Christmas Traditions!

Date Added 13/12/2021

Welcome to the first Johnsons Blog!

Our first blog is a festive one… We’re discussing Christmas traditions!

Traditions are the foundations of Christmas, the protocol you must follow every year or Christmas just isn’t Christmas! Every household, every family, every group of friends or colleagues have their own traditions that they are custom to, fine details and elements that create that festive magic in the month of December.

Then there are also the traditions that are centuries old that we partake in but were not entirely sure why we do it, but like with many traditions, there is not actually a definitive answer to where they come from or why we incorporate them into our festivities, but we’ve taken a look into it and put together the most popular answers…


Advent calendars

Can you even countdown to Christmas properly if you’re not opening a little door and enjoying a tiny festive shaped piece of chocolate before breakfast every day?

‘Advent’ is derived from the Latin word for ‘coming.’ The countdown to the coming of Christmas! Advent calendars can be traced back to the 19th century when families would mark every day in December with a chalk line.

The first printed advent calendar in fact originated in Germany, with producer Gerhard Lang in the early 1900’s. However, with the outbreak of World War II cardboard became rationed so the business had to close.

Many appeared after this including the Nazis version during the war that included propaganda.

The first chocolate advent calendar appeared in 1958, with Cadburys launching their first version in 1971. They produced them intermittently from 1972 to 1986 and it wasn’t until 1993 that they became a permanent fixture! And something we all look out for in November every year to know Christmas is coming!


Christmas Trees

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree the icon of the festive season.

It is believed the Christmas Tree originated in Germany in the 16th century, with Christians bringing trees into their homes.

The tradition is believed to have come to the UK during Queen Victoria’s reign between 1837 and 1901. It is also said that she is responsible for popularising it in the UK and America, after ‘the royal tree’ was printed in newspapers, it was an image of Queen Victoria, her husband Prince Albert and their young children gathered around the tree.

In Victorian times the tree would have been decorated with candles to represent stars, in many parts of Europe candles are still used to decorate trees.

According to the tradition of advent the tree should go up 4 Sundays before Christmas, but in reality, trees seem to go up earlier every year!


Christmas Cards

The concept of Christmas cards was plotted by civil servant Sir Henry Cole, he had helped set up the new public record office, now known as the post office, he wanted to make it a more accessible service for ordinary people not just the rich. Henry with his artist friend John Horsley had the idea of a Christmas card so designed them and sold them for 1 shilling each!

Popularity of Christmas cards improved when the first penny post public postal deliveries began which made posting more affordable in 1840. This was an outcome of the development of railways, travelling by train was much faster than horse and carriage. Cards popularity increased further when printing methods improved during 1860.

Cards would usually feature the traditional nativity scene, in Victorian times robins on cards became popular resulting in postmen being nicknamed robin postmen because of their red uniforms!

The USA had cards in the late 1840’s and since, different variations have cropped up including handmade cards, personalised cards, photograph cards the possibilities are endless.

However, in recent years with the topic of the environment and the digital age growing, the demand for Christmas cards has decreased. Although they are still a present feature at Christmas, the number of cards you receive every year is on the decline!


Christmas Crackers

Is your Christmas dinner table even complete if a cracker doesn’t make an appearance, its rumoured even the Queen pulls a cracker and wears her paper crown while enjoying her Christmas dinner!

It is a British tradition dating back to Victorian times, when in the early 1850’s London confectioner Tom Smith started adding a motto to his sugared almond bon-bons which he sold wrapped in a twisted paper package. He was inspired to add the ‘bang’ when he heard the crackle of a log he had put on the fire.

It was originally sold as the ‘cosaque’ but soon became publicly known as the ‘cracker.’

Eventually the almond was replaced with a quirky gift, the poem replaced with a joke and the addition of the famous paper crown!


Christmas Carols

Carols were first sung in Europe thousands of years ago; they were pagan songs sung in the Winter solstice celebrations. Then the celebration of Christmas began to take place at the same time as the solstice so the early Christians would sing Christian songs instead of pagon ones.

When the Puritans came to power in England in 1640, the celebration of Christmas and singing carols was stopped, however people carried on singing in secret! Until Victorian times, carols were sung as folk songs in places like pubs, but they weren’t thought of as ‘proper’ by the middle or upper classes. Carols were in fact sung during all 4 seasons, but only the tradition of Christmas Carols well and truly stuck!

Before the return of carols in churches, there were often official carol singers called ‘waits’ named this as they would sing on Christmas Eve which was often known as ‘watchnight’ or ‘waitnight’ because the shepherds would be watching their sheep when the angels appeared. But the ‘Waits’ were a group of people led by local council leaders who had the authority to take money from the public if the singers asked for money they would be classed as beggars!

Orchestras and choirs were popping up all over the UK and people wanted Christmas songs to sing, so carols once again became popular in churches again. This tradition is still as popular to this day, with carol services happening all around the world.


Mistletoe and Holly

Mistletoe and holly were part of the ancient Celtic celebration of the winter solstice on 21 December. Mistletoe represented life, while holly offered protection against evil spirits.

There are a lot of Ancient Greek and Roman beliefs surrounding mistletoe, and its mystical powers and its symbolism to fertility, health, long life, good luck, and a good harvest in the months to come.

Christians incorporated mistletoe into their Christmas decorations by 18th century. The custom of ‘kissing under the mistletoe’ is an English concept, the idea was that if a woman was caught underneath the mistletoe men were allowed to steal a kiss and to decline the offer was actually classed as bad luck. The concept of ‘stealing a kiss’ comes from the original custom of the mistletoe berries being picked and when the berries had gone there could be no more kissing.

But to this day, households incorporate mistletoe and holly into their Christmas decorations because they make the house look and smell Christmassy!



The iconic feature of a Christmas dinner, if you’re a meat eater obviously!

Turkeys are in fact from America, so it is crazy to think it’s the main feature of a Christmas dinner all around the world.

The first Turkey was bought to the UK in 1526 by a sailor William Strickland, who in 1550 was given a coat of arms featuring a turkey on it!

They became ‘fashionable’ in the UK in the 1840’s and 1850’s after Charles Dickens ‘A Christmas Carol’ was published with the family enjoying a turkey for Christmas dinner. Queen Victoria also had turkey at Christmas in 1851, which increased its popularity. Then by the end of the 1800’s with the growing train network, turkeys became a lasting Christmas tradition.



Waking up to a stocking on Christmas morning is a piece of Christmas that just takes you back to your childhood, typically being the same stocking you’ve had your entire life.

According to tradition, the original Saint Nicholas put gold coins in the stockings of three poor sisters. One night, the girls left their stockings drying over the fireplace. Saint Nicholas knew the family was very poor, so he threw three bags of gold coins down the chimney (This also explains why chocolate gold coins traditionally go into your stocking) The money landed in the sisters’ stockings. Since then, children have hung up their Christmas stockings on Christmas Eve, hoping to find them filled with gifts  in the morning.


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