Christmas day in England

Christmas day in England

Silent Night

Silent night, Holy night!
All is calm, all is bright,

Round your virgin Mother and Child,

Holy infant so tender and mild;
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night, Holy night!

Shepherds quake at the sight,

Glories stream from heaven afar,

Heavenly hosts sing Alleliua;

Christ the Saviour is born!

Christ the Saviour is born!

Silent night, Holy night!

Son of God, love is pure light.

Radiant beams from Thy holy face,

With the dawn of redeeming grace;

Jesus, Lord, at Your birth!

Jesus, Lord, at Your birth!

White Christmas

I’m dreaming off a white Christmas

Just like the ones I used to know,

Where the tree-tops glisten

And children listen

To hear sleight-bells in the snow.

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas

With every Christmas card I write.

May your days be merry and bright!

And may all your Christmases be white!

From the past

Christmas as the feast of the Nativity was celebrated in Rome as early as most Eastern churches adopted AD 336.The celebration of Christ’s birth on December 25 was adopted by most Eastern churches. The reason why Christmas waas celebrated on December 25 remains unknown. Early Christians wished the date to coincide with the pagan Roman festival marking the birthday of the unconquered sun. In the Roman world the Saturnalia, December 17, was a time of entertainment and exchanging of gi

ifts. It was a winter feast. Two weeks later, on the Roman New Ear- January 1, houses were decorated with greenery and lights, and gifts were given to children and the poor.

In the middle of the 4th century the Eastern and Western churches established the modern Christian 12- day celebration from Christmas to Epiphany. It is believed that the Tree Wise Men, or Magi, visited the baby Jesus on that day bringing him gifts: some gold, frankincense, and myrrh, a plant oil with a very sweet smell.

The word Christmas came to the English language around 1050 as the Old Christes maesse meaning festival of Christ. Scholars believe that the shortened form of Christmas- Xmas- began to be used in the 13th century. It allso represents the cross on which Jesus was crucified. In 1643 the celebration of Christmas was outlawed by the British Parliament. The holiday was reestablished in 1660.
Red and green are the traditional colours of Christmas season.

Christmas is no longer only a religious festival. It is the most popular and colourful holiday period for everyone. It includes many traditions and customs- the decorations with evergreen trees, lights, wreaths, and holly or mistletoe; the church services; the exchange of gifts; sending of cards; go
ood food and drink; singing Christmas carols or watching Christmas plays.

The Christmas season starts with Advent on November 30, St. Andrew’s Day.
It ends on Epiphany, January 6. During Advent Christians make preparations for the commemoration of Jesus birth on December 25. The Advent wreath consists of four candles which are put inside the evergreen branches. At the beginning of each of the pour weeks Christians light Advent candle as they say a prayer.

Christmas prayer by Robert Louis Stevenson

Loving Father,
Help us to remember the birth of Jesus,
That we share in the songs of the angels,
The gladness of the shepherds,
And worship of the wise men.
May the Christmas morning make us happy to be your children and
Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts,
Forgiving and forgiven for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Christmas Cards

The exchange of Christmas cards became a widespread custom in the 19th century.Europeans used wood prints of religious themes for Christmas cards during the Middle Ages. The average person in England sends about 50 Christmas cards year.

Sir Henry Cole was a well- known museum director in London. Every year he sent short notes to his friends at Christmas wishing them a happy holiday season. But in 1843 he had friends at Christmas wishing them a happy ho

oliday season.
But in 1843 he had no time for letter writing. So he asked an artist John Calcott Horsley to design a card for Christmas. The card looked like a postcard and consisted of three panels where the central one depicted the English family enjoying the holiday. The other two showed acts of charity so important to the Victorian Christmas spirit. The message below the created Christmas card said;

A merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You.

Sir Henry Cole decided to sell his cards in a shop. At least one thousand copies were placed on sale. But around the same time two other Englishmen; W.A.Dobson and E.Bradley designed the cards, which were hand- created instead of printing.

Louis Prang, a German lithographer who settled in Boston, popularized the Christmas card in America. He created a colourful Christmas card in 1875.

