6 Anecdotes of British Christmas customs
If you set aside its religious origins, Christmas is so important to us mostly because it is a family-centered holiday. Traditions are inevitably celebrated with all sorts of elaborations. Buying gifts at Christmas is just as important as enjoying life, and there is no guilt in “chopping” because there is a cover to show love and care to family and friends. Atomee wants to share with you 6 anecdotes of British Christmas customs that originate from interesting stories that you need to know.
In 1843, Sir Henry Cole of England commissioned the popular painting artist, John Callcott Horsley, to design greeting cards with a Christmas message. The price was one shilling per card (equivalent to 5.5 pounds today) and one penny per stamp (equivalent to about 40 pence today). That’s still too expensive for the average family. Cole’s commercial Christmas cards didn’t make a big hit, and only 2,050 have been issued. With the Industrial Revolution, color printing technology advanced by leaps and bounds. And the cost of commercial greeting cards dropped rapidly. By the 1880s, Christmas cards were so popular that 11.5 million were produced in the UK alone in 1880. These anecdotes of Christmas customs still linger now.
Interestingly, Sir Cole also helped to found the British Post Office. So perhaps there was a bit of a “spin” to “invent” the Christmas card to drum up business for himself?
In 1841, Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, placed a Christmas tree in his home at Windsor Castle. And then the newspaper pictures that showed the Queen and her family sitting around the tree made it an evergreen fad.
The most famous Christmas tree in Britain is the one in Trafalgar Square (Dove Square) in central London. Since 1947, Oslo, the capital of Norway, has presented a Christmas tree to the British people every year. To become a token of appreciation for Britain’s support of Norway during World War II. And the tree has become a symbol of friendship between the British and Norwegians.
The turkey is not from the country of Turkey, but from Mexico. It was in 1526 that turkey was first brought back to England by William Strickland. Henry VIII is said to be the first king to eat a turkey. However, it was Edward VII who started the fashion for turkey at Christmas. Then roast turkeys took the place of roast peacocks on the royal table. By 1930, however, turkeys were still a luxury. One cost nearly a week’s wages, but now they could be had for 1.5 hours. To the English, roasting a turkey at Christmas is like making dumplings on Chinese New Year’s Eve. Whether you believe in Christ or not, whether you’re in the mood or not, and whether you like to eat it or not, you will have it! And according to the research, people will eat an estimated number of 10 million turkeys each Christmas in England.
Funny story: In 1720, 250,000 turkeys, were divided into flocks of 300-1000, walked from Norfolk, the northeast of England, where they were raised, to London. The distance was over 100 miles and they left in August just in time for the capital’s people’s Christmas table! Hahaha…
Mince Pie is an indispensable snack during Christmas. Originally people will fill it with mincemeat, fruit, and various spices. It is said to have been inspired by Middle Eastern cuisine during the Crusades. Usually, a mince pie is filled with 13 ingredients, representing Jesus Christ and the disciples. And it is also oval in shape, symbolizing the manger where Jesus was born. In the Victorian era, the meat filling disappeared and the bagel was filled with a variety of dried fruits and other ingredients.
It is a long-standing saying that if you eat a mince pie every day for 12 days starting on Christmas Day, your life will be full of happiness for the next 12 months. These anecdotes of Christmas customs still linger now.
Legend has it that a poor old man was worried that no one would marry his three daughters if he couldn’t afford the dowry. Saint Nicholas learned of his troubles and wanted to help him. On Christmas Eve, while the old man’s three daughters hung their stocks by the fireplace to dry, Nicholas threw gold coins through the chimney into the stocks. The prototype of Santa Claus was Saint Nicholas, later called Sinterklaas by the Dutch. Later we call him Sinterklaas by the Dutch, or Santa Claus in the English-speaking world.
We usually hang Christmas stocks by the fireplace, but what if there is no fireplace? Taped to windows, outside doors, the idea is to make sure it’s visible to Santa!
Holly and Ivy
Holly, ivy, and mistletoe are the traditional ornaments of Christmas. Before the birth of Christianity, these green plants were used to celebrate the winter solstice, which was believed to drive away evil spirits and to celebrate new life. After Christianity spread to Europe, people gave religious meaning to these decorations. For example, the cross that Jesus carried comes from holly wood, the headband of Jesus had a crown of holly branches, and the berries on it were originally white, but the blood of Jesus dyed them red, etc. There is a very beautiful Christmas song that we call “The Holly and the Ivy”. Over the years, the combination of these two words has become almost synonymous with Christmas. These anecdotes of Christmas customs still linger now.
Mistletoe is still a symbol of romance. To keep it simple, just hang a handful on a door frame and walk underneath to kiss the person next to you, who may be out of luck if they refuse. For every kiss, you have to pick a berry, and after that, the mistletoe loses its magic power of giving you the chance to force a kiss on someone. So, be sure to buy them with as many berries as you can find at …….
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