As well as the Christmas markets, crackers and varied culinary traditions already mentioned in other BBMag articles, there are plenty more interesting facts about British Christmas!
Some curiosities about Britain’s Christmas traditions are:
The Queen’s Speech
A modern-day tradition in the United Kingdom is for everybody to sit down in front of the TV at 3pm to watch Queen Elizabeth II address the nation. Some bookmakers even take bets on the topics Her Majesty will mention. Every now and then, something unexpected makes its way into Her speech, so it’s worth watching to see what HRH has to say.
14 years without Christmas
Have you ever thought of spending 14 years without celebrating Christmas? Believe it or not, this is exactly what happened in 1647, when the puritan Oliver Cromwell made parliament pass a law which outlawed Christmas. According to Cromwell, banquets and parties were anathema to a religious commemoration. Anyone caught ‘celebrating’ at the time was sent to prison. However, such an unpopular decree was bound to failure, and was soon reversed in 1660.
There are those who talk of Santa Claus, and then there are those who call him Father Christmas. According to an old Victorian tradition, Old Father Christmas was a kindly old fellow, associated with Christmas Dinner and general festive cheer, however, he did not come laden with gifts. Furthermore, he dressed in green, not red and white. In the 20th century, the Santa Claus and Father Christmas characters mixed together and, nowadays, the most important thing is the celebration of the Christmas spirit!
Christmas Carols are a centuries-old tradition in the United Kingdom. Performed by amateurs and professionals alike, the Carols are well-known and hugely popular. One of the most famous Christmas Carol Concerts takes place in the St. Martin-in-the-Fields church, beside Trafalgar Square. Christmas Ballets are another famous tradition, performed by the English National Opera at the Royal Opera House.
In the United Kingdom, 26 December is known as Boxing Day. It is an old tradition, stemming from a time when employers used to give their workers a box of money on Christmas Day, as a bonus for their hard work. The following day soon became a day of high spirits and high spending. In modern-day Britain, as an impetus for shopkeepers to rid themselves of the excesses of their Christmas stock, Boxing Day sees some of the year’s biggest and best promotions and special offers. The excitement is such that famous department stores such as Harrods see queues forming outside their doors from the early hours of the morning.
With so many peculiarities, it’s clear that a British Christmas boasts traditions to interest all sorts of tastes and preferences! Which is your favourite?