A typical Christmas card has a sentimental picture of a snowy country scene or a warm fireside in an old- fashioned drawing room. Landscapes are the most popular design on Christmas cards followed by holiday symbols: angels, bells wreaths, candles, neativity scenes and, finally, Santa Claus. Many pictures show animals. But a very interesting drawing is of a robin.The little bird’s red br
reast symbolizes warmth at a time when the weather is cold, and people are thinking warmly of their family and friends. In the middle of the last century the post office dressed its postmen in bright red coasts of a colour to match the red of their pillar- boxes in England. Because of this striking uniform, the postmen themselves came to be known as redbreasts. Almost all the early cards showed a cheerful robin redbreasts.often bringing the welcome Christmas mail in its beak or sometimes knocking on the door just like the postman himself.

Everyone can use the following greetings on the Christmas cards:

Merry Christmas and Peace on Earth!
Sending you warm wishes for a blessed Holiday season!
To wish You in a special way. A very happy Christmas Day!
Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year!
Wishing you God’s special blessings at Christmas and always!
With everything you do, you make my world a little more beautiful!

Christmas tree

The use of evergreen trees, wreaths, and garlands, as a symbol of eternal life was an ancient custom n Egypt, China, and Jerusalem. The custom f bringing an evergreen tree indoors and decorating it at Christmas began in Germany. As the legend says once Martin Luther King, an important Christian leader, was walking home one Christmas Eve admiring the starry sky. The stars looked as if they were shining on the branches. When he came home, he took a small fir- tree, put it on the floor and decorated it lighted candles. It was the year of about 1513.

The Christmas tree was introduced into England in the early 19th century. It was popularized by the German Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria, in 1841 who brought the first Christmas tree to Windsor Castle for Royal family. During the Victoria era the Christmas tree was decorated with fruit, nuts, candly, and roses. The British considered candles as a symbol of the Star of Wonder. Also they added candles and fancy cakes witch hung from the branches by ribbon or by paper chains. The first manufactured Christmas tree decorations were sold in England in 1880.

The people of Norway give a giant Christmas tree Londoners every year. This is to thank them or their help in the Second World War. The wonderful tree stands in Trafalgar Square, London.

The use of evergreens for wreaths and other decorations is a British winter tradition. Holly, with its prickly leaves and red berries, came into holiday use because it reminded people of the crown of thorns worn by Jesus on the way to his execution. The red berries symbolize the droplets of blood. Also they used ivy and mistletoe. These decorations are the heritage of Saxon and Celtic customs. When ivy and holly were used to decorate the house, they brought a happy family life for the year to come. It was important not to bring them into the house before Christmas Eve otherwise bad luck would follow.

The British have had mistletoe from the days of Druids. England was the first country to use mistletoe during Christmastime. An ancient name for mistletoe is the wood of the holy cross. Mistletoe was never taken into a church. This was because of a legend that tells how mistletoe wood was used to make a cross on which Christ died. They believed that the plant could perform miracles, heal diseases, and protect people from witchcraft as it has magic powers.

he Druids cut the mistletoe off oak trees with a golden sickle in a special ceremony. They believed that mistletoe would become contaminated if it touched the ground. So, they used a special white cloth to catch it held by four virgins. Then they sacrificed two white oxen while prayers were said. The priest gave the mistletoe sprigs to the people who believe they would then be kept safe from evil spirits, fire, lightning, and storms. If a baby was born, a twig of the mistletoe was placed in the cradle to keep the child from harm.

Christmas Eve

On Christmas Eve churches everything. A custom that originated in southern Europe is the manager scene. This is a small model of the stable where Jesus was born. It contains figures of Mary, Joseph, the infant, shepherds, farm animals, and Magi with their gifts. The custom is said to have set up in a stable in a corner of a church in his native village with real persons and animals to represent those of the first Christmas.

The Catholic midnight Mass was first introduced by the Roman Catholic Church in the 5th century. Christmas masses are solemn. Church feature candlelight and organ music.

Our Father which art Heaven hallowed be Thy Name, Thy Kingdom come. You will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: for Thy is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory, for ever. Amen.

