In Britain, Christmas is full of traditions and customs that help create a special atmosphere during the festive season. Perhaps the most well known Christmas symbol is the tree. Decorated trees were introduced into Britain in the 1830s by Queen Victoria’s German husband, Prince Albert. The sending of Christmas cards also became popular in this period. Nowadays, Christmas trees and decorations often reach design status in many homes and shops, and people still send and receive hundreds of cards every year. Charles Dickens also made a great contribution to Christmas with his sentimental nostalgic vision. Some people say that it was Dickens who introduced the greeting ‘Merry Christmas’ for the first time.
Other traditions are much older, however. Father Christmas himself can be traced back to the 5th or 6th century when he made an appearance as the Saxon ‘King Winter’.
Food was also important for our distant ancestors; in medieval times swans, peacocks and boars’ heads were on the Christmas menu. It was King Henry VIII who ate traditional turkey for the first time in the second half of the 15th century. Now, they appear on the tables of most families at Christmas lunch. After lunch people eat another medieval dish; the traditional Christmas pudding. It is made with dried fruit, spices and brandy and served with cream.
Around 1860 Christmas crackers found their way onto the table too. When you pull these coloured tubes a small gift and a paper hat fall out. You have to wear your hat during lunch… at least for the photos.