Access key links:
Christmas Day is celebrated in the United Kingdom on December 25. It traditionally celebrates Jesus Christ's birth but many aspects of this holiday have pagan origins. Christmas is a time for many people to give and receive gifts and prepare special festive meals.
Prior to Christmas Day, people decorate their homes and gardens prior to Christmas Day. These decorations may include:
In many towns and cities, the shopping streets are also decorated with lights and large pine trees, often specially imported from Norway. In some places a Nativity scene is arranged. This illustrates the story of Jesus' birth using statues or actors and live animals. Many churches hold special services in the night before Christmas Day.
Many people spend Christmas Day with family members, with whom they exchange gifts and cards. Many children wake up to find a sock or stocking filled with small gifts on their bed or somewhere else in the house. These have supposedly been brought by a mythical figure called 'Father Christmas' or 'Santa Claus', who lives for most of the year at the North Pole. He travels in a sleigh pulled by reindeer and enters houses by climbing down the chimney. He hopes to enjoy a small snack of mince pies and brandy at each house. He supposedly travels so fast that he can deliver presents to all children in one night, although some in some stories elves help him with his work.
Later in the day, people may attend special church services, even if they do not usually go to church. Nearly everyone prepares and eats a special meal. This often includes roast turkey, potatoes and parsnips, and other vegetables. After the main course, Christmas pudding is often eaten. This is a heavy steamed, dense, cake-like pudding filled with dried fruit and nuts. Burning brandy is often poured over it as it is served, giving a spectacular effect. Mince pies are also popular on Christmas Day. They are sweet pastry cases filled with a mixture of dried fruit, fat and alcohol.
Nearly all organizations, except hospitals and shelters for the homeless, are closed on Christmas Day. Some public houses and smaller stores selling food may open for a few hours in the middle of the day. Public transport services do not run to their normal timetables and may even not run at all. Public life closes down almost totally on Christmas Day.
Many churches hold special services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Some also organize shelter, company and food for the homeless or those who need help. Others hold events for people who wish to return to the spiritual aspects of Christmas and turn away from the commercial aspects of modern Christmas celebrations.
Christmas Day is often seen as the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem over two thousand years ago. However, many aspects of the celebration have their origins in the Pagan traditions of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. These include bringing pieces of evergreen trees into homes, lighting fires, holding parties and eating special foods. When missionaries converted the inhabitants of these countries to Christianity, many of these customs were included in the Christian celebrations.
There are many Christmas symbols. These include leaves and berries from the holly tree and mistletoe bush, pine trees, candles and small lights. Figures associated with the season are Father Christmas or Santa Claus, the baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the other characters from the Nativity story. Presents and Christmas food, such as turkey, Christmas pudding and mince pies also symbolize Christmas. A special mention should be reserved for the robin red breast. This small bird, with its red feathered breast, is at its most beautiful in the middle of the winter and is often seen as a decoration on Christmas cards, wrapping paper and cakes.