The English burn yule- logs during the midwinter season. The word yule came from the Middle English meaning yollen-cry aloud. It is an Anglo- Saxon entertainment when nights were becoming shorter. The yule – log, a big log of wood, symbolizes the victory of light over the darkness of winter. The specially selected log is covered with ribbons and dragged home with pride. Families light the log on Christmas Eve and keep it burning until Epiphany. Soma families save the remains of the yule- log for it was though to bring good luck and the protect the house from lightning and fire.

Christmas Carols

Christmas has its own music and songs since it had started. The custom of carols at Christmas is also of English origin. The word carol means song of joy. Carolling is one of the oldest customs in England. The traditional period to sing carols was from St. Thomas’ Day, December 21, until the morning of Christmas Day. Christmas carols were known in England by the year 1100. But Oliver Cromwell, an English polician in England, outlawed Christmas carols between 1649 and 1660.

Later carols became known as Christmas Hymns often sang by carol singers. They went from house to house singing ancient carols and spreading the holiday spirit. People danced arm- in- arm singing simple and happy songs.

The Anglo- Saxon tradition speaks about small choir gatherings in the village singing Christmas songs for the pleasure of the people. They collected money for charitable purposes and gave it to the poor later.

Best known of modern carols is Silent Night which was written by an Austrian priest Joseph Mohr in 1818. The most popular among non- religious tunes is White Christmas by the American Irving Berlin written in 1942.

Santa Claus

The legend of a jolly old Santa Claus, or St. Nicholas, began with a real person. He is one of the most popular saints honoured by Christians. Very little is known about him. He lived during the 4th century in Asia Minor. By tradition, he was born in Atara, a seaport, and traveled to Egypt and Palestine as a young man. Later he became a bishop of the church at Myra. By the 6th century his burial place was well known there. In 1087 St. Nicholas’ remains were moved to Italy. The devotion to him spread in the Christian world. His feast day was set on December 6.

The transformation of St. Nicholas into Santa Claus, or Father Christmas, began in Germany in the early 18th century. Quickly he was associated with the Christmas season and gift giving. In 1823 the American Clement Moore had written a poem to amuse his daughter, portraying Santa Claus as a kindly saint who flew over house- tops in sleigh drawn by eight small reindeer.

Portraits and drawings of Santa Claus by the American illustrator Thomas Nast strengthened the legend during second half of the 19th century. Living at the North Pole and assisted by elves, the modern Santa Claus delivered toys to all good children. The red and white suit worn by Father Christmas came from the original St. Nicolas. Those were the colours of the traditional bishops robes.

In England Father Christmas became known since 1870. He visits every house on Christmas Eve. The cheerful Santa Claus climbs down the chimney and leaves lots of presents for everybody. Some people leave something for him, too. A glass of wine and some biscuits, for example.

Christmas Stockings

The giving of presents on Christmas Day began long before the Christmas era. It is said to have started with the Romans to bring fortune for the new year. Roman children found dolls in their stockings which were known in prehistoric times. In those days they were connected with religious worship and with the coming of Christianity. Dolls were given to remind children of the infant Jesus.

Before Christmas Day children write wish lists to Father Christmas in England. Then they throw these letters into the fire. Children believe that if a draught draws the letter up through the chimney, their wishes will be fulfilled. Father Christmas picks all the toys on his sleigh and across the sky with his twelve reindeer. English children hang up Christmas stockings at the foot of their beds since 1870.

There is charming short legend how stockings came into use. It is said that Father Christmas once heard a poor man speaking about his three poor daughters who needed the money for their wedding. That night Santa Claus made his way to their home. He threw three pieces of gold down the chimney of their poor cottage. The three girls, as usual, hang their stockings up to dry over the fire. So instead of landing on the hearth, the pieces of gold fell into the stockings. That’s why children believe that Father Christmas comes down the chimney He gives toys, sweets, and other pleasant things to good children. But if the child is naughty, he finds a lump of coal or a switch rather than sweets and toys in his stocking.

