Fun Facts About Christmas in England

Here are some fun facts about Christmas in England that you can share with your guests to impress them. From quirky customs to festive folklore, there is something here for everyone to enjoy.

One of my own little traditions that my sons and I have done every year since they were little is we put two little robin redbreasts on top of the tree instead of an angel or a star.

I had them in my pocket and was going to just put them randomly on the tree, but when my sons who were about 3 at the time saw them, I pretended they were real and that they came alive at night whilst we were sleeping to look after our tree.

So, as you can imagine how excited they were, and they each put one on the top every year. My eldest is 18 and still puts one of them on. I just love our own little Christmas tradition.

Anyway, do you have any traditions you and your loved ones do? Let us know in the comments below or go to the forum and share, we would love to hear about them.

Fun Facts About Christmas in England

Quirky Customs and Traditions:

  • Boxing Day: The day after Christmas (December 26th) is known as Boxing Day in England. Originally a day for giving “boxes” of unwanted clothes or gifts to servants, it’s now a bank holiday for shopping, sports, and enjoying leftover Christmas food.
  • Pantomime: Attending a pantomime, a bawdy and slapstick theatrical performance often based on fairy tales, is a popular Christmas tradition for families. Expect jokes, cross-dressing, audience participation, and lots of singing!
  • Christmas Crackers: Pulling Christmas crackers, small packages containing jokes, paper crowns, and small gifts, is a fun tradition often enjoyed at Christmas dinner. The person with the loudest bang gets to choose the crown and a joke to read! In my house, the person who wins the hat inside their half of the cracker wins and wears it.
  • Mince Pies: These sweet pastries filled with a mixture of dried fruit, nuts, and spices are a staple Christmas treat in England. Traditionally, one mince pie is left out for Father Christmas on Christmas Eve. I love mince pies, but my sons don’t.
  • Christmas Pudding: This rich, heavy fruitcake soaked in alcohol is another traditional Christmas dessert. A silver sixpence was often hidden inside the pudding, bringing good luck to the finder.
  • Wassailing: In some parts of England, wassailing involves singing and chanting to apple trees on Christmas Eve to encourage a good harvest the following year. Traditionally, cider is poured onto the tree roots and offered to participants.
  • Letter To Santa: Writing a letter to Father Christmas and expressing their wishes is cherished in the UK and is part of the festive build-up. Waiting for a reply is just as fun as sending one.
  • Mummers’ Plays: These short folk dramas with masked performers were historically performed on Boxing Day but are now seen less frequently. They often involve themes of good versus evil and feature characters like St. George and Father Christmas.
  • Hunt the Wren: This unusual Isles of Scilly tradition involves catching a wren (a small bird), decorating it with ribbons, and carrying it from house to house, collecting money for “good luck.” (Thankfully, not practiced widely anymore!)
  • Snapdragon: This Christmas party game involves raisins soaked in rum being set alight in a bowl. Players then try to snatch the raisins from the flames using only their fingers.
  • Yuletide Riddle Rings: These rings have engraved riddles or rhymes on the band. Party guests take turns passing the ring while the riddle is recited. Whoever holds the ring when the riddle is solved must provide a forfeit, like singing a song or performing a silly task.

Food and Drink Delights:

  • Roast Dinner: The centrepiece of the Christmas feast is usually a roast turkey or goose, accompanied by potatoes, vegetables, stuffing, and gravy. Pigs in blankets (small sausages wrapped in bacon) are a popular side dish.
  • Christmas Pudding with Brandy Butter: The Christmas pudding is ceremoniously flamed with brandy butter before being served, creating a dramatic spectacle.
  • Mulled Wine: This warm spiced wine, often containing red wine, oranges, spices, and sometimes brandy, is a festive drink enjoyed at Christmas markets and gatherings.
  • Christmas Plum Pudding: This alternative to the Christmas pudding is lighter and fruitier, often containing plums, currants, and sultanas.
  • Gingerbread Houses: Decorating gingerbread houses is a popular activity for families in the lead-up to Christmas. These edible houses are often adorned with icing, sweets, and candy canes.
  • Minced Pies Variations: While the mulled winereigns supreme, some regions have their own twist on the filling. Yorkshire uses minced beef, while Devon adds apples and cider.
  • Hot Toddy: This warm, spiced cider or whiskey drink is a popular way to ward off the winter chill during Christmas celebrations.
  • Christmas Markets: Strolling through festive Christmas markets, sipping mulled wine, and browsing artisan crafts and local produce is a delightful Christmas experience in many English towns and cities.

