Christmas is quickly approaching, and people across the world are getting ready to celebrate. To put you in a festive mood, we’ll be sharing our favourite British Christmas traditions. Some of these are specific to the UK, and some are also common in other countries, but they’re all great fun! We encourage our international students to get involved with as many as possible if they’re spending Christmas in the UK with a host family.
You might have already been taking part in this tradition for the past few weeks. Advent calendars are used as a way to count the days of Advent in the count down the days to Christmas. They start on the 1st of December and finish on Christmas Eve. Advent calendars usually have doors or windows that you open each day of the count down to reveal an image, a poem or more popularly nowadays, a small chocolate.
The pantomime, or “panto” is very popular every year across the UK and is one of the best British Christmas traditions. It is a type of comedy stage show for family entertainment in theatres up and down the country. Pantomimes usually include lots of songs, dances, jokes and dressing up. The panto usually runs over the entire Christmas and New Year period. If there’s a show on in a theatre near you, we definitely recommend experiencing the fun for yourself!
This one isn’t specifically British – but it is an important part of Christmas in the UK. Christmas trees date back to Eastern Europe and began to become associated with Christmas as early as the 1500s. Christmas trees are symbolic of Christmas and originally people decorated them with candles, but now usually use lights, tinsel and tree decorations. Lots of families enjoy going to pick out their Christmas tree and decorating it together in the run up to Christmas.
This one is a staple British Christmas tradition. Every year the Queen presents a speech on Christmas Day. Lots of families gather together around the television to watch the broadcast. In 2020, over 8 million people watched the broadcast as the Queen addressed the nation to wish everybody a Merry Christmas.
Christmas crackers are a Christmas favourite in the UK. They’re cardboard tubes that are wrapped in festive paper. Two people pull an end of the cracker and it pops open with a bang. Inside they contain a small toy, a Christmas paper crown and a piece of paper with a joke. They were first created in London in around 1845 and today people pull them around the table at Christmas dinner.
Boxing Day refers to the day after Christmas Day – the 26th of December. The term Boxing Day comes from the 1800s when the rich gave boxes of gifts to the poor. Boxing Day is now a public holiday in the UK and in some European countries people celebrate the day as a second Christmas Day. It’s the perfect day to eat all the leftovers from Christmas!
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