Christmas has been celebrated in England for over a thousand years now. It came up in England in 596 AD when St. Augustine, along with other monks, introduced Christianity to the Anglo Saxons. More than ten thousand people were baptized to the Christian faith then. England has a chilly and beautiful white Christmas with sheets of snow covering the country. Streets are adorned with lights and wonderfully decorated Christmas trees. Birds chirping on the frosted branches and cats prowling the deep layers of snow conjure up the spirit of Christmas in England. Families and friends get together to enjoy and share centuries old customs and traditions of the festive season. Traditional food, Christmas music and many other peculiar customs are integral to Christmas in England. All this makes Christmas the most awaited time of the year. Go through the distinct English customs that make Christmas in England so enjoyable.
English Christmas Customs
Countdown to Christmas
The start of the Christmas season in England is known as 'Advent'. Advent calendars are a countdown to Christmas and start four Sundays before Christmas. The advent calendar is the first sign of Christmas in English homes and offers a reason to look forward to Christmas Eve.
People decorate their houses with lights during Christmas. Red and green are the common decoration colours where green symbolizes the belief of eternal life through Jesus Christ and red symbolizes the blood that Jesus shed for mankind. The traditional Christmas tree in England is the fir tree.
Evening carol services and midnight masses are old English traditions that are upheld even today. People go carol singing from one house to another to collect money for charity. This singing starts from St Thomas day i.e. 21st December and lasts till Christmas day.
Mumming is one of the most popular English traditions which originated during the Middle Ages. It is when artists called mummers wear masks and enact Christmas plays in towns or villages. The plays depict the struggle between good and evil and are, in a way, based on St. George and the dragon.
Family and friends place gifts for other family members under the Christmas tree. The gifts are opened in the afternoon, or after the dinner feast. Christmas stockings are a very traditional part of English customs and coming in plenty of designs and colors, they are a gift on their own. Children usually hang these stockings in and around the house for Santa to fill them up with goodies.
Food and festivals go hand in hand. Christmas dinner is usually eaten midday and only a type of porridge, made from a corn called Frumenty, can be eaten before that. There are different kinds of dishes which are devoured for dinner. Roasted turkey, sprouts, toffee puddings, plum puddings, mince pies, orange marmalade cake, chocolate Yule log and sauces, like cranberry sauce or Cumberland sauce, are a few dishes that decorate the English dinner table. Wassail, an ale-based drink, seasoned with spices and honey has been associated with Christmas since the 1400s. It is passed around in a bowl and symbolizes the passing-on of good wishes.
The day after Christmas, i.e. 26th December, is called Boxing Day. On this day, boys go around collecting money and open the box once it is full. The contents from this box are then given to the poor.
This is how the English celebrate Christmas. Century old traditions and customs are still an integral part of the culture. This is what makes the cold English Christmas so warm and bearable.
Christmas and its traditions are intricately intertwined with England. Read on for more on English Christmas customs. (CHANGED)