring a bell and call everyone to come to the room. On Christmas Day, fish (carp) or goose will be cooked.
Susanna Denes, a Hungarian friend contributed the following: Santa Clause (Winter-grandfather) (Tel-apo or Mikulas) comes on the 6th of December. Children should clean and put their shoes outside next to the door or window before they go to sleep. Next day candies and/or small toys appear in them in red bags. For children, who don't behave well, a golden birch placed next to the sweets, a symbol for spanking... (but don't worry, it is just for fun, and not for actual punishment.) On 24th of December, children go to their relative or to the movies, because little Jesus brings the tree and the presents that evening to their house. It is customary to hang edible things on the tree, like golden wrapped assorted chocolates and meringues beside the glass balls, candles (real or electrical), and sparklers. Families usually cook festive dinner for that night. An example would be fresh fish usually with rice or potatoes and home made pastries as dessert. After dinner, the tree would be viewed by the children for the first time. It was very exciting. Christmas songs are sung and then the gifts under the tree are shared. Older children attend the midnight mass with their parents. (During communism, children had to hide at the back of the church. Teachers could have lost their jobs for attending the mass. Later (in mid 1970's) most of the Communist Party leaders of the town attended it too.) Next day the children attack the edible part of the tree. Festive food is enjoyed on the second and third day too. People from Transylvania serve stuffed cabbage on Christmas Eve, and next day for lunch. Most likely the reason for that custom is that stuffed cabbage is the best on the second and third day after it was cooked. Moms can prepare the food a day earlier, leaving more time for decorating and organizing. Very practical. On the 25th of December, the whole family attended church and ate stuffed cabbage for lunch.
Latvians believe that Father Christmas brings presents on each of the 12 days of Christmas starting on Christmas Eve. Usually the presents are put under the family Christmas tree. (What a good idea to spread Christmas out longer!) It was in Latvia that the first Christmas tree was decorated. For more infromation see First Christmas Tree The special Latvian Christmas Day meal is cooked brown peas with bacon (pork) sauce, small pies, cabbage and sausage.
Lou from DownUnder writes: Christmas starts for us with gifts under the tree, to be opened Christmas morning. Then its onto a Christmas lunch either at home or at one's parents place. Turkey or chicken with all the trimmings is eaten, then come tea time, it is a Bar-B-Q for friends and family to get together,and have a few beers or wines with the meal!!
People pretend that Father Christmas brings presents to children on Christmas Eve. The presents are left under the Christmas tree or in shoes by the fireplace. A special Christmas meal of salted dry cod-fish with boiled potatoes is eaten at midnight on Christmas Eve.
In the days of the Soviet Union, Christmas was not celebrated very much. New Year was the important time - when 'Father Frost' brought presents to children. With the fall of Communism, Christmas can be openly celebrated - either on December 25th; or more often on January 7th. This unusual date is because the Russian Orthodox church uses the old 'Julian' calendar for religious celebration days. Special Christmas food includes cakes, pies and 'meat dumplings'.
The most important day is Christmas Eve. A special Christmas meal is eaten on Christmas Eve - ham (pork), herring fish, and brown beans - and this is the time when families give presents to each other. Many people attend a church meeting early on Christmas Day.
The USA is so multi-cultural that you will find many different ways of celebrating Christmas. A friend writes about Christmas meals, "Our family (Eastern European origin) favor turkey with trimmings. My grandparents and their relatives preferred keilbasi (Polish sausage), cabbage dishes, and soups. My husband's Italian family insisted on lasagna!" Another friend wrote: All year long children are told to behave, or they will get coal in their stocking. On Christmas Eve, they hang highly stylized stockings on the mantle of the fireplace, then go to bed early so that they will find presents in the morning. They are told that at midnight Santa will come, bringing a huge bag of toys. He will come down through the chimney, leave candy in the stockings and presents under the Christmas tree (anything from a Pine or Fir to a Spruce), then plug one nostril and shoot up through the chimney. Cookies are traditionally left for him, and a carrot is commonly left for Rudolph the Red-nosed reindeer, very much a part of Christmas tradition (Santa will land on the roof with his sleigh and nine reindeer). On Christmas morning, things such as cinnamon rolls or coffee cake are served for breakfast, and for dinner there is typically ham (and occasionally regal plum pudding). That is it for celebration — Boxing Day is never celebrated, Epiphany is only celebated by Catholics, and Advent not commonly celebrated. Another American reader wrote in with the following: Advent is celebrated in almost all Roman Catholic and mainline Protestant churches. I was RC until I was 15, as were my grandparents, and we alwasy followed the four weeks of preparation before Christmas in our church services. I found the same to be true in my father's Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, my friend's United Methodist Church, my in-law's Presbyterian USA congregations, and for myself as a member and pastor of the United Church of Christ for the last 16 years. We also recognize Epiphany in mainline Protestant churches. On the first Sunday following January 6, our service tells again the story of the Magi who came to Jesus presenting their gifts following his birth. As a child, I fondly remember leaving carrots and sugar for all of the reindeer, along the milk and cookies for Santa!
A traditional Christmas dinner in early England was the head of a pig prepared with mustard.
