Traditional Christmas Greeting: "Merry Christmas"
Tree Type: Traditional/Cultural Tree

Decorations:

  • Christmas Crackers
  • Christmas Boxes
  • Toy Soldiers

Traditional: The sugar mice are a traditional treat. These mice came from England in a most unusual way. The woman who decorated the museum tree found herself on a talk show in London and made an appeal for donated sugar mice and to her surprise she received over 100 mice that are on the museum tree.

The Christmas tree did not come to England until 1841 when Prince Albert had a Christmas Tree brought in and decorated in Windsor Castle for his wife Queen Victoria and their children. The tradition caught on. Throughout the United Kingdom, December 26th Boxing Day or St. Stephen's day signals the beginning of the 12 days of Christmas. On December 26th the alms or poor boxes were traditionally opened and the funds were distributed to the poor. It is also the day that servants are given off to celebrate Christmas with their families. Also on this day working people would open up their tip boxes. For the next twelve days there are parties, pantomime shows (children's plays-musicals about well-know fairy tales. Audience participation is greatly encouraged) and other types of entertainment which ends on January 6th.

The first known Christmas card was mailed in the 1840's in England. Most of the Christmas traditions we practice today actually had their roots in nineteenth century Victorian England. Charles Dickens might be considered responsible for planting these ideals in America through his writings-especially A Christmas Carol.

In England Santa is called Father Christmas. Father Christmas is a descendant of an ancient pagan spirit (Hern) who appeared in the mummer's plays. He has long, white hair and beard and he dresses in a long green or red robe that is decorated with Holly, Ivy and Mistletoe. On his head he wears a wreath made of the same plants. Legend states that Father Christmas originally dropped coins down the chimneys and that the coins would be lost if there were no stockings hung up on the mantle or at the edge of the bed. Children send letters to Father Christmas by burning them up in the fireplace. It is thought that the requests are carried to Father Christmas in the smoke. On Christmas Eve it is traditional to leave a carrot out for the reindeer and mince pies, brandy or other warming drinks for Father Christmas. On Christmas morning, the children will open gifts from their stockings and later the presents under the tree are open.

On the Christmas dinner table are noisemakers called crackers. Tom Smith invented these traditional favors in 1850, as a way of selling more of his confections. Crackers are wrapped in fancy paper at each end there are pull-tabs. When the tabs are pulled a loud noise or crack with some sparks is produced. Inside the cracker there may be a paper hat, a toy and some candy. In most English homes when the crackers are open, you must put on the hat and enjoy the contents of the cracker.