by Kapetanios Antontios
With Christmas, one of the greatest religious and cultural celebrations among billions of people all around the world, being just around the corner, it is an excellent opportunity to take a better look at the British Christmas Customs.
Advent, originally celebrated in Germany, is not much popular in England. However, it is used by the church’s calendar as the official start for the run up to Christmas. Its celebration starts four Sundays before Christmas Day.
To traditions of Advent, that can be found in England, are the Advent Calendar and the Advent Candle. The first one, Advent Calendar, was first used by Protestant Christians in Germany in the 19th Century. It was introduced as chalk lines (usually one for each day of December until Christmas Eve), but now they are replaced by rectangular cards with twenty-four doors numbered 1 through 24. Door number one is opened on the 1st day of December, number 2 one the 2nd etc. Behind each door there is a Christmas scene.
On the other side, an Advent candle often has 25 marks on it, a little 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. Nowadays, it is more common to have 4 candles representing the four weeks before Christmas.
In the UK, less emphasis is placed on Christmas Eve than in other countries. Carol singing, midnight church services and going out to the pub are some of the most popular activities that take place on the 24th of December. 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. According to the tradition, on Christmas Eve mince pies and sherry (or milk) are left out for Santa and nowadays carrots are left for his reindeer.
On Christmas Day (25th of December) families get up to open their Christmas presents, later in the day they have the Great Christmas Dinner. Initially Christmas Day had nothing to do with presents. But during Queen Victoria’s reign, Christmas became a time for gift giving, and a special season for children.
Boxing Day is celebrated on the 26th of December. Traditionally, on Boxing Day people share gifts with their friends and tradesmen.
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.