Burning letters to Father Christmas, setting off explosives at the dinner table these may seem crazy to you, but they are perfectly normal behaviour at a British Christmas, or as we sometimes call it: Crimbo.
Here are ten Christmas traditions that have never made it to America.
1. Letters to Father Christmas
In America kids write letters to Santa and they drop them in the mailbox. But in England we toss them straight in the fire. We are not trying to make children cry but burning the letters sends them directly to the North Pole where Santa can read your Christmas wishes in the smoke. Yes, it makes seem a little weird, but it does save on postage.
2. Hanging stockings
American children traditionally hang stockings around the fireplace for Santa to fill with presents, but in the UK we hang stockings around the bed. Being surrounded by presents is a great way to wake up on Christmas morning and a great way to let Father Christmas – a total stranger – who has been watching you all year get really close to your sleeping body. Sweet dreams! Also instead of leaving out milk and cookies for Father Christmas we leave him brandy and a mince pie because he is a grown up.
3. Christmas crackers
A cracker may not seem the most festive thing to serve on Christmas dinner but these are not the type of crackers we put cheese on. A Christmas cracker is a brightly decorated cardboard tube filled with fun prizes. When grabbed and pulled apart a tiny explosive inside makes a loud cracking noise. Hence the name. Inside the cracker is usually a cheesy plastic prize, a paper crown and a terrible joke. “Why is a ghost so bad at lying? Because you can see right through them.” I’m so sorry.
4. Christmas hats
Inside the Christmas cracker are colourful Christmas hats that it is absolutely mandatory to wear them. In fact ninety percent of Christmas arguments stem from trying to make your grumpiest relative put that paper crown on. The other ten percent come from playing Monopoly because there are some Christmas traditions that we share. Unfortunately.
5. Christmas dinner
A British Christmas dinner is just as big a feast as an American one. The main dish is usually roast turkey often surrounded by bacon wrapped chipolatas which are mini pork sausages. Bacon wrapped miniature pork sausages, now that’s a tradition that you Americans should get behind. We serve the turkey with roast potatoes and veggies, traditionally Brussels sprouts, which are gross, but it’s tradition, so we eat them anyway. We have gravy to smother everything in, and something called bread sauce, which isn’t a sauce to put on bread, but a sauce that is thickened with bread, which looks a little lumpy but tastes delicious. Then we eat until we can’t move and watch telly until we pass out. Sounds familiar?
6. Christmas pudding
Americans love to have their pumpkin and pecan pies for Christmas dessert, but in the UK we have Christmas pudding. This is a very dense boiled cake flavoured with dried fruit and spices. It’s then soaked in alcohol, aged for several months, boiled again, soaked in alcohol again and then set on fire. Come to a British Christmas, we soak everything in alcohol and then light it on fire.
7. The Royal Christmas message
That’s right. Every Christmas Day, Her Majesty the Queen gives a holiday speech reflecting on the events of the past year. We all sit around pretending to pay attention but secretly carrying on with whatever it was we were doing before. Think of it as the state of the union but with much more gold.
8. Boxing Day
Boxing Day is the day after Christmas Day. Its origins are debatable. Some say that it’s a day when workers would receive a box of gifts from their bosses. Others say that it’s a day when people would box up gifts for the poor, but the main thing that happens on Boxing Day nowadays is shopping. It’s kind of like our Black Friday only nobody gets trampled to death.
Every year around the Christmas hols pretty much every theatre in the country puts on a pantomime. These are plays for kids based on fairy tales such as Cinderella and Aladdin, involving a lot of high camp, cross dressing and audience interaction. They’re normally starring jaded celebrities, so if the idea of seeing David Hasslehoff in a dress excites you should definitely check one out.
10. Taking down the Christmas tree
We Brits believe the Christmas tree and the decorations should be taken down within twelve days of Christmas otherwise you will have bad luck for the rest of the year. This is maybe a tradition that Americans should consider adopting: I’ve certainly seen people keep their old, brown, dry, withered Christmas trees until almost the fourth of July.
Those are some of the major differences between British and American Christmases.