Christmas and the New Year
Every year the people of Norway give the city of London a present. It's a big Christmas tree and it
stands in Trafalgar Square.
Cards, trees and mistletoe
In 1846 the first Christmas cards were sent in Britain. That was five years after the first Christmas
tree. Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert (who was German), brought this German tradition
to Britain. He and the Queen had a Christmas tree at Windsor Castle in 1841.
Traditionally people decorate their trees on Christmas Eve - that's December 24th. They take down the decorations
twelve days later, on Twelfth Night (January 5th).
An older tradition is Christmas mistletoe. People put a piece of this green plant with its white berries over a door.
Mistletoe brings good luck, people say. Also, at Christmas British people kiss their friends and family under the mistletoe.
Before Christmas, groups of singers go from house to house. They collect money and sind traditional Christmas songs or carols.
There are a lot of very popular British Christmas carols (eg. 'Good King Wenceslas' or 'The Holly and the Ivy').
British children don't open their presents on December 24th. Father Christmas brings their presents
in the night. Then they open them on the morning of the 25th.
There's another name for Father Christmas in Britain - Santa Claus (Saint Nichlas). In the traditional
story he lives at the North Pole. On Christmas Eve he visits every house, climbs dowm the chimney and leaves lots of
In Britain the most important meal on December 25th is Christmas dinner. The typical Christmas dinner is roast turkey
with carrots, potatoes, peas, Brussels sprouts and gravy. There are sausages and bacon, too. Then, after the turkey, there's
Crackers are also usual at Christmas dinner. These came to Britain from China in the 19th century. Two people
pulls a cracker. Usually there's a small toy in the middle. Often there's a joke on a piece of paper, too.
December 26th is Boxing day. Traditionally boys from the shops in each town asked for money at Christmas.
They went from house to house on December 26th and took boxes made of wood with them. At each
house people gave them money. This was a Christmas present. So the name of December 26th doesn't come from the sport of boxing -
it comes from the boys' wooden boxes. Now, Boxing Day is an extra holiday after Christmas Day.
In Scotland the name for New Year's Eve is Hogmanay. After midnight people visit their friends.
And they take a present - a piece of coal. Why? Because the first visitor of the year must carry
coal into the house. It brings good luck. It also helps to make a fire in the middle of winter.
As in Germany people in Britain make resolutions (gute Vorsätze). But here as well as there people have bad memories...
Source: Customs and Traditions in Britain, Longman