Xmas Traditions

Xmas Traditions

Why do we give Xmas Cards?

Christmas cards also have a long tradition within the mythology of Christmas, although not as old as gift giving. Long before Christmas cards were printed commercially (the first was in 1843, in London by John Callcott Horsley) it is thought that the tradition of accompanying gifts with a card had evolved.

Christmas cards are designed to celebrate the festive season, and have always included scenes of festivity, feasting, joy and celebration.

Throughout recent English history Christmas cards have gradually evolved through the Victorian and Edwardian era. Although early Christmas cards were purchased individually, most are now purchased in packs, usually of various designs. In the digital age, many people now tailor-make their own Christmas cards. The Christmas card is in decline, however, as increased communications make it less of a priority.

Send your own Xmas cards online for free here…

What is a Christmas Card List?

Many people choose to send their Christmas cards out to a regular list of people. To do this, most people buy variety packs and personalise each Christmas card with a brief greeting. Some people use Christmas cards to spread their news for the year.

This is where the expression ‘He/She is off my Christmas card list’ comes from. Some shops or businesses also keep a Christmas card list of their favourite customers and use this time of year as a way to keep their brand at the forefront of people’s minds, develop goodwill and generate more business. Direct advertising in Christmas Cards is considered a bit tacky.

What are Christmas letters?

Christmas letters are much less common than Christmas cards and are generally sent by people who cannot fit what they wish to say in a Christmas card.

For instance, some families send Christmas letters with all of the family happenings from the previous year. The letter is generally sent out to close relatives and friends, although in some cases they are sent further afield.

Why are mistletoe and holly associated with Christmas?

Mistletoe has always been a major decoration at Christmas, and has given rise to a ‘kiss under the mistletoe.’ The plant has a long history of pagan use, and this caused the church to ban the use of mistletoe.

In exchange, the church called for the use of holly. Although the red berries are thought of as traditional Christmas colours, few people know why. The sharp leaves of holly were once thought to represent the thorns of the crown of Christ, whilst the red berries were his blood.

Why do people kiss under the mistletoe at Christmas?

People who meet under the mistletoe at Christmas are supposed to kiss. The origins of this romantic slant to mistletoe could stem from the Scandinavian goddess of love (Frigga), who herself is strongly associated with mistletoe.

Mistletoe gives rise to all sorts of rumours and mischief, and is a favourite at office parties and other festive occasions.

What is a Yule log and why do some families have one at Christmas?

The Yule log was a large piece of wood used to start great festive fires in traditional Christmases. The Yule log burned at the heart of Christmas fires, and was as much a part of Christmas as the Christmas tree until the 19th Century.

The word Yule comes from ‘Yollen,’ which is a Middle English word of Anglo-Saxon origin. The word means ‘cry aloud,’ and is thought to come following the discovery that nights are getting shorter following the winter solstice. In the past, families would carve a heavy oak block and place it under the floor of their hearth. During the year, it would gradually become ash.

The burning of the Yule log was practised in England, France, Germany and other areas of Europe until the 19th Century.

What are Christmas lights?

Christmas lights are an old tradition, and started out with small candles on Christmas trees. Traditionally, candles were glued to the tree branch using melted wax or attached by pins.

Nowadays, some houses decorate their entire frontage with Christmas lights, some employing enormous fully lit nativity scenes. Each town also has Christmas lights, and many have ‘switching-on’ ceremonies at which local dignitaries or celebrities turn the lights on.

At the larger of these events, bands may play to huge crowds and great celebrations unfold.

Why do some people hang big socks on their mantelpiece at Christmas?

Saint Nicholas, according to old tradition, left his very first gifts ever in the stockings of three poor girls. The original Father Christmas gave them three gold coins to pay for their wedding dowries.

The stockings had been hung on the hearth to dry above the fire. Nowadays, many families continue this tradition by hanging up stockings either at the end of the bed or above the fire for Father Christmas to fill with presents.

Some families still have small items such as fruit, nuts and sweets in their stockings. Other items traditionally appear in stockings, including tangerines and a lump of coal for naughty children.

Why do people give each other presents on Christmas day?

Giving gifts is an old tradition that may have begun with gifts given by the wise men (Magi) to the baby Jesus. This is also the basis of the nativity scene, the wise men arriving in the manger where Jesus lies with his mother Mary of Nazareth.

After worshipping the baby, the wise men presented their treasure. In the bible, these were gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.

However, gifts are a relatively new part of the traditional Christmas.

Exchanging gifts was not common until the 1800s. Nowadays the gift is an essential part of Christmas, not to mention an essential part of most retail outlet’s year. Christmas has become a massive commercial season, and everyone in the UK seems to delight in giving and receiving gifts on Christmas day.

Why do we have Christmas trees and why do we decorate them at Christmas?

The tradition of cutting down a Christmas tree and bringing it into the house began in 700 AD in Germany. From here it spread to England and America.

Decorating the Christmas tree started in Victorian times or before, and early Christmas decorations included cakes and ribbons. The 1880s were a good decade for Christmas trees – Woolworths sold the first manufactured one and electronically lit trees appeared for the first time.

In 1923, Calvin Coolidge lit the first outdoor tree outside the White House, sparking a long tradition of public occasions and Christmas lights. When it comes to the other Christmas tree decorations, fake snow, tinsel and holly are all a part of the Christmas theme – a cold winter.

Fake snow is part of the Christmas dream of a ‘White Christmas.’ Other decorations include religiously themed miniatures such as angels.

What are Christmas Carols?

Christmas Carols are songs that are traditionally sung at Christmas time. Carol singers are a major part of Christmas, and many families go to carol services to celebrate by singing.

Carol singing groups, often just a few children, sometimes sing carols door to door or street to street in return for Christmas gifts or small amounts of money.

Christmas carols are generally based on Christian lyrics and are usually concerned with the Nativity. ‘Carol’ the word is a derivative of the French word ‘caroller.’ This word means to dance around in a circle. Many of the oldest Christmas carols were lost for all time after being banned in England by Oliver Cromwell.

What are Christmas songs?

Every Christmas, the same set of songs are played. These songs have become as much a part of Christmas in recent times as gifts or trees themselves.

The list below details some of the most common songs you are likely to hear in the UK at Xmas. Some are bible hymns; others are more popular songs.

  • Away In A Manger Deck
  • The Halls God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
  • Jingle Bells Joy To The World Hark
  • The Herald Angels Sing
  • Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
  • I’ll Be Home For Christmas
  • It Came Upon A Midnight Clear
  • Little Drummer Boy
  • O Come All Ye Faithful
  • O Holy Night O
  • Little Town of Bethlehem
  • Rudolf the Red-Nose Reindeer
  • Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
  • Silent Night
  • Silver Bells
  • The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)
  • The First Noel
  • The Twelve Days of Christmas
  • We Wish You A Merry Christmas
  • What Child Is This?
  • White Christmas Winter Wonderland

Why do we celebrate Christmas Eve?

Christmas Eve is a major part of the basic religion behind Christmas. Most festivals start with ceremony the evenings before, and this is perhaps why Christmas Eve is a special event. Many people celebrate Christmas Eve with Midnight Mass.