You are here

11 British Christmas Traditions the World Needs to Know About

11 British Christmas Traditions the World Needs to Know About   main image
A beacon of light in the cold wet winter of the British Isles, British Christmas offers the perfect antidote to the country’s low productivity and apocalyptic Brexit future. It offers a temporary respite, full of heartwarming Christmas adverts that speak of love and hope and that cost millions of pounds to make. It’s a time of year that’s about boozing before lunch with your mum and dad and eating alcoholic butter because it’s perfectly socially acceptable to do so. It’s about skipping the Queen’s christmas message to her loyal subjects because, like sweet and savory mince pies, your life is full of charming contradictions.   Inject a little bit of Britmas into your festivities this year by trying these 11 British Christmas traditions.

1. Leaving a glass of sherry and a mince pie out for Father Christmas

… And a carrot for Rudolph. There’s actually a contentious debate about whether a glass of sherry is the right tipple to choose, with others leaving brandy or a glass of milk. Some families also opt for biscuits instead of mince pies, but fortunately Santa doesn’t seem to mind.

2. Boozing before lunch

Christmas Day is a bit like brunch in that it’s one of those rare social occasions during which it’s considered acceptable to drink before noon. British families will pop open a bottle of champagne or Buck’s Fizz in the morning while opening their presents.

3. Cracking up at terrible cracker jokes 

Christmas crackers, if you haven’t heard of them, look like sweet-wrappers. They’re tubes in a bright twist of paper that contain small toys, paper hats and awful dad jokes. Traditionally, they’re pulled open at the dinner table. Here’s a bad cracker joke for you:   *drumroll* Why was Santa's little helper feeling depressed?
He had low elf-esteem.   Ayyyyy. Read more terrible cracker jokes .

4. Wearing absurd-looking paper hats that tear easily

Also in the cracker, along with a truly terrible joke, is a frail, colorful paper hat. Made of tissue paper, it tears easily and looks ridiculous on a grown adult, but it’s part of the charm of quaint British Christmases. The tradition of wearing paper hats on Christmas Day dates back to the the ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia which ran from 17-23 December.

5. Eating bread sauce and brandy butter

About as exciting as its name would suggest, and probably one of the least attractive food items on the Christmas dinner table, bread sauce is essentially a milk-based sauce with onion and breadcrumbs, which is served with turkey. Bread sauce couldn’t have been invented anywhere else, really. Equally as bewildering, brandy butter is made of, as you guessed, butter and brandy, but also sugar, orange zest and juice, and it’s served with Christmas pudding. Speaking of which...

6. Christmas pudding is equally special

Christmas pudding is the quintessential British christmas dessert. It’s a dried fruit cake steeped in brandy with plum, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and ginger, and is normally eaten with some sort of cream or custard (see above). It’s very dense and will stick in your throat, but Brits seem to love it. Not enough to eat it at any other time of the year though.

7. Ignoring the Royal christmas message

For some British families, Christmas Day means switching the TV on at exactly 3pm to watch Queen Elizabeth II’s Christmas greetings broadcast from Buckingham Palace. The Queen tends to reflect back on the year’s major events, some of her own accomplishments that year or the meaning of Christmas more generally. However, as interest in the royals has waned, the speech has become less of an “event”, with four in ten families skipping it, according to a 2014 poll by the Salvation Army.

8.  You’ve just about sobered up from drinking fizz all day, when it’s time to pop Doctor Who on

It wouldn’t be an English Christmas without a television special. All successful British TV shows like Downton Abbey, Call the Midwife or the Great British Bake Off are on air over the holidays for their own Christmas special, but Doctor Who is probably the most anticipated one. You don’t have to be a Doctor Who fan to watch it either, as it’s often a stand-alone episode that will make sense to anyone who’s never watched the show before. This year’s episode will be Peter Capaldi’s last hurrah as Doctor Who, as he is bowing out to be replaced by Broadchurch actress Jodie Whittaker.

9. Watching pantomimes with B-list celebrities 

Pantomimes, if you’re not familiar with them, are plays inspired by commedia dell'arte that often feature bright costumes, a lot of audience participation, slapstick humor and cross-dressing. They tend to be retellings of classic stories like Jack and the Beanstalk or Cinderella and, for some reason, will often have obscure B-list celebrities everyone’s forgotten about.

10. Weeping during a John Lewis Christmas advert

Every year, John Lewis release their multi-million pound Christmas advert to boost sales, usually employing the best talent in film-making. Heart-warming tearjerkers that have entered the annals include and last year’s but definitely not this year’s Moz the Monster, which cost £7m to make and received a lukewarm reception on Twitter.

11. Eating leftovers on Boxing Day

Boxing Day is definitely one of the best British Christmas traditions. 26 December has nothing to do with actual boxing, but is a bank holiday which means it’s normally spent with your family cleaning up, eating leftover Turkey and nursing a hangover.

Related categories:

temitope o & Daniel A saved this
Written by Mathilde Frot
I'm originally French but I grew up in Casablanca, Kuala Lumpur and Geneva. When I'm not writing for QS, you'll usually find me sipping espresso(s) with a good paperback.

Want to leave a comment?

Please login or register to post
comment above our articles

2 Comments

Christmas movies FTW! https://www.sp-bx.com/four-best-christmas-movies-you-could-ever-watch/

Merry Christmas