The United Kingdom has a rich tradition of celebrating Christmas.
This nation consists of four independent countries which include England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Each nation has its own unique traditions.
However, they do share the same customs as well. Let’s discover the wonders of Christmas and how this magnificent holiday is celebrated within this part of the world.
Old Christmas Traditions from U.K.’s Past
Christmas has been celebrated within the U.K. for hundreds of years.
This holiday was introduced into the area by the old Roman Catholic Priests who were introducing the Christian religion among the pagans.
The first Christmas celebrations were designed to replace the pagan people’s superstitious beliefs.
However, pagan people never completely stopped celebrating their natural religious beliefs. So, pagan customs were now infused into the holiday.
Old English Christmas’s were filled with freshness and awe. As more people came to know the story of the birth of Christ many of them wanted to celebrate this amazing event.
The early Christmas holidays were filled with big feasts, public church attendance and lots of merry-making.
People danced, sang songs and they also spent time with their families. In ancient times they even gave each other gifts.
However, the celebrations were never quite the same as they are today.
Wrapping gifts and setting them under the tree wasn’t a part of the first Christmas celebrations. In those days, people rarely gave each other gifts, or they didn’t give any at all.
Keep in mind that the winters in the U.K. during the Middle Ages were cold and dark. People were often huddled in their shacks and yurts protecting themselves from the cold of winter.
Their Christmas celebrations were not filled with music on the radio or people going to each other homes. They basically sat in their homes protecting themselves from the elements.
Over time the Christmas celebration grew bigger and more people started to enjoy them.
They evolved into huge affairs and eventually turned into the Christmas celebrations that many people in the U.K. enjoy today.
How is Christmas celebrated today within the U.K.?
Christmas remains a joyous occasion in modern times within the U.K. This is a day of great fun and excitement.
People from the four different countries within Great Britain officially start their Christmas celebrations in November.
By the way, the name Kingdom of Great Britain was given to the nations (kingdoms) of England, Wales, and Scotland when they joined into one sovereign state.
When Northern Ireland became a part of the Kingdom of Great Britain its official named was changed to: “The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”. The shortened form of this long name is the U.K.
When all four of these sovereign states came together, they brought their customs and ways of life with them.
So, the U.K. has many different traditions and modes of celebration when it comes to Christmas.
The first thing you should understand is when the holiday season officially starts within the U.K. November is the month when many people within the U.K. start to celebrate Christmas.
Many retail outlets will start to put on Christmas displays and a few people will start to decorate their homes.
Cities all over the U.K. tend to put up Christmas lights in early November.
Most towns, villages, hamlets have their own unique celebrations. However, they too take cues from London which provides general guidance for people who reside in the U.K.
Keep in mind that during the Christmas lighting ceremonies within the U.K. will typically have a famous entertainer or public figure to perform the act.
Oxford Street in London is the primary area where the Christmas lighting ceremonies take place. Once the lights come on within this district, people know that the Christmas season has arrived.
How long does Christmas take place in the U.K.?
The Christmas season starts in November and it lasts all the way until January. Why is the season so long? People really enjoy Christmas and they like the holiday festivities.
That is the main reason why holiday last for a long time. Remembrance Day takes place on the second Sunday in November.
This official U.K. holiday is a part of the Christmas celebrations even though people celebrate it to remember people who lost their lives during WWII.
For some people, Remembrance Day signals them to start the Christmas season.
Don’t forget that Bonfire Night or Guy Hawkes Day is another popular November holiday that is celebrated early in November. It too is indirectly tied into the Christmas season.
The official Christmas holiday starts on December 24 and it lasts until December 26. December 24 is Christmas Eve. December 25 is Christmas Day and December 26 is Boxing Day.
Now the holiday season extends all the way until January 6 for many people. People celebrate the Epiphany which honors the time when the Three Kings visited baby Jesus in his manger.
This celebration is also known as the 12 days of Christmas and it normally lasts from December 26 to January 6.
Once again, the Christmas season is a long period of time in the U.K. and many people will have fun during this long and festive occasion.
U.K. Christmas Activities
When you’re in the U.K. during Christmastime you’re going to notice a lot of great things. First, there will be a lot of public Christmas events.
Churches, schools, malls, and retail outlets will host a wide variety of Christmas shows and spectacles.
People all over the U.K. can easily attend one of these functions.
Television programs featuring popular Christmas characters, specials and events are shown throughout the season. One show is called the “The Snowman” and it is a popular Christmas cartoon in the U.K.
In Scotland, Happy/Merry Christmas is called ‘Blithe Yule’. Welsh, which is a common language in parts of Wales is called ‘Nadolig Llawen’. If you go to southwest England then you will hear ‘Nadelik Lowen’ in Isle of Man, its ‘Nollick Ghennal’.
People love this program during the holiday. People in the U.K. are also caught up in commercialism during the holidays. The U.K. also honors Black Friday.
