With the festive period fast approaching, we take a look at some of the top Christmas traditions and where they originated. From the celebrated Christmas tree to the classic mince pie, find out about the stories behind these age-old Christmas traditions.
The Christmas tree
The first Christmas trees originated in 16th century when devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. After the marriage of Germany’s Prince Albert to Queen Victoria, the King introduced the Christmas tree tradition to England.
Hanging out a stocking at Christmas dates back to the legend of St Nicholas. Celebrated as a gift giver, he is believed to have sent bags of gold down a the chimney of a poor man, which then fell into stockings left hanging to dry by the fire. St Nicholas was referred to by the Dutch as Sinterklaas which is where the name Santa Claus derives from.
Originating from Mexico, Turkeys were first brought to Britain in 16th century. Whilst Henry VIII enjoyed turkey, it was not until the 19th century that the bird became more popular amongst the upper classes. By the 1950s the turkey had become part of Christmas dinner for many families.
Inspired by Middle Eastern fare, the original mince pies were made of meat, fruit and spice. Often containing 13 ingredients to represent Christ and the Apostles, they were formed in an oval shape to represent a manger.
Having played a part in setting up the Public Records Office (known nowadays as the Post Office), Sir Henry Cole and artist John Horsley created the first Christmas card in 1843 to encourage the use of its services. Printing advances reduced the price of cards and by 1900 Christmas cards were being sent throughout Europe.