Christmas Traditions in the British Isles

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1) Sending Christmas cards: The first Christmas card was created in 1843 by John Calcott Horsley, an English illustrator. It featured a drawing of a family enjoying Christmas together. The message on the card read, ?Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You.? Smaller drawings on the card showed people helping the needy. About 1,000 copies of Horsley?s card were sold. By 1860, the custom of exchanging Christmas cards had spread throughout Great Britain. The first Christmas cards manufactured in the United States were made in 1875 by Lousi Prang, a German-born Boston printer.
2) Hanging mistletoe in a room or hallway: a person may kiss anyone standing under the mistletoe.
3) Hanging up stockings: Children hang up stockings on Christmas Eve for Father Christmas, British version of Santa Clause, to fill with presents.
4) Watch the monarch gives a special Christmas message on television on Christmas Day.
5) Eating Christmas dinner: roast turkey, mince pie, and plum pudding.
6) Christmas carols: Children or groups of adults go from house to house singing Christmas carols. Children ask for money for themselves, but adults usually ask for money for charity. This tradition began many years ago, when visitor sang carols in return from the wassail bowl. The bowl contained hot punch made from ale, apples, eggs, sugar, and spices. The word wassail comes from Was haile, an old Saxon greeting that means "Be Healthy". The word carol came from a Greek dance called a "choraulein", which was accompanied by flue music. The dance later spread throughout Europe and became especially popular with the French, who replaced the flute music with singing. People originally performed carols on several occasions during the year. By the 1600?s, carols involved singing only , and Christmas had become the main holiday for these joyful songs. Famous Christmas carol?s composed in the 1700?s and 1800?s: ?O Little Town of Bethlehem?, ?Hark the Herald Angels Sing?, ?Silent Night?, ?O Holy Night?, ?Jingle Bells?, ?White Christmas?
7) In Ireland, people put a lighted candle in their window on Christmas Eve as a sign of welcome to passing travelers. In Wales, people have caroling contests during the weeks before Christmas. Roast turkey is the main course for dinner. People in Scotland also have turkey and exchange small gifts. Some Scottish families decorate a Christmas tree and sing carols, but must hold their main celebrations on New Years Day.

Mistletoe, Christmas cards, stockings, World Book Encyclopedia

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