The traditions of Christmas

Every year in December Christians celebrate the birthday of Jesus Christ. That is why it is called Christmas (Christ's
Mass). The first Christmas was about in 360 AD but the Christian Church fixed this day of 25 December in 440 AD.

CHRISTMAS EVE is on the 24th of December. In England this is the day for decorating. In the evening friends and families sometimes go around in the neighbourhood and sing Christmas songs - carols - for some egg-nog or hot drinks. Children hang their stockings on the mantelpiece at the fireplace because Father Christmas (Santa Claus in the USA) will come and fill them with presents. English Children also leave some cookies and Brandy for Father Christmas and some carrots for the reindeer. Then they go to sleep and find the presents next morning.

Father Christmas is a jolly old man with white hair, a beard and a moustache. Nowadays he wears red coat but long ago he had a green or white one. On the 24th of December he puts all the toys and presents into his sleigh and rides across the sky with his reindeer. Then
Father Christmas stops on the housetops, comes down through the chimney at midnight and puts the presents in the stockings near the fireplace or under the Christmas Tree.

On the 25th of December it is CHRISTMAS DAY. Children wake up very early in the morning and find the
presents that Father Christmas left for them. The family usually opens the presents together. In the afternoon at three o'clock the English Queen gives her Christmas Message to everyone on TV and radio. Then the families celebrate with a big Christmas dinner with turkey and christmas pudding.

Christmas crackers are very popular on Christmas Day. It is a paper tube with some small presents inside: a paper hat, sweets, a joke and a small gift. Two children pull it at the two sides and when it snaps in half it goes: Bang!

BOXING DAY is on the 26th of December. Long ago on this day the richer people boxed up the leftover food and gave it to the poor people. This was the day for giving presents and extra money for the servants as well. Today English families travel and visit the relatives if they couldn't spend the Christmas Day together. This is a day for playing sports and board games. Traditionally this is the first day of Christmas.

English people have TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS: 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 December and 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 January. On these days you mustn't work (except for looking for animals). People usually visit the neighbours to eat some mince pie. The 6th of January is the time to take the decorations down
and the end of Christmas holidays.