History of Christmas Traditions

Every little tradition is steeped in history, even the word Christmas refers to "Christ's Mass" from the old English "Cristes mæsse". And that X we use to abbreviate Xmas has a meaning too: it comes from the Greek letter X (known as chi). It all starts to make sense now!

Santa Clause


It may drive you nuts but it's a lovely way to keep in touch. After all, today all you ever get in the mail is bills, bills and more bills. Friends and family always email... until Christmas time! The first Christmas cards were sent in 1840 thanks to the Penny Post. With a spanking new rail system, the public postal deliveries were revolutionary! By 1860, Christmas cards were so popular they were mass produced and the trend spread when unsealed cards could be sent for just a half-penny - a bargain at half the usual price!


Edward VII set the trend for eating turkey at Christmas though he should have picked something a little less soporific, apparently. Considered a luxury until the 1950's, it wasn't until everyone owned a fridge that the novelty wore off. But we still go on and on, until the very last sandwich is gone.


The story says that St Nicholas, a Christian leader from as far back as 4th century AD started the stocking tradition quite by accident. A shy do-gooder, Nicholas once climbed onto the roof of a house before dropping a purse of money down its chimney. And where did it land, but in a young maiden's stocking hung out to dry!


Prince Albert is said to have introduced the decorated tree ritual in the UK in 1841, though some say it goes back as far as Roman times. Long practiced in Germany, the hanging fruit and baubles is a mixture of pagan and Christian symbols: the fruit of the earth and the sun.

Christmas crackers

Christmas crackers


Crackers were launched in Britain in the 1850's as an attempt to follow the Parisian mode of gift-wrapped sweets. Although they didn't always make the banging noise - the entire point, one might say - rest assured they always contained useless gimmicks and bad jokes or smarty pants mottos.


Nothing to do with Ali, Tyson or families getting upset with each other! The "Boxing Day" dates way back to the Middle Ages when churches would open their Alms Boxes for the congregation to make gifts and donations. These were then distributed to the poor in the neighbourhood the day after Christmas.


Snogging under the Mistletoe isn't a new thing. Not only are the white berries rather suggestive, but Mistletoe was long said to have magical fertile powers. The kissing bough was hooked up at the start of the Christmas season making any young ladies under it fair game for the young men. And vice versa.


The Yule Log finds its origins in the German midwinter Yule pagan festivities. A celebration of the winter solstice, the feast took place long before Christianity was born and one imagines the recipe has come along a little since then.