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Festivals & Holidays Christmas Christmas is the time when Christians around the world celebrate the birth of Christ. The word Christmas (or Christ's Mass) comes from the Old English name Cristes Maesse.

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  • Christmas is the time when Christians around the world celebrate the birth of Christ.
  • The word Christmas (or Christ's Mass) comes from the Old English name Cristes Maesse.
  • The first “Christmas” occurred in Rome in AD360, but it wasn't until AD440 that the became December 25.
  • Most people are on holiday in England and stay at home with their family on Christmas day.
  • During the weeks before Christmas Day, the British send cards, watch nativity plays and go to carol services.
  • Homes and churches are decorated with green leaves, paper decorations and colourful electric lights.
  • Advent is the new year of the Christian Church and the church season that leads to Christmas Day.
  • Advent begins on the Sunday nearest to 30th November (St. Andrew's Day) and lasts until Christmas Eve.
  • The beginning of Advent is when the preparations for Christmas really begin - the festive menu is planned, gifts are chosen and wrapped, carols sung, cards are written and posted and houses decorated.
advent calendars
Advent Calendars
  • Advent calendars are to remind children when Christmas Eve will arrive.
  • An Advent calendar is a card with twenty-four small doors.
  • One door is opened each day from December 1 until Christmas Eve.
  • Every morning children open 1 door of the calendar to find a picture or a chocolate inside.
  • Today, many Advent calendars today have no religious content.
  • It is traditional in England for Primary schools to put on a Nativity play At Christmas time.
  • The Nativity Play recreates the birth of Christ, and the visit by the Shepherds and Wise Men.
  • The parts of Mary, Joseph, the Shepherds and the Wise Men are played by the children.
  • A pantomime is a traditional British Christmas play.
  • They traditionally start on Boxing Day and run for two or three months in theatres.
  • Nowadays, pantomimes are great family entertainments and pop stars, comedians, sports people and TV personalities often take part in them.
  • Pantomimes are a mix of fairy stories, folk tales and much loved cartoons, which encourage audience participation.
  • In pantomimes the male roles are often played by women and female roles by men.
  • Favourite pantomimes are Snow White, Cinderella, Peter Pan, and Puss in Boots.
  • To celebrate Christmas Day many people decorate their homes.
  • Red and green are the traditional colours of Christmas.
  • Green represents the continuance of life through the winter.
  • Red symbolizes the blood that Jesus shed at His Crucifixion.
  • Decorations are made of coloured paper and foil.
  • Towns and cities decorate their streets with colourful lights.
  • Plants like Holly, mistletoe and ivy are also used as decoration
christmas tree
Christmas Tree
  • Most houses in England, will have a tree of some sort which they will decorate and will place presents under.
  • The traditional tree is a fir tree but today more people use artificial trees to 'save the earth'.
  • The decorating of the tree is usually a family occasion, with everyone helping.
  • The Christmas tree became popular in England in 1841 when Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert, brought a Christmas tree over from Germany and put it in Windsor Castle.
yule log
Yule Log
  • It is traditional to light a special 'Yule' log on Christmas Eve and keep it burning through the 12 nights of Christmas until Twelfth Night.
  • The Celts believed that, for twelve days at the end of December, the sun stood still
  • If they could keep yule logs burning bright for those twelve days, then the sun would be made to move again, and the days would grow longer.
  • If a yule log went out, then there would be terrible luck,
  • Yule is an old word for the winter festival, dating back to Viking times.
christmas cards
Christmas Cards
  • The first Christmas card was created and sent in 1843
  • Traditionally, Christmas cards showed religious pictures of Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus, or other parts of the Christmas story.
  • Today, pictures are often winter pictures, Father Christmas, or jokes.
christmas carols
Christmas Carols
  • Special songs sung during the Christmas season.
  • They were written for a special purpose, often to accompany performances of religious dramas dating from medieval times.
