Some Christmas traditions really are international. Others might be limited to your country or even your house. Today we thought we’d shine the spotlight on some Christmas traditions in the UK that haven’t made it across to Germany.
The Unique Christmas Traditions of the UK
To a British family, the Christmas cracker is as much a part of the Christmas meal as the food, but we’re almost unique in feeling that way.
Christmas crackers aren’t easy to put into words, so here’s a picture:
Inside that central tube is a small prize (don’t get too excited), a thin slip of paper with a joke or, very occasionally, a riddle, a brightly-coloured paper crown, and the thing that makes it a cracker; a ltiny explosive, just enough to make the ‘crack’ sound when it’s pulled.
The cracker is taken by two people, one at each end, and pulled, which will lead to the cracker ‘cracking’ and one person holding their own end and the middle. Whoever has the middle has won and claims the prizes, according to tradition – although usually everyone ends up with a crown to wear for the rest of dinner.
Christmas crackers have been with us now for nearly two hundred years, invented very early in the Victorian era. They’ve developed into something that kids love and adults smile about.
Silver in the Plum Pudding
Christmas pudding, also known as plum pudding, is a rich, filling dessert for the Christmas table served with brandy cream and often brought to the table having been doused in brandy and set on fire, so it burns with a blue light.
At the end of a long meal, Christmas pudding may be just a little too much for some, but Brits usually find some extra room for it.
An extra tradition used to be associated with the pudding, but it’s now on the way out; silver coins would be baked into the pudding when made, occasionally with other small silver pieces. Getting a silver sixpence in your portion was considered good luck – perhaps just because you with six pence richer!
It’s much rarer now to find this still practised, especially as most shop bought puddings don’t include any silver.
The Royal Christmas Broadcast
This is popularly known as “the Queen’s Speech”, so if you ever wondered why the Colin Firth movie about a king beating his stutter was called the King’s Speech, it’s in reference to a common British phrase.
Every Christmas since 1932 the reigning monarch has delivered a short speech to the public through the BBC, starting on the radio and moving to the TV. It’s been pre-recorded for a long time, usually in October, which can mean it sometimes sounds vague. All the same, there are plenty of homes that never miss the speech, and some where the family will stand for the duration.
Under the Mistletoe
The symbols of Christmas vary from country to country. In the UK, the three biggest symbols are holly, mistletoe, and the red-breasted robin. Holly is associated with eternal life, the red robin stands out beautifully against the snow, and mistletoe? Well, it’s the centre of perhaps the oddest Christmas tradition in Britain. In many houses, a sprig of mistletoe is cut and hung somewhere people can pass under. By tradition, if someone is stood under the mistletoe, another person can claim a kiss from them; usually this is managed fairly carefully.
Though this is one of the stranger traditions on this list, it may be the most familiar, as it’s made its way across to America where it features as a plot point in countless films and TV shows.