Besides, you can find a little gift in the toe of Christmas stocking. It is an orange. Nobody knows how this fruit became connected with Christmas. No one in England had ever seen an orange until the year 1595.

You can across one or two crackers in Christmas stocking, too. They were invented by a young English baker called Tom Smith. While on holiday in France, he noticed that sweets were wrapped in a coloured paper and twisted at each end. The custom of pulling crackers came to England in 1860. Nowadays crackers are filled with mottoes, romantic messages, and small toys inside instead of sweets.

Christmas Flowers

A beautiful, red star- shape poinsetta is a favourite Christmas flower. It is also called the flower of the Holy night. A native of Mexico, it was brought to Europe by Dr. Joel Poinsett, the first USA ambassador to Mexico over a hundred years ago.

It is also the custom to break off a branch of a cherry tree at the beginning of the Advent and keep it in water in a warm room. The blossoms should burst into bloom at Christmastime.

Christmas Day

British children look at stockings full of presents on the morning December 25. Usually the whole family has a big Christmas dinner in the afternoon or evening. The main course is stuffed roast turkey.

Before the 16th century the Christmas dinner included a boar’s head followed by a roast peacock. For many years a roasted boar’s head has been associated with the holiday. The origin of the customs derived from a story when a student at Oxford Queen’s College was attacked by a wild boar on Christmas Day. All he had in his hand to use as a weapon was a book of Aristotle. So, he threw the book into the boar’s throat. Later wishing to get his book back, the student cut off the animal’s head and brought it back to the college. It was served for Christmas dinner with a great ceremony.

Goose was the traditional meat at Christmas until King Henry changed it into a turkey, from Mexico.

Christmas dessert is plum pudding. Earlier it was made as a kind of soup with raisins and wine in it. Soma people make it months before Christmas. Believe it or not it tastes better this way. The great British plum plum pudding doesn’t contain plums. It consists of currants, raisins, eggs, spices, and suet. A lot of families have their own recipes. They pour brandy over the pudding and then light it with a match. Others put in a lot of fruit or add a silver coin for good luck. The eater finds a sixpence, the unlucky one swallows it. It is also traditional for everyone in the family to hold the wooden spoon while stirring the batter for the pudding and make a wish. Real Christmas puddings always are decorated with a piece of holly and red berries on top.

Christmas crackers often accompany food on Christmas dinner. When pulled by two people it cracks, and the contents fall out.

Other delicacies that the British enjoy at Christmas for almost 900 years is the mince- pie. Christmas pies used to be oblong or square in shape. These were forbidden by Oliver Cromwell. Mince- pies became a regular part of Christmas celebration in the 16th century. Later they were restored by King Charles the second in 1660. This is a sort of small cake which holds a delicious mixture of spices and fruit. The Crusaders introduced it when they brought back new aromatic spices- cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves- from the Holy Land.

The word wassail is derived from the Anglo- Saxon word meaning good health Originally wassail was beverage served for the purpose to strengthen the holiday.

After lunch the families were about playing Christmas games. But the games were forbidden in 1652. In fact it was the only time the working people were allowed to play the games. King Henry the eighth issued a proclamation forbidding them at any time.

After a full day celebrating Christmas many families listen to the annual radio and television message from the monarch. This custom was begun by King George the fifth.

Boxing Day

December 26, the feast of St. Stephen’s, is now known as Boxing Day. In the Middle Ages the priests opened alms to give to the poor. Later the servants and workers were given “boxes” on that day. This was a Christmas present. So, the expression dates from the time when the money was put into an actual box. This is the day when one visits friends, goes for long walks or enjoys the pantomime.

After Christmas children and adults start making plans for the New Year. They usually make firm resolutions rid of bad habits, of becoming a better self. Good intentions is one thing and fulfilling them is another. But anyway, good intentions are important, at least they show that all people are willing to change for the better.

The hunting of the wren was a Celtic custom in the western part of the British Isles. The hunt took place on St. Stephen’s Day. The men and boys of the village killed a wren, hang it on the pole and carried in a procession. Everyone who gave money was presented with a feather for good luck.

