Wednesday, December 13, 2006

English Christmas

Nothing is quite as charming as an English Christmas, with its cheerful carolers, plum pudding and steaming wassail. Although Americans celebrate Christmas in many of the same ways, there are some endearing differences in the way the British do it.


  • STEP 1: Play traditional Christmas music during the season, such as "Ave Maria," "Alleluia" and "Lullay Lullow."

  • STEP 2: Send Christmas cards to friends and relatives.

  • STEP 3: Select a live Christmas tree to arrange in your home, and hang evergreen branches indoors.

  • STEP 4: Attend a mumming, or performance, where people wear masks and act out Christmas plays.

  • STEP 5: Encourage your children to write letters to Father Christmas detailing the gifts they most want. He'll arrive wearing a red or green robe, with holly in his hair.

  • STEP 6: Burn the letters in the fireplace so the wind can carry the ashes up the chimney and Father Christmas can read the smoke.

  • STEP 7: Hang stockings on the mantel so Father Christmas can leave presents inside them on Christmas Eve. This tradition grew out of the legend that Father Christmas dropped coins out of his pocket on his way in and the stockings caught them.

  • STEP 8: Go caroling from house to house and collect money along the way. The proceeds are often kept by children, but are usually given to charity by adults.

  • STEP 9: Wait until Christmas Day to open gifts. Prepare a traditional dinner of roast turkey or goose, Christmas pudding (a rich cake stuffed with raisins and sultanas), mince pie and red wine.

  • STEP 10: Plan to listen to a broadcast of the queen's annual message, in which she will sum up the past year and extend her wishes for the season ahead. This tradition began in 1932 with King George V.

  • STEP 11: Celebrate Boxing Day on December 26. This national holiday commemorates St. Stephens and also the alms box at English churches.

  • STEP 12: Understand that charity is no longer the focus of the holiday, but expect generosity in a different way. For instance, your boss will typically give you the day off with pay, and stores will hold huge sales.

  • STEP 13: Take down your Christmas tree and decorations 12 days after Christmas, or you'll have bad luck in the coming year. (You'll also want to wait until December 13 to putt up the tree and decorations for the same reason!)