  • Caroling is one of the oldest customs in Great Britain,
  • Poor people seeking food, money, or drink, would wander the streets singing holiday songs.
  • People still go 'carol singing'. This is where people will go from house to house singing carols and collecting money for charity.
  • The traditional period to sing carols was from St Thomas's Day (December 21) until the morning of Christmas Day.
christmas eve
Christmas Eve
  • Christmas Eve (December 24) is traditionally the day for decorating churches and homes. It marks the beginning of the period formally known as Christmas-tide.
  • Eve is not short for evening, it refers to the day before an important day.
  • It is the time when Father Christmas / Santa comes.
  • Children leave mince pies and brandy for Father Christmas, and a carrot for the reindeer.
  • Children hang their christmas stockings or bags up ready for Father Christmas, who will hopefully fill them up with presents, if the children have been good.
christmas eve during wwi
Christmas Eve during WWI
  • On the stroke of midnight on Christmas Eve 1914, firing from the German trenches suddenly stopped.
  • A German brass band began playing Christmas carols.
  • On Christmas morning, the German soldiers came out of their trenches, approaching the allied lines, calling "Merry Christmas".
  • At first the allied soldiers thought it was a trick, but they soon climbed out of their trenches and shook hands with the German soldiers.
  • The truce lasted a few days, and the men exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum puddings, sang carols and songs. They even played a game of Soccer.
christmas eve superstitions
Christmas Eve Superstitions
  • An old wives' tale says that bread baked on Christmas Eve will never go mouldy.
  • At midnight, a certain rose slowly opens and re-closes its petals to salute the birthday of Jesus.
  • Also at midnight, all the sheep in the fields turn and bow towards the East.
father christmas
Father Christmas
  • Father Christmas is the British name for Santa Claus.
  • He is an old jolly man with white hair, a beard and a moustache.
  • He is dressed in a red suit outlined in white.
  • Father Christmas and his elves make all the toys for Christmas in his home in the North Pole.
  • Father Christmas is based on a real person, St. Nicholas.
  • He was a very shy man and wanted to give money to poor people without them knowing about it.
christmas day
Christmas Day
  • Children wake up very early in the morning to find their stockings have been filled by Father Christmas and excitedly unwrap the presents before going down to breakfast.
  • Families gather together in late morning or the afternoon to open the presents found under the Christmas tree.
  • The tradition of giving gifts is thought to be related to the gifts that the wise men (the Magi) brought to Jesus.
  • Many people will go to church to sing carols and to celebrate the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day. More people attend the church on this day than any other day of the year.
the queen s speech
The Queen's Speech
  • A traditional of Christmas afternoon is the Queen's Christmas Message.
  • At three o'clock in the afternoon, the Queen gives her Christmas Message to the nation on radio and television.
  • The Queen's message is also broadcast throughout the British Commonwealth. The custom was begun by King George V in 1932.
christmas dinner
Christmas Dinner
  • This main Christmas Meal is usually eaten at lunchtime or early afternoon.
  • A traditional English Christmas dinner consists of roast turkey and stuffing, roast potatoes and vegetables, bread sauce, cranberry sauce and gravy, followed by Christmas pudding with brandy butter.
turkey tradition
Turkey Tradition
  • A Christmas tradition involving the turkey is to pull its wishbone.
  • This is one of the bones of the turkey which is shaped like the letter 'Y'.
  • Two people will each hold an end and pull. The person left with the larger piece of the bone makes a wish.
the christmas pudding
The Christmas Pudding
  • Christmas pudding is a brown pudding with raisins, nuts and cherries. It is served with custard or brandy butter.
  • Often brandy is poured over the pudding, which is then set a light as it is carried to the table. The lights are turned off so people can see the flames.
  • Traditionally silver coins were hidden in it.
  • A silver coin brought good fortune to whomever was lucky enough to find it when the pudding was cut.
christmas crackers
Christmas Crackers
  • It is traditional to pull Christmas Crackers before the meal.
