Christmas in the United Kingdom
In the UK (or Great Britain), families often celebrate Christmas together, so they can watch each other open their presents!
Most families have a Christmas Tree (or maybe even two!) in their house for Christmas. The decorating of the tree is usually a family occasion, with everyone helping. Christmas Trees were first popularised the UK by Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria. Prince Albert was German, and thought that it would be good to use one of his ways of celebrating Christmas in to England.
Most villages, towns and cities are decorated with Christmas lights over Christmas. Often a famous person switches them on. The most famous Christmas lights in the UK are in Oxford Street in London. Every year they get bigger and better. Thousands of people go to watch the big ‘switch on’ around the beginning of November.
Like a lot of countries, Nativity Plays and Carol Services are also very popular at Christmas time. The Church that I go to always has a Carols by Candlelight Service where the church is only lit up by candles. It is a very special service and always makes me feel very Christmassy! Lots of other British churches also have Carols by Candlelight and Christingle services.
Children believe that Father Christmas or Santa Claus leaves presents in stockings or pillow-cases. These are normally hung up by the fire or by the children’s beds on Christmas Eve. Children sometimes leave out mince piesand brandy for Father Christmas to eat and drink when he visits them. Now, some people say that a non-alcoholic drink should be left for Santa as he has to drive!
Children write letters to Father Christmas/Santa listing their requests, but sometimes instead of putting them in the post, the letters are tossed into the fireplace. The draught carries the letters up the chimney and Father Christmas/Santa reads the smoke.
There are some customs that only take place, or were started, in the UK. Wassailing is an old anglo-saxon custom that doesn’t take place much today. Boxing Day is a very old custom that started in the UK and is now taken as a holiday in many countries around the world.
In Scots (a Scottish dialect) Happy/Merry Christmas is ‘Blithe Yule’; in Gaelic it’s ‘Nollaig Chridheil’; in Welsh (which is spoken in some parts of Wales it’s ‘Nadolig Llawen’ and Manx (spoken by some people on the Isle of Man) it’s ‘Nollick Ghennal’. Happy/Merry Christmas in lots more languages.
In the UK, the main Christmas Meal is usually eaten at lunchtime or early afternoon on Christmas Day. It’s normally roast turkey, roast vegetables and ‘all the trimmings’ which means vegetables like carrots & peas, stuffing and sometimes bacon and sausages. It’s often served with cranberry sauce and bread sauce. Traditionally, and before turkey was available, roast beef or goose was the main Christmas meal. One vegetable that is often at Christmas in the UK are brussel sprouts. I love them but lots of people don’t!
Dessert is often Christmas Pudding. Mince pies and lots of chocolates are often eaten as well!
Trifle is also a popular dessert at Christmas. It’s made in a large bowl and consists of a layer of sponge cake (or sponge fingers) at the bottom of the bowl (which is often soaked in sherry or brandy) then there’s a layer of fruit (normally suspended in a fruit flavored jelly) and it’s topped with a layer of custard and then whipped cream. In Scotland there’s a variation called ‘Tipsy Laird’ which uses whiskey to soak the sponge and the fruit are raspberries.
The dinner table is decorated with a Christmas Cracker for each person and sometimes flowers and candles.