According to the National Christmas Tree Association, Americans buy 37.1 million real Christmas trees each year; 25 percent of them are from the nation's 5,000 choose-and-cut farms.
Christmas is not widely celebrated in Scotland. Some historians believe that Christmas is downplayed in Scotland because of the influence of the Presbyterian Church (or Kirk), which considered Christmas a "Papist," or Catholic event. As a result, Christmas in Scotland tends to be somber.
Christmas was once a moveable feast celebrated at many different times during the year. The choice of December 25, was made by Pope Julius I, in the 4th century A.D., because this coincided with the pagan rituals of Winter Solstice, or Return of the Sun. The intent was to replace the pagan celebration with the Christian one.
Electric Christmas tree lights were first used in 1895. The idea for using electric Christmas lights came from an American, Ralph E. Morris. The new lights proved safer than the traditional candles.
There are two Christmas Islands. The Christmas Island in the Pacific Ocean was formerly called Kiritimati. Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean is 52 square miles.
Franklin Pierce was the first United States' president to decorate an official White House Christmas tree .
Frumenty was a spiced porridge, enjoyed by both rich and poor. It is thought to be the forerunner of modern Christmas puddings. It has its origins in a Celtic legend of the harvest god Dagda, who stirred a porridge made up of all the good things of the Earth.
Greeks do not use Christmas trees or give presents at Christmas. A priest may throw a little cross into the village water to drive the kallikantzari (gremlin-like spirits) away. To keep them from hiding in dark, dusty corners, he goes from house to house sprinkling holy water.
If traveling in France during the Christmas season, it is interesting to note that different dishes and dining traditions reign in popularity in different parts of the country. In south France, for instance, a Christmas loaf (pain calendeau) is cut crosswise and is eaten only after the first part has been given to a poor person. In Brittany, buckwheat cakes and sour cream is the most popular main dish. In Alsace, a roasted goose is the preferred entrée. In Burgundy, turkey and chestnuts are favored. In the Paris region, oysters are the favorite holiday dish, followed by a cake shaped like a Yule log.
In 1752, 11 days were dropped from the year when the switch from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar was made. The December 25, date was effectively moved 11 days backwards. Some Christian church sects, called old calendarists, still celebrate Christmas on January 7 (previously December 25 of the Julian calendar).
In 1907, Oklahoma became the last US state to declare Christmas a legal holiday.
In 1937, the first postage stamp to commemorate Christmas was issued in Austria.
In 1947, Toys for Tots started making the holidays a little happier for children by organizing its first Christmas toy drive for needy youngsters.
In Victorian England, turkeys were popular for Christmas dinners. Some of the birds were raised in Norfolk, and taken to market in London. To get them to London, the turkeys were supplied with boots made of sacking or leather. The turkeys were walked to market. The boots protected their feet from the frozen mud of the road. Boots were not used for geese: instead, their feet were protected with a covering of tar.
It is a British Christmas tradition that a wish made while mixing the Christmas pudding will come true only if the ingredients are stirred in a clockwise direction.
It is estimated that 400,000 people become sick each year from eating tainted Christmas leftovers.
One notable medieval English Christmas celebration featured a giant 165-pound pie. The giant pie was nine feet in diameter. Its ingredients included 2 bushels of flour, 20 pounds of butter, 4 geese, 2 rabbits, 4 wild ducks, 2 woodcocks, 6 snipes, 4 partridges, 2 neats' tongues, 2 curlews, 6 pigeons, and 7 blackbirds.
Originally, Christmas decorations were home-made paper flowers, or apples, biscuits, and sweets. The earliest decorations to be bought came from Nuremburg in Germany, a city famous for the manufacture of toys. Lauscha in Germany is famous for its glass ornaments. In 1880, America discovered Lauscha and F.W. Woolworth went there and bought a few glass Christmas tree ornaments. Within a day he had sold out so next year he bought more and within a week they, too, had sold. The year after that be bought 200,000 Lauscha ornaments. During the First World War supplies of ornaments from Lauscha ceased, so American manufacturers began to make their own ornaments, developing new techniques that allowed them to turn out as many ornaments in a minute as could be made in a whole day at Lauscha.
The Christmas season begins at sundown on 24th December and lasts through sundown on 5th January. For that reason, this season is also known as the Twelve Days of Christmas.
The custom of singing Christmas carols is very old - the earliest English collection was published in 1521.
The day after Christmas, December 26, is known as Boxing Day. It is also the holy day called The Feast of St. Stephen. Some believe the feast was named for St. Stephen, a 9th century Swedish missionary, the patron saint of horses. Neither Boxing Day or St. Stephen have anything to do with Sweden or with horses. The Stephen for whom the day is named is the one in the Bible (Acts 6-8) who was the first Christian to be martyred for his faith.
The first charity Christmas card was produced by UNICEF in 1949. The picture chosen for the card was painted not by a professional artist but by a seven-year-old girl. The girl was Jitka Samkova of Rudolfo, a small town in the former nation of Czechoslovakia. The town received UNICEF assistance after World War II, inspiring Jitka to paint some children dancing around a maypole. She said her picture represented "joy going round and round."
The first Christmas card was created in England on December 9, 1842.