English Christmas Traditions
Christmas is a magical celebration! No matter how or where the festival is celebrated, it is the one time of the year when everyone gets involved in fun, happiness, sharing, forgiving and celebrations. English Christmas traditions begin weeks before Christmas Day on 25th December. The English enjoy their Christmas with music, prayers, decoration, charity, food, gifts and all the other traditions. Other than this, there are several English Christmas traditions that are followed while celebrating this beautiful festival.
Advent is an English Christmas tradition that marks the official beginning of the run-up to Christmas. The Advent calendar and the Advent candle are used to celebrate this event. For the calendar, every day of December is marked with a chalk line till Christmas Eve. Gradually entrepreneurs began replacing the chalk lines with printed calendars. An advent candle has 25 marks on it and the candle is burned down by one mark each day till the 24th of December. These days it is more common to have four candles for the four weeks prior to Christmas.
Christmas Eve in England is marked by singing of carols, midnight prayer service and a visit to the pub. The night before Christmas is especially exciting for children not just in England but in every place where the festival is celebrated. It is the night when Santa Claus or Father Christmas comes visiting them laden with gifts. Children hang their stockings beside the fireplace for Santa to put his gifts while they leave Christmas Eve mince pies and milk outside for Santa and his entourage.
The Queen’s Christmas Message
The mention of English Christmas traditions will be incomplete without a word on the Queen’s message. This tradition began in 1932 when King George V read out a speech written by Rudyard Kipling; it was a huge success. In the present times Queen Elizabeth II maintains this tradition. Every year this message is broadcast; the English watch or listen to it while enjoying the Christmas dinner with their family. Though not an ancient tradition, the Queen’s message has become an important part of the celebrations.
Mummering: An English Christmas Tradition
Mummering is an ancient English Christmas tradition that was often used as an excuse to party during the festival time. Masked people known as mummers would go about the town acting out the Christmas plays. People would go about wearing the disguises and when they visit the houses, a guessing game would start. As each of them is recognized in the game, they had to reveal their faces; however if they are not recognized, they did not have to reveal themselves. Sometimes food and drinks were served to the performers.
English Christmas Food
Traditionally Christmas food is eaten in the afternoon in the United Kingdom. A traditional dinner consists of roasted turkey or any other poultry like goose, duck, and pheasant along with roast beef or ham accompanied by potatoes, vegetables and stuffing with gravy and bread sauce. The Christmas dessert can include Christmas pudding, a Christmas cake, mince pies and Yule log served with brandy sauce of brandy butter.
English Christmas cracker
No English Christmas tradition is complete without the Christmas cracker. Christmas crackers or bon-bons are cardboard tubes decorated with brightly colored papers. The cracker is pulled by two people and eventually it splits; which is followed by a small bang and the contents being dispersed. In general the content consists of a small toy, a trinket, a joke or piece of trivia on a paper, a colored paper hat or a crown. The crackers are pulled either just before or after the Christmas dinner.
It is said that Christmas carols have their root in Medieval England. Earlier folk singers used to travel from castle to castle singing songs and collecting money just like the way carolers do these days. Now carolers start singing carols very early and continue till Christmas day. Lyrics of the carols are usually based on the various theme of Christmas or the winter season. The mass singing that takes place in North Sheffield and North Derbyshire in the second half of November and throughout December is often referred to as Sheffield Carols.
A Christmas tree is perhaps one of the most recognized symbols of celebrating the birth of Christ. Though this tradition is borrowed from Germany, it has become a very important English Christmas tradition. The tree is decorated with greenery, holly, mistletoe, candy cane and colored papers. During the festival times Christmas trees can be seen adorning the houses, interiors and the front lawns of many houses in England.