Is Christmas Day a Public Holiday in the UK?
Christmas Day is a public holiday in the United kingdom. All state schools and most businesses remain closed on this day.
Christmas Celebrations in the UK
Children and adults alike eagerly await the merry festive season of Christmas throughout the year. Most traditions in the UK for this day are similar to those performed throughout the world.
Setting up a Christmas tree days before Christmas is the norm, and many people have their Christmas trees up at the very beginning of the December month. Christmas carols, eggnog, family dinners on Christmas eve, gifts exchanged in the early morning are some of these customs. Lets us take a look at these Christmas traditions in the UK:
- Days before Christmas, people would decorate their home, set up a Xmas tree, and children would hang up stockings which Father Christmas will fill with gifts.
- The traditional colours for the decorations used are red, green, and gold – considered the festive hues. At the same time, holly and mistletoe are the conventional plants to be used.
- Children would go out in groups around their neighbourhood singing Christmas carols, a few days before Christmas.
- Going to see nativity plays or using scenes of the nativity for decoration is common in the UK.
- Everyone prefers attending church services on this day, even if they generally do not go to church regularly.
- Mince pies, Christmas pudding, yule log, and wassail are considered an essential part of the Christmas feasts and parties.
- Children usually write out a Christmas list, detailing things that they want from Father Christmas for being good.
- There is a tradition of keeping milk and cookies out for Father Christmas so that he can have refreshments while delivering gifts to children around the world.
- Christmas crackers, an invention of the British confectioner Tom Smith, are a common item found in every household on Christmas mornings.
- Most Brits can be seen donning paper crowns on this day, which come out of their Christmas crackers.
- Adverts are calendars that begin from the end of November, until Christmas days, that usually have gifts or chocolates behind each date. They are quite famous and an integral part of the Christmas celebrations in the UK.
- Christmas day begins with exchanging and opening of gifts together and ends with family dinners.
The Queen’s Christmas Speech?
Another important Christmas tradition in the UK is watching the Queen’s speech. A Christmas speech by the ruling monarch of the country has been a tradition since 1932 when George V first gave his speech, which was broadcasted on radio. Ever since then, the address of the sovereign is aired every Christmas, on the radio. Present Queen Elizabeth II has given a speech every year since 1952. From 1957, her statements have been broadcasted on TV, which now takes place around 3 PM for about 10 minutes on BBC1.
Christmas Banned in Britain
There was a time when the merry festival of Christmas was banned throughout the UK because Puritans claimed that it was a Catholic invention. The festival was officially banned in England after 1647, which soon led to countrywide riots. Although the ban was uplifted in 1660, with the restoration of King Charles II, however, the spirit of Christmas was lost, and most people disapprove of its celebrations.
Moreover, the commemoration was discouraged in Scotland and was abolished by the Parliament in 1640. The festival had basically fallen from favour throughout the country, and the hate started spreading worldwide soon. The magic of Christmas Day was finally re-established after the publication of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dicken. The book emphasized the merriment of the festival, focusing on the fact that it promotes family, goodwill, and compassion.
The Christmas Story
The story of the birth of Jesus Christ is mentioned in only two canonical gospels, namely that of Luke and Matthew. As per these, Mary was a virgin woman of Nazareth, betrothed to Joseph. The angel of God, Gabriel once visited her in her dreams to tell her that she would be the mother of the Son of God, and she was to name him Jesus. She conceived the baby through the Holy Spirit and thus remained a virgin throughout her life.
At the time of the birth of Jesus, some Magi came to visit King Herod I, the King of Judea. They asked him where they could find the “King of Jews”, who will rule over all of Israel because they had seen the star rising that marked his coming. Herod considered this a threat to his throne, and after consulting with high priests, he told the Magi from the East that they could find the Messiah in Bethlehem. He also asked them to report back to him when they saw the Anointed One because he wanted to pay respects too.
At this time, Mary and Joseph were staying in Bethlehem. Some accounts say that they remained in a stable because there was no place at the inn. However, some historians claim that they were probably visiting relatives and had to stay in a room with a manger because the home was full. In any case, both accounts agree that the birth of Jesus was in humility. Due to lack of space in the room, Mary placed her son in the manger.
Some shepherds tending to their flock nearby were visited by Angels, who told them that the new Messiah had arrived. They were the first ones to visit the new-born, which is often depicted in arts as the Adoration of the Shepherds. Soon afterwards, the Magi also reached the place, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh for the new King of the Jews. That night, angels appeared in the dreams of Magi and Joseph. They told the former to leave for their home without informing Herod of anything for he will harm Jesus. And their message for Joseph, husband of Mary, was to take his wife and son to Egypt because the King has intentions of harming them.
Herod the Great, who was waiting for the Magi to return and tell him of the Messiah’s location realized that he had been fooled and ordered the Massacre of Innocents. He asked his soldiers to kill all male children below the age of 2 years in Bethlehem and its vicinity. When Herod died, another angel guided Joseph to return to Nazareth but to remain careful of Herod’s son who was now the ruler of Jerusalem.
Christmas Symbols & Their Meaning
The people of the UK believe in Father Christmas, the personification of Christmas, who has been a part of traditional English folklore since long. With time, the character has assimilated traits of other similar figures, mainly Santa Claus and Saint Nicholas. The garb of Father Christmas changed with the arrival of the American customs of Santa Clause, and now Father Christmas is assumed to be similarly dressed.
Pictures depict him in a long red cloak with white fur trimmings and as a benevolent man with a long white beard. As for his filling stockings with gifts and arriving at the night of Christmas Eve to do so, is said to have been taken from the Dutch Saint Nicholas. St. Nick would fill the shoes of children who put them out on the night of his feast with coins or gifts.
The Colours: Red, Green, & Gold
Each colour of the festive season represents something important. The Red symbolizes the blood that Jesus Christ spilt during his Crucifixion. In contrast, Green is a token of eternal life, specifically the evergreen tree. In addition to this, gold signifies not only prosperity but also indicates the first gift given to Jesus at his birth of the three.
The Star At The Top Of The Tree
The star or the angel that we mount on the top of the Christmas tree symbolizes the star that rose in the morning and guided the Magi to the places where Jesus was born.
The Plants: Holly & Mistletoe
The red berries of holly signify the blood drops spilt by Jesus Christ when he was made to wear the thorn crown during his trial and mortification. At the same time, its prickly edges symbolize the wreath. On the other hand, mistletoe represents love, fertility, and peace.
Random Christmas in the UK Facts
- According to tradition, eating one mince pie on each of the 12 days of Christmas brings one good luck for the entire year (12 months).
- In England, it is illegal to eat mince pies on Christmas, in principle. This is because Oliver Cromwell banned Christmas pudding, mince pies, and anything that can be associated with gluttony in the 17th century. The law has technically never been rescinded.
- The tradition of a Royal Speech began in 1932 with the special speech of King George V which was written by Rudyard Kipling. The broadcast, which was an enormous hit amongst the people, began with, “I speak now from my home and from my heart, to you all...”
- Children often burn their Christmas Lists in the fireplace, so that their wishes go up in smoke and reach Father Christmas who will come down that way.
- The tradition of Christmas trees dates back to the Middle Ages when the play of Adam and Eve would feature an evergreen tree as the Paradise Tree decorated with apples which tempted Eve. This tradition prevailed in England after German immigrants continued decorating their trees.
- Christmas trees especially became popular in England after Prince Albert, a native of Germany and husband of Queen Victoria brought over this tradition to the Royal Family.
- The British Christmas Tea takes place around 5 PM, and Christmas Dinner, which is usually Lunch, takes place at 1 PM.
- White Christmas became famous due to the works of Charles Dickens, who lived during the mini ice-age. Thus, for 8 years straight, it snowed every Christmas in England.
Christmas Day Observances
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1. How do they celebrate Christmas in the UK?
People decorate their home, set up a Christmas tree. Christmas day begins with exchanging and opening of gifts together and ends with family dinners.
2. Why does the UK celebrate Christmas on the 25th?
Christmas Day is celebrated on December 25 in the UK. It traditionally celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ but there are several elements of this holiday that have pagan origins.
3. How do the British say Merry Christmas?
You will find "merry Christmas" and "happy Christmas" both in the United States and the UK, while Christmas is more often "merry" in American English and "happy" in British English.
4. What is Santa called in England?
They call Santa, in England: Father Christmas. Father Christmas is exactly the same thing.
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