This is the season for mince pies and bright lights, where the mistletoe can be found hanging by the winter snow and the lyrical sounds of carols can be heard. But where did Christmas markets first begin, and why do we watch pantomimes every year around the festive period?
A pantomime, also known as ‘Panto’, is a traditional Christmas play filled with humour and slapstick entertainment which first arrived in Britain in the 18th century. They’re often based on childhood favourites such as Sleeping beauty, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk and other classical fairytales. They have changed over the years, with music and comedy taking centre stage and often featuring men dressed in drag.
Christmas markets may have originated as early as the 1200s in Austria, when Albrecht I granted people permission to hold a Krippenmarkt. Today, London’s Hyde Park Christmas market within Winter Wonderland, holds plenty of activities including rides and attractions for people of all ages. The markets are flowing with unique gifts, jewellery, art, bright lights and cosy foods.
Boxing Day is held across the country on December 26 and it’s said that the name originated in the 1800s when Queen Victoria was on the throne. Boxing day was traditionally a day when people would “box up” their unwanted gifts and give them to the poor.
Traditions have changed over the years, with many hitting annual sales, eating turkey sandwiches and watching football with family and friends.
Wrapped in bright, coloured paper and twisted at both ends, Christmas crackers are usually filled with a colourful paper crown, a joke and a small gift.
This tradition dates back to Victorian times after Tom Smith discovered the “bon bon” on his travels to Paris and decided to bring it back with him to London. A sugary almond wrapped in a twist of tissue paper, the trend took off in London, and the sweet delight sold extremely well that year.
Sales later dipped and in an effort to further develop his idea, Mr Smith decided to place a small love note in the tissue paper. He then added the element of sound to the treat after getting the idea of the sound from a burning log.
Mince pies, filled with mincemeat and finely chopped fruit and liquor, were first introduced in the middle ages and were also known to be much larger than the small pies we are familiar with.
Recipes are now developed for vegetarian lovers and filled with sugar as well as dried fruit to sweeten up the holiday season, as opposed to mutton, beef, rabbit or game which was widely available in the middle ages.
Queen or King’s Speech
The first Christmas broadcast went out to the nation in 1932 by George V. The timing of 3pm was chosen to reach as many countries in the then-Empire as possible. According to the Palace, the broadcast was such a hit, he decided to continue it on into the subsequent years.
In recent history, the late Queen has delivered a special Christmas broadcast to not only mark the festive season but to also reflect on issues and concerns of that year.
King Charles III’s first speech as Monarch last year was the first festive address by a king in seven decades.
Observed on Christmas Eve, the gathering is a celebration of Service of Worship in honour of the Nativity of Jesus. It has been a big part of the Roman Catholic Church and since 2009, the Mass has been celebrated at 10pm by the pope instead of midnight.
Love them or hate them, Brussels sprouts have come to be a big part of the traditional Christmas dinner. In the UK, around 40,000 tonnes of Brussels sprouts are eaten every year.
As sprouts thrive in time for winter, this became a natural harmony in the 1800s.
London’s lights displays
Every year, London’s streets are lit with big, bold, dazzling spectacles that transform the gloom of the winter shadow.
The tradition began in 1954 on Regents Street and has been an annual event ever since.
Christmas carols such as ‘Silent Night’ reached Europe back in the 14th century and are sung to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. They are also a big part of school assemblies.