Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from England

Christmas is coming and in this post I’m reminding you what decorations and traditions are typical in the English-speaking countries and how it is celebrated in the UK and the USA. Also you can have a look at the Christmas video. Both in the USA and the UK there are Christmas Eve, which is the Day before Christmas Day on December 24. The Christmas season includes Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and some country specific holidays.

Christmas in the United Kingdom

Christmas Eve is not a public holiday in the United Kingdom. However, schools are closed for the Christmas holidays and many people have a day off work or leave earlier than usual to shop and get ready with the Christmas celebrations and festive meals. These include roast turkey, potatoes and parsnips, and other vegetables. After the main course, Christmas pudding is often eaten poured by burning brandy giving a spectacular effect. Mince pies are also popular on Christmas Day. They are sweet pastry cases filled with a mixture of dried fruit, fat and alcohol. 

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Stores are normally busy selling gifts and decorations. Many families put up their Christmas tree and other seasonal decorations if not having already done this before. Among the popular decorations is hanging Christmas stocking up. In many towns and cities, the shopping streets are decorated with coloured lights and large pine trees, often specially imported from Norway. In some places a Nativity scene illustrating the story of Jesus’ birth using statues or actors and live animals is arranged.

As Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus, which is clearly traced through the Old English root of «Cristes maesse» or Christ’s Mass, people may attend a church service, often called midnight mass, on Christmas Eve, even if they do not regularly attend church services.

Christmas traditions and symbols

Christmas is also a fascinating mix of traditions where pre-Christian pagan rituals are combined with modern ones. In the past people lit fires that were kept burning day and night to get the sun back after winter and decorated their homes with leaves or branches from evergreen trees, such as holly, ivy and mistletoe, to symbolize everlasting life. These customs continue today as people put up Christmas trees and decorate their homes with small electric lights. Other symbols are the Christmas stocking, Father Christmas (or Santa Claus), who travels on a sleigh pulled by reindeer, to put gifts into these stockings. Also these include the baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the other characters from the Nativity story. Don’t forget robin red breast, small as it is, this bird is often seen as a decoration on Christmas cards, wrapping paper and cakes.

Many people spend Christmas Day on December, 25 with family members exchanging gifts and cards. Many children wake up to find a sock or stocking filled with small gifts on their bed or somewhere else in the house. These have supposedly been brought by a mythical figure called ‘Father Christmas’ or ‘Santa Claus’, who lives for most of the year at the North Pole. He travels fast in a sleigh pulled by reindeer, with elves helping him to deliver presents to all children in one night. He climbs down the house’s chimney and people leave a small snack of mince pies and brandy at each house for him to enjoy.

Christmas Day is a public holiday with nearly all organizations, except hospitals and shelters for the homeless, closing on it. Some public houses and smaller stores selling food may open for a few hours, otherwise public life closes down almost totally on Christmas Day. 

Watch more videos like this at myYouTube channel.

Here is a short list of cool resources in English, especially for those who study English with kids: 

  • WhyChristmasCom — above all, you’ll find a story, a song and a good-quality animated video about X-Mas.
  • — an interactive site with cards and gifts, printouts and stories, sections for teachers, parents and kids, your child can send an e-mail to Santa from here and get a reply!
  • — gifts, games in Kid’s Zone, music and more, and send a letter to Santa feature, too.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2014 to you!

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