Christmas Pantomime

In the British theatre pantomime is a traditional Christmas entertainment which starts on St. Stephen’s Day. The pantomime originated in the 16th century. In the every pantomime there are always three main characters. The principal boy is always played by a girl. The principal girl is the heroine who always marries the principal boy in the end. The dame is a comic figure, usually the mother of the principal boy or girl, and is always played evil, and everyone lives happily ever after. Many of the plots are based on folk tales. This is a very old tradition, and the audience expects it to be like that.

John Rich (1692-1761), an English actor, is considered to be father of English pantomime. He opened theatre in Lincoln’s Inn Fields. In 1716 John Rich first appeared as Harlequin in an unnamed entertainment which developed into an annual pantomime.

Pantomimes are changing all the time. There are pantomimes with a famous pop singer or pantomimes with a beloved by everybody comedian.

Christmas Superstitions

People put a piece of mistletoe with its white berries over a door as the plant brings good luck. The man takes one berry from a twig when kissing a woman. When all the berries are gone, there is no more kissing under that plant. It is believed that an unmarried woman not kissed under the mistletoe will remain single for another year.

The custom of breaking a wishbone is associated with fortune telling. People examined the bones of sacrificed birds which they though were messengers from their gods, looking for signs of fortune events. They broke the wishbone, and the person with the largest piece could make a wish which brought him a lucky fortune.

Mince- pies are round- shaped, but earlier they were oblong with a sunken crust on top to represent the manager in the stable at Bethlehem. A figure of a baby was placed on the crust, made from dough, to symbolize baby Jesus. The spicy mince inside the pies represent the gifts of Magi.

One can follow such Christmas supervisions:

To have good health during the coming year, eat an apple on Christmas Eve.

Eat plum pudding on Christmas and avoid losing a friend before next Christmas.

The child born on Christmas Day willhave a special fortune.

If you eat a raw egg before eating anything else on Christmas morning, you will be able to put on heavy weights.

Wearing new shoes on Christmas Day will bring bad luck.

If you refuse a mince- pie at Christmas dinner, you will have bad luck for the coming year.

Place shoes side by side Christmas Eve to prevent a quarelling family.

A blowing wind on Christmas Day brings good luck.

You will have as many happy months in the coming year as the number of houses you eat mince- pies in during Christmastime.

Shout Christmas Gift to the first person knocking on your door on Christmas Day and expect to recieve gift from the visitor.

The First Footing

The custom of the first footing has begun many years ago in England. If a dark-haired man is the first person to cross the threshold of a house after midnight on New Year’s Eve, much good luck will enter with him. Besides, the first footer brings a little piece of coal, some money and a little piece of bread. He wishes to all the members of the family a Happy New Year. Clocks should be wound up immediately the New Year begins in order to bring good fortune to the house. To dance in the open air round a tree New Year’s Day is considered to bring luck in love, prosperity, and freedom from bad health during the coming twelve months.

Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night, the 5th January, is the eve of Twelfth Day or the feast of Epiphany which means manifestation. In older times it was the popular festival next to Christmas. Most scholars agree that Epiphany was held for people as a time of great merrymaking. Through the centuries the custom of celebrating Twelfth Night has almost died out. Now it is remembered when all Christmas decorations must be removed.

Christmas Greetings

Accept my hearty good wishes Your Friendship is a joy,
For a season of calm and cheer. I wish it never ends.
May Christmas joy reign in your heart
And gladden the coming year. It’s Christmas time again,
May you have walls for the wind, The season of renewal
A roof for the rain, Love, faith, charity,
Drinks beside the fire, And all that is beautiful
Laughter to cheer you. Chimes greatly in every heart,
Those you love near you Beating in celebrations,
All that your heart may desire. Calling the heart back home.

The star that rose that Holy Night May the peace and enjoyment
In far off Eastern Skies, You find in each day
Is shinning now, its radiance bright Make this year a good one
In all believers’ eyes. In just every way.

May your troubles be less May you have the gladness of
And your blessings be more. Christmas, which is hope,
And nothing, but happiness The spirit of Christmas which is peace,
Come through your door The heart of Christmas, which is love.

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