Christmas time is one of the best of the year, regardless of whether you live in the UK or the US. In both countries, the air is filled with carols, stockings are filled with gifts, and the eggnog is filled with plenty of rum. And here are a few interesting things for you to enjoy.
I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas?
A “White Christmas”, in which there is a covering of snow on December 25, is actually pretty rare in England. The Meteorological Office is London traditionally uses the definition of a single snowflake observed falling at one location in the 24 hours of Christmas Day. While the normal location was the Meteorological Office itself, now it includes several locations such as Buckingham Palace, Aldergrove Airport in Belfast, Abderdeen, Edinburgh Castle, Coronation Street in Manchester, and Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. While 38 instances of a snowfall have been observed in the last 52 years, only 4 instances of a complete covering have occurred since 1963.
It is estimated that British households spend £22 billion at Christmas with the average household spending £835. Of the per household amount, £161 is spent on food and drink, £634 on gifts, and £40 on decorations.
Originated as early as the 15th century as a means of preserving meat. By the end of autumn, any surplus livestock was slaughtered and the meat was kept in a pastry with dried fruit to act as a preservative. The resulting mince pies became something of a holiday tradition as they could serve several people. As the techniques for preserving meat improved over time, the meat started to be removed (though still existing in some place as mince pieces) and a pottage was made out of plums, spices, and pastry. As time went on, the sweet aspect of it was emphasized and morphed into the modern pudding.
Christmas Goose or Christmas Turkey?
Christmas Goose was the traditional meat before turkey became more widely available in the 1950s. In fact, the Cratchit family of A Christmas Carol was set to have a goose before a reformed Ebeneezer Scrooge purchased a turkey for their Christmas dinner. Now approximately 76% of British households serve turkey on Christmas.
Britain’s Black Friday
On Christmas Day 2012, British retail websites experienced 107 million hits with peak activity in the evening. While once a day in which servants and tradespersons would receive gifts, Boxing Day (December 26) is also a peak shopping day. In 2013, shoppers spent a reported £2.7 billion.
Get to the Church on Time
The Holy Days and Fasting Days Act of 1551 required that everyone in Britain attend church on Christmas Day and not use any vehicle to get there. While some parts were repealed by the Statute Law Revision Act of 1888, the remainder was repealed by the Statute Law (Repeals) Act of 1969, though it’s often reported that the original act is still in force and simply not enforced.
Many Happy Returns to the Shops
In 2011, people received approximately £594 million worth of unwanted gifts, with 1 in every 10 gifts being something the receiver did not want. These people were quick to get rid of the unwanted presents as 1.5 million new items were listed on eBay on Boxing Day that year.
The fourth Sunday of Advent sees a traditional service known as Christingle at certain churches in Britain. The tradition began in Germany and Scandinavia and the service involves a large amount of caroling. Children receive an orange with a candle in it wrapped in red ribbon. The candle representing the light of Jesus and the ribbon being the blood he shed. The orange, meanwhile, represents the Earth. Some also include candies or dried fruits stuck in with cocktail sticks to represent the four seasons and the fruits of the Earth.
Oliver Cromwell banned Christmas festivities in 1647 and even instructed soldiers to confiscate any meals being prepared for the holiday. The law wasn’t repealed until 1660, two years after Cromwell’s death.
Tom Smith of London invented crackers in 1847. A confectioner by trade, he created them during a bon-bon slump as a sales gimmick, increasing the size of the paper to incorporate the banger mechanism. Eventually, he dropped the inclusion of the bon-bons in favor of including some French novelty items he hadn’t been able to sell. His son Walter went onto to include the paper hats you force your relatives to wear as well as varying the designs on the paper.
Can you answer the questions?
1. Who used to ban Christmas in Britain?
2. What do you have to pull at Christmas?
3. When is Boxing Day?
4. Which book is Ebeneezer Scrooge from?
5. When is the British ’Black Friday’?
1. Oliver Cromwell
2. a Christmas cracker
3. 26th December
4. Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol
5. on Boxing Day (26th December)