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6 British Christmas Traditions You Might Not Know About

19 December 2022

Christmas is a wonderful time of year, no matter where you are in the world. While there are many similarities in the way we celebrate the holiday, each country also has its own unique Christmas traditions.

This post will focus on some of the most beloved British Christmas traditions. From carol singing to classic Christmas treats, England has a plethora of festive customs that have been passed down through generations of British families. Whether you are from the realms of the United Kingdom, or simply just enjoy learning about different cultures, you're sure to find something to love about British Christmas traditions.

This post will explore some of the most iconic customs, offering insight into the history of each tradition and how it continues to be celebrated today. So, grab a hot beverage, get cosy, and let us take you on a journey through the festive customs of Britain.

1. Christmas Crackers

If you've ever been invited to a Christmas party, you'll have spotted one of the most well-known British Christmas traditions: Christmas crackers.

A Christmas cracker is made up of two cardboard tubes with a strip of treated paper in the middle to make the popping noise, and a small gift, joke and paper hat inside. To open the cracker, two people pull the ends of the tube apart and the cracker "pops" open. The person on either end of the cracker receives the gift, joke and/or paper hat inside the cracker.

These brightly coloured paper tubes (and the inevitable fight over their contents) are a fun and festive way to get into the spirit of the holiday season.

2. Mince Pies

Mince pies are another classic part of British Christmas celebrations. These small pastry tarts are filled with a mixture of dried fruit, spices, and suet (a type of animal fat).

Mince pies are usually served warm, with a dollop of cream or custard. The mince pie is said to have originated in the Middle Ages, with actual minced meat inside, and has been a Christmas tradition ever since.

Although they're traditionally served during the festive season, you can (in theory) enjoy them all year round. But good luck finding them on the shelves before then!

3. Christmas Pudding

Christmas pudding, also known as plum pudding, is a traditional British dessert. The original version of the pudding, which dates to the 16th century, was made from dried fruits, spices, suet, and brandy.

Today, most recipes are made with a combination of dried fruits, flour, eggs, breadcrumbs, and mixed spices. The mixture is steamed in a plastic mould or bowl, and, like mince pies, it's usually served with custard or brandy cream.

Christmas pudding is traditionally served as part of the desserts on Christmas Day, but you can also enjoy it throughout the Christmas season. Given the amount of alcohol and sugar used in its production, it can last up to a year with proper storage.

4. Pantomime

When it comes to British Christmas traditions, pantomime is an enduring favourite for both kids and adults. "Panto" is form of musical theater which is performed around Christmas time and is often based on fairy tales.

These shows are typically full of audience participation, with members of the audience encouraged to shout out their favorite characters or to join in with the singing and dancing. Pantomime is always presented in a fun and lighthearted way and is a sure-fire way to get the whole family in the festive mood.

Althout it's usually a family-friendly affair, you can definitely find panto performances with jokes and story elements more suited to an adult audience...

5. Boxing Day

Boxing Day is a public holiday that follows Christmas Day, celebrated on December 26th in the UK. It's generally a day of rest and relaxation, often spent with family and friends.

Traditionally, it was a day where servants, tradesmen, and the poor were given gifts, known as Christmas boxes, by their employers or landlords.

Today, we celebrate Boxing Day with shopping sales and sports games, such as football (soccer) and horse racing.

6. The Royal Christmas Message

In a tradition that's been going strong since 1932, millions tune in at 3pm on Christmas Day to hear the reigning monarch's televised message of hope for the year. Every year's speech ends with a different choir performance and the National Anthem.

Following the Queen's death in September, this will be the first year since 1951 that there’ll be a King's Christmas Message.

So, Now You Know

British Christmas traditions are full of exciting and interesting customs that vary from region to region. From the Christmas crackers to the Christmas pudding and mince pies, to the festive carols, these traditions are sure to bring cheer and joy to the holiday season and bring people together. With so many unique holiday customs, there's something for everyone to enjoy and share with their loved ones.

Whether it's watching the Royal Family deliver their special message of hope on Christmas Day or taking a stroll through your local park to admire the sparkling Christmas lights, these are just some of the many incredible ways to celebrate the holiday season in Britain.