  • Traditionally a Christmas cracker is placed next to each plate on the Christmas dinner table.
  • When the crackers are pulled, out falls a colourful party crown, a toy or gift and a festive joke.
christmas tea
Christmas Tea
  • The afternoon/evening meal contains mince pies and a Christmas cake.
  • This cake is a rich baked fruit cake with marzipan, icing and sugar frosting.
boxing day
Boxing Day
  • Boxing Day is the day after Christmas Day.
  • Like Christmas Day it is also a national holiday in England.
  • The name goes back more than 800 years
  • Boxes were placed at the back of every church to collect money for the poor.
  • Recently some shops have broken from tradition and started opening on Boxing Day to start the New Year sales.
  • Hundreds of people now spend Boxing Day morning in queues outside shops
national days
National Days
  • National Days in Britain are not celebrated to the same extent as National Days in countries like the United States.
  • Each country in the United Kingdom has its own National Day, named after their respective patron saint
st david s day
St. David's Day
  • St David's Day is the national day of Wales
  • It is celebrated in Wales on 1 March, in honour of Dewi Sant or St David, the patron saint of Wales.
  • He was a Celtic monk, abbot and bishop, who lived in the sixth century. He spread Christianity across Wales.
  • St David's Day is commemorated by the wearing of daffodils or leeks. Both plants are traditionally regarded as national emblems.
st patrick s day
St. Patrick's Day
  • 17 March is the national day of Northern Ireland.
  • Saint Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland.
  • He is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland.
  • He was born in Britain, he was carried off by pirates and spent six years in slavery before escaping and training as a missionary.
  • The day is marked by the wearing of shamrocks (a clover-like plant), the national emblem of both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
st george s day
St. George's Day
  • 23 April is the national day of England.
  • A story dating back to the 6th century tells that St George rescued a maiden by slaying a fearsome fire-breathing dragon.
  • Some people wear a red rose on St Georges Day.
st andrew s day
St. Andrew's Day
  • 30 November is the national day of Scotland.
  • St. Andrew was one of Christ's twelve apostles.
  • Some of his bones are said to have been brought to what is now St. Andrews in Fife during the 4th century.
bank holidays
'Bank' holidays
  • Other public holidays in Britain are commonly known as 'bank' holidays
  • They are called this because these are the days on which banks are legally closed.
  • Most are on a Monday
shrove tuesday pancake day
Shrove Tuesday (Pancake Day)
  • Shrove Tuesday is the last day before Lent.
  • Shrove Tuesday is always 47 days before Easter Sunday, so the date varies from year to year and falls between February 3 and March 9.
  • Lent is a time of abstinence, of giving things up.
  • Shrove Tuesday is the last chance to indulge yourself, and to use up the foods that aren't allowed in Lent.
  • Pancakes are eaten on this day because they contain fat, butter and eggs which were forbidden during Lent
  • Like most Christian festivals, Easter has its origins in pre-Christian times.
  • Originally a celebration of Spring but now associated with Christianity.
  • Easter is the story of Christs death.
  • Chocolate eggs are given to children as a symbol of new life
when is easter
When is Easter?
  • Easter usually comes in the month of April. It is what is called a 'moveable feast' because the date of it is fixed according to the moon.
  • Easter Sunday has to be the first Sunday following the full moon, after the Spring equinox (March 21)
  • This means that Easter can fall as early as March 22 or as late as April 25.
may day
May Day
  • The first day of the month of May is known as May Day.
  • It is the time of year when warmer weather begins and flowers and trees start to blossom.
  • It is when people celebrate the coming of summer with lots of different customs that are expressions of joy and hope after a long winter.
harvest festival
Harvest Festival
  • People in Britain have given thanks for successful harvests since pagan times.
  • This is celebrated by singing, praying and decorating churches with baskets of fruit and food
  • Usually during the month of September.
remembrance day poppy day
Remembrance Day (Poppy Day)
  • Commemorates the end of World War 1
  • Held on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month every year