Food and Drink

Festive Folklore and Fun:

  • Carol Singing: The tradition of carol singing, groups of people going door-to-door or performing in public spaces, can be traced back to medieval times. Popular carols include “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and “The Holly and the Ivy.”
  • Father Christmas: The English version of Santa Claus, known as Father Christmas, is often depicted wearing a red robe and hat trimmed with white fur. He traditionally arrives on a sleigh pulled by reindeer, entering homes through the chimney to deliver presents.
  • Yule Log: Burning a large log in the fireplace throughout the Christmas period was a pagan tradition adopted by some Christians. The embers from the Yule log were said to bring good luck in the new year.
  • Robin Redbreast: This small bird is a symbol of Christmas in England, often associated with goodwill and good luck. Legend has it that robins covered the baby Jesus with leaves to keep him warm.
  • Holly and Ivy: These evergreen plants are traditionally used to decorate homes at Christmas, symbolizing life and enduring friendship. Holly’s prickly leaves were also believed to ward off evil spirits.
  • Ghost Stories: Gathering around the fire and sharing spooky ghost stories on Christmas Eve is a long-standing tradition in some parts of England.
  • Christmas Crackers Jokes: While the jokes inside Christmas crackers can be groan-worthy, they contribute to the light-hearted fun of the Christmas season.
  • Boxing Day Hunts: Traditionally, some areas held fox hunts on Boxing Day. While this controversial practice is declining, some hunt events with hounds chasing artificial scents still occur.

Unique Facts:

  • White Christmas: A “White Christmas” in England is technically defined as snow falling anywhere in the UK on December 25th. However, this only happens about every 5 years!
  • Queen’s Speech: On Christmas Day, many families in England gather to watch the Queen’s annual televised speech, where she reflects on the past year and delivers a message of hope and goodwill. Since the passing of Her Majesty, we haven’t had a Christmas to see if the King will continue this tradition on. As of 19th December 2023. Let’s hope so.
  • Boxing Day Sales: The day after Christmas marks the start of the post-Christmas sales, with many shops offering deep discounts on everything from clothes and toys to electronics and furniture.

Modern Twists and Trivia:

  • Christmas Jumpers: These festive knitted sweaters featuring reindeer, snowmen, and Christmas puns are a popular fashion choice for many Brits during the Christmas season.
  • Advent Calendars: Counting down the days to Christmas with an Advent calendar filled with chocolates or small gifts is a popular tradition for children and adults alike.
  • The Snowman: This animated Christmas film based on Raymond Briggs’ children’s book is a beloved holiday classic in England, often shown on television on Christmas Eve.
  • Most Expensive Christmas Pudding: In 2009, a luxury Christmas pudding studded with diamonds and edible gold fetched a staggering £1 million at auction!
  • Most Popular Christmas Carols: “The First Noel,” “Away in a Manger,” and “Jingle Bells” are consistently among the most sung Christmas carols in England.

Early Origins:

  • Pagan Roots (8th-10th centuries): Long before Christianity, winter solstice celebrations like Yule involved feasting, log burning, and gift-giving to appease spirits and encourage a good harvest.
  • Christmas Carols (13th-15th centuries): Early carols were mainly religious songs used for teaching and praising God. They were sung in Latin throughout the year, not just at Christmas.

Medieval Transformations:

  • Christmas Feasting (14th-16th centuries): The festive feast, featuring roasted boar’s head and plum pudding, became a central tradition for wealthy families.
  • Church Plays (14th-15th centuries): Morality plays, and biblical dramas performed in churches evolved into pantomimes, now a beloved family Christmas tradition with slapstick humor and audience interaction.

Medieval Transformations:

The Victorian Boom:

  • A Christmas Carol” and Commercialization (19th century): Charles Dickens’s influential novel helped revive and romanticize Christmas traditions, leading to a surge in festive decorations, greeting cards, and gift-giving.
  • Queen Victoria’s Influence: Prince Albert, of German descent, introduced the Christmas tree tradition to England, further popularizing the holiday.

Modern Twists:

  • Two World Wars and Beyond: The Christmas Truce of 1914, where soldiers temporarily laid down arms and celebrated together, showed the power of the holiday even amidst war. Today, Christmas remains a time for reflection, family gatherings, and spreading goodwill.
  • Boxing Day Sales and New Year’s Festivities: Shopping bonanzas on Boxing Day (the day after Christmas) and Scottish Hogmanay celebrations on New Year’s Eve add to the winter holiday buzz.

There are enough fun facts about Christmas in England to really WOW your family and friends, but if you know anymore and want them added here too then please get in touch.

Also, if you want to write for us and have your post shared on the blog then check out the write for us section on the menu bar above.

Looking for more fun Christmas party ideas, check out our 101 Christmas quiz questions and answers as well as our 101 Christmas jokes to really impress your guests.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *