Day 9: Christmas traditions and where they come from

christmas pudding

It’s good to know why we do what we do. Here are 5 Christmas traditions to get you feeling all festive:

12 days of Christmas

This may sound like a very familiar song about all the things your true love gave to you. But the song came from a tradition of celebrating Christmas over 12 days. Starting on the 25th December and ending 5th January – The Twelfth Night. Christmas has been celebrated over 12 days since the middle ages in Europe. Each day typically celebrated a feast day for a saint and on the Twelfth night, a big celebration was held. It marked the end of winter, which had started on All Hallows Eve – 31st October. Traditionally, christmas decorations would come down on Twelfth night.

25th December

‘Christmas’ comes from the Mass of Christ. The ‘Christ Mass’ service was the only service allowed to take place after sunset and before sunrise on Dec 26th. Although traditionally celebrated by Christians, now it’s celebrated all over the world as a public holiday. No-one really knows the actual birth date of Christ. The first recorded date of Christmas on Dec 25th was in 336 during Constantine’s reign. Years later, Pope Julius I decreed that Christmas would henceforth be celebrated on the 25th officially.

The most popular reason people believe Christmas is celebrated on the 25th December is that the Winter Solstice and another ancient Roman winter festivals ‘Saturnalia’ were already being celebrated during this period. People were already in a celebratory mood, so the Roman Christian leaders thought it would be a good way to convert pagans to christians, by celebrating a major christian feast around the same time.

Christmas Cards

Are a slightly more modern addition. Sir Henry Cole after setting up the Public Records Office (Post Office) created Christmas cards as a way to get people to use the services.

Christmas Crackers

Tom Smith, a London sweet maker invented Christmas crackers in the 1840s. He was inspired by French bonbons paper wrappers. He started off including riddles and proverbs in them, but sales really kicked in when he found a way to make them “crack” when pulled. Now, they’re a staple at every Christmas dinner table.

Christmas Pudding

Typically made from plum, Christmas pudding started as a porridge in the 14th century made from beef, mutton, raisins, currants, prints, wine, and spices. It was a soup like dish eaten in preparation for the Christmas festivities. Over the 16th century, it slowly transformed into plum pudding, thick with eggs, breadcrumbs and dried fruit. By Victorian times, Christmas puddings had become pretty close to the desserts we have at our Christmas tables today.

That’s it for fascinating Christmas traditions this Saturday. Be sure to check back with the advent calendar every day for gifts, surprises, and maybe a part two of our Christmas traditions series.

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