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The most wonderful time of the year. It doesn’t feel like Christmas without the mince pies, the tree, the fun jumpers and the fear of someone burning the turkey.

Some of these traditions feel like they’ve been around for as long as we have (137 years to be exact), but where- and who-did they come from?

Let’s take a look at the origins of some of our most loved Christmas traditions through time.

Stockings

Nothing beats the feeling of waking up on Christmas morning and seeing your stocking filled with pocket-sized gifts.

Whilst there are no written origins of the Christmas stocking, it’s believed to have roots in the legend of St Nicholas.

The Legend says that on one occasion St Nicholas sent bags of gold down a chimney at the home of a poor man who had no dowry for his unmarried daughters. The gold fell into stockings left hanging to dry. The girls awoke in the morning, overjoyed with St. Nick’s generosity – they were now eligible to wed and their father could rest easy.

And so, the Christmas stocking was born.  A firm favourite amongst kids and big kids alike, people all around the world now enjoy the tradition of the Christmas stocking.

Originally, everyday socks were used as stockings but over time they have evolved into the handmade versions that we know and love today. Traditionally, the stockings are hung out on the fireplace on Christmas Eve, ready for Santa to fill with gifts.

Presents

We can all remember waking up on Christmas morning and leaping out of bed to see whether Santa had been.

Whether you enjoy the rush of the mad dash to the shops, or like to buy all of your gifts online, one of the most fun parts of Christmas is the gift giving.

Starting out as a Christian celebration with the three wise men’s gifts to Jesus, presents have become a huge tradition in the UK and we can often find ourselves spending hundreds every year on our loved ones.

In the Victorian era, simple homemade gifts were given at Christmas, such as a Christmas cake, or plum pudding, a doll or items of clothing such as woolen scarves and hats.  For the wealthier families, wooden toys were often gifted to children at Christmas.

Even in the 1960s and 70s, children would typically receive one or two gifts at Christmas. But the footballs or dolls we used to give – feel worlds apart from the games consoles, laptops and phones that children ask for today!

The turkey

For most of us, it really wouldn’t be Christmas without the turkey.

It’s the staple item on the dinner table at Christmas – there’s a lot resting on that turkey being cooked to perfection!

You might be wondering, why turkey?

Turkey was first brought to the UK in the 16th century by Yorkshireman William Strickland, and was enjoyed by the likes of Henry VIII and Edward VII, who went on to make turkey fashionable to eat at Christmas.

Until the 1950s, turkey was actually considered a luxury meat and only over the last 60 years has turkey become the mainstream option for British households at Christmas.  It’s been said that turkey’s popularity as the preferred meat for Christmas dinner may be due to it’s larger size for a family dinner and its affordability.

Previous to this, roast goose or beef was the preferred meat for Christmas dinner.

Mince pies

Enjoyed with a warm cuppa, or a glass of festive sherry, the mince pie has undoubtedly become one of Britain’s favourite festive treats.

We’re sure that many of us have wondered whether there’s actually meat in them or not, but back in the 17th century, these small pastry parcels were actually filled with the likes of mutton and rabbit, mixed with dried fruits, alcohol and spices.

Once known as ‘Christmas pies’ and ‘crib cakes’, it wasn’t until the 19th century that mince pies began to get sweeter due to an arrival of cheap sugar from the West Indies. Recipes evolved over time until meat was no longer an ingredient in the pies, giving us the mince pies that we love (or hate!) today.

Crackers

“What does Santa call his blind reindeer?” No-eye-deer!”

From the terrible dad jokes to the flimsy paper hat and plastic toy you get inside, crackers have been providing families with dinner table entertainment since the late 1840s.

Created by London sweet-maker, Tom Smith, it wasn’t until he figured out how to create the ‘crack’ sound when the crackers were pulled apart did they really take off.  Following a night sat by the fire, Smith was inspired by the mesmerising crackling sound and wanted to incorporate this into his crackers.

Originally filled with sweets and a riddle, it was Smith’s sons that later introduced the toys and hats. Crackers have since evolved into a variety of types, ranging from the classic crackers Smith’s family would be proud of, to luxury crackers filled with more expensive items such as silverware, cufflinks and egg cups.

The tree

It’s not Christmas without the ritual of putting the tree up.

With squabbles over which decorations go where, and the stress of untangling the fairy lights, the glass of your favourite tipple and Christmas movie on in the background are all part of the fun.

Now an integral part of British households, it’s said that the tradition of Christmas trees originally came from Germany, after a German man, Martin Luther, wanted to show his children what the stars in the forest looked like at night.

Christmas trees became popular in the UK during Queen Victoria’s reign back in the 19th century after Prince Albert brought the first Christmas tree and set it up at Windsor Castle.

Popular publications such as Illustrated London News, Cassell’s Magazine and The Graphic began publishing images of the decorated Christmas trees and as such, the trend took off for families to put their very own trees up at home.

The Queen’s speech

Picture this: it’s Christmas Day and the dinner has been devoured. Everyone has gathered on the sofa at 3pm to begin the Christmas TV marathon, starting with the Queen’s speech. It’s a memory we all know well.

A tradition that dates back to 1932, the first ‘Royal Christmas address’ as it’s officially known, was written by Rudyard Kipling and delivered by the Queen’s grandfather, King George V.

Since 1952, the Queen has given a speech on Christmas Day every year, apart from 1969 when she chose to send a written Christmas message instead. The Royal Family had received a surge in publicity that year following the release of a special documentary film, and so the Queen felt it would be more appropriate to issue her speech in writing.

The speech has become an important part of Christmas Day for many, and is even watched by millions of people around the world!

What are your family Christmas traditions? Let us know on Facebook!