They borrowed this unofficial holiday shopping day from America. Even though they do not celebrate Thanksgiving, the holiday falls on November 29 or the last Friday in the month of November.
They also celebrate Cyber Monday which typically happens on the first Monday in December. U.K. citizens like toys, electronics, clothes, computers, video games and other fun things for Christmas.
They too will spend a lot of time at the stores or online purchasing items for the Christmas holiday.
Christmas commercialism is about the same within the U.K. as it is in America. Many people in the U.K. like to give and receive lots of gifts.
U.K. residents will go to church more often during the holiday season. There is a lot happening at the cathedrals and other houses of worship. The Royal Family is a very big deal in the U.K.
They normally spend their Christmas at Sandringham House in Norfolk. The Queen and Prince Philip will often travel by public transportation and surprise many people a few times during the holiday.
On Christmas morning Prince Philip will lead the Royal family on a walk to St Mary Magdalene Church.
Once they arrive at their destination, they will partake in a traditional Christmas Day service.
The Queen never walks and is driven to this house of worship.
The Queen will also make a public Christmas message every year and millions will tune in to watch it during the afternoon on Christmas Day.
Kids like to write letters to Santa Claus. The postal service within the U.K. has an address where people can send letters to Father Christmas or Santa Claus.
Of course, the Christmas mailing season is the busiest time of the year. So, people are expected to send out their letters and packages as early as possible.
Former Prince Albert started the tradition of the Christmas tree within the U.K. Many people now put up Christmas trees and they decorate them with great enthusiasm.
Families also hang stocking and pillowcases during the Christmas season.
The pillowcases are a unique touch that many other countries in the west do not perform. Kids and adults typically get stocking stuffers in these festive Christmas decorations.
Meals During the Holiday Season
During Christmastime, people eat certain foods to help celebrate the holiday tradition. Mince pies are traditionally eaten during the holiday season.
These pies contain fruit, spices, and meat and they are influenced by Middle Eastern cuisine.
They are normally left out for Father Christmas when he comes down the chimney to present presents.
People also leave out glasses of brandy for Jolly St. Nick. They know Santa loves a good drink to wash down his mincemeat pastries.
Turkey is the number one food eaten during the Christmas holiday. In the past, roast beef and goose were very popular. People also eat lots of vegetables and they have a fondness for Brussel sprouts.
They also eat bacon, sausage, roast potatoes, and cranberry sauce.
Trifle is a Christmas dessert that consists of wine-soaked sponge cake and fruit filling.
This is an extremely popular Christmas dessert and many homes will serve their own version.
Pigs in a blanket, prawn prepared shrimp and the famous Yule Log chocolate desert are other great Christmas foods. People normally eat the big Christmas meal from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Christmas in Regions Around the U.K.
Scotland has Christmas celebrations that are a part of the U.K. However, they are also influenced by German markets and traditions.
So, some of their holiday celebrations will be slightly different from those found in other parts of the U.K.
The Welsh people also celebrate Christmas a lot like the rest of the country. However, they have special events such as the Santa Run and their own unique hook to Christmas.
Northern Ireland focuses on the Advent as a part of their Christmas celebrations. This is another version of the Epiphany or 12 days of Christmas.
They also have lots of parties and social events. Drinking in Northern Ireland is very common during this time of the year and so is socializing.
Since London is located in England, you already know how most things take place during this time of the year.
Learn More With the Help of Video
Main Points About Christmas in the United Kingdom
- Putting up the Christmas tree is often done together as a family. So is the opening of presents and celebrating Christmas.
- The Britons are very big on elaborate Christmas decorations. Some families even have two Christmas trees. The streets are lit up in beautiful lights, Ivy, wreaths, Holly and Mistletoe are often used for decorations.
- Carols by Candlelight church services are very common as well as Christingles and nativity play.
- Many children often write letters to Santa Claus stating what they want for Christmas. On Christmas eve, families wrap presents and bake cookies.
- Unlike some other countries, Christmas meals are often eaten at lunchtime on Christmas day.
Remember that people in the U.K. typically refer to Santa Claus as Father Christmas. They also have Boxing Day which is another day that people get gifts.
Boxing Day is also a big commercial holiday for many people in the U.K. stores are generally visited by millions of U.K. citizens buying and exchanging gifts.
While the Christmas celebrations are not as popular as they were in the past, people still enjoy this holiday. Christmas remains the number one holiday in the world.
This is why so many countries celebrate this special day. Their devotion to Jesus Christ is seen during this time.
Christmas is also time for family, friends, and people in public to come together in good cheer. This is a great U.K. holiday that is hard to forget or dismiss.
Word Cloud for Christmas in the United Kingdom
The following is a collection of the most used terms in this article on Christmas in the United Kingdom. This should help in recalling related terms as used in this article at a later stage for you.
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Chara Yadav holds MBA in Finance. Her goal is to simplify finance-related topics. She has worked in finance for about 25 years. She has held multiple finance and banking classes for business schools and communities. Read more at her bio page.