Christmas in England began in AD 596, when St Augustine landed on its shores with monks
who wanted to bring Christianity to the Anglo Saxons. Christmas is the biggest festival in Britain and is celebrated on 25th December. The four weeks before Christmas are called Advent. Advent is not widely celebrated in England,its celebration actually originated in Germany, although in the church calendar Adventis the official start of the run up to Christmas. Two traditions that have caught on in
England are the Advent calendar and the Advent candle.The first known Calendar
Advent is for the advent of 1851. Nowadays it is usually a thin rectangular card
with 24 or 25 windows. They are numbered 1-24/25. Window number 1 is opened
on the 1st of December, door 2 on the 2nd etc.A basic Advent calendar has a
Christmassy picture behind each window,but the children's favourite is usually
a chocolate Advent calendar,with a chocolate for every day of the month.
An Advent candle often has 25 marks on it, a bit of the candle is burned down by one mark each day. In some homes, 24 candles are kept, one for each night from December 1 through Christmas Eve.
However, it is now more common to have four candles for the four weeks before Christmas.
One candle is lit on the first Sunday, two the second week and so on.The candles
were often placed on a wreath upon the dining room table. Advent candles are lit
in many homes, schools and churches, in England, with a final central candle lit on
Christmas Day; these are often on a hanging decoration known as an "Advent Crown."
In Great Britain, families often celebrate Christmas together, so they can watch each
other open their presents!Most families have a Christmas Tree 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.Holly, Ivy and Mistletoe are also sometimes used to decorate homes or other buildings.
In England less emphasis is placed on Christmas Eve than in other countries, much more is made of Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Carol singing, midnight church services and going out to the pub are some of the activities that many families enjoy (sometimes all three activities can be combined into one fun night out!).
Night time on Christmas Eve is a very exciting time for young children. It is the time when Santa or Father Christmas comes. They hang up their stockings and go to sleep. Santa and his elves make all the toys for Christmas in his home in Greenland. On Christmas Eve he piles all of the toys onto his sleigh and rides across the sky with his 9 reindeer (Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner (or it may be Donder), Blitzen and of course ... Rudolf!). The most famous one is Rudolf who is always the one at the front, to lead the way with his red nose. The children leave mince pies and brandy for Father Christmas, and a carrot for the reindeer
Christmas presents are opened on Christmas Day. Children wake up very early in the morning to find their stockings have been filled by Father Christmas and excitedly unwrap the presents before going down to breakfast. The whole family sit down for Christmas dinner at mid-day.
A "traditional" Christmas dinner comprises roast turkey, roast potatoes, brussel sprouts, other green vegetables, gravy, cranberry and/or bread sauce, tiny sausages wrapped in bacon (pigs in a blanket). This is followed by Christmas pudding (originally known as plum pudding) and mince pies.
Mince pies are tarts made with pastry and filled with "mincemeat". This is a mixture made of dried fruits, sugar and spices.
The use of beef suet in this mixture is reminiscent of the days when meat was always included in recipes - hence its name. It was originally made to preserve meat through the winter. Other food they often eat at Christmas include Christmas cake, which is a rich fruit cake which is then covered with marzipan and icing: yule logs (a swiss roll covered with chocolate icing made to represent a log)
Boxing Day - December 26th
In England Boxing Day celebrated on December 26th, is traditionally a time to give gifts to tradesmen, servants, and friends. It originated in medieval times, when every priest was supposed to empty the alms box of his church and distribute gifts to the poor. Wealthy people indulged in huge Christmas feasts, and when they were finished, packed up the remains of feasts in boxes and gave them out to their servants. It didn't become widely celebrated though until Victorian England.In the UK Boxing Day is still a public holiday, some shops and supermarkets open nowadays, but banks and most offices remain closed.Like Christmas Day, Boxing Day is a public holiday.
This means it is typically a non working day in the whole of Britain. When Boxing Day falls on a Saturday or Sunday the following Monday is the public holiday.
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