Christmas habits and activities differ across the globe, and in the UK many have lasted for generations with little variation. However, for some people, things might be a bit different…
The majority of UK Christmas traditions are pretty standard – such as having Christmas trees, visits from Father Christmas, eating mince pies, pulling crackers and so on. But increasingly it seems as though families are adding their own unusual Christmas traditions to the festive season.
We spoke to some of our more excitable readers about the special things they get up to for Christmas.
We have Olympic games! Michelle, 37, Northampton
“My family are a competitive lot, and as such we have our Christmas Olympic Games, complete with a ‘cup’ (an old trophy), which the winner gets to hold onto for the year. As children, we’d get the novelty of keeping the cup in our room, but now we’re all grown up with our own families, we keep the cup in our homes. We also play the games in our little family units, otherwise there’d be arguments about who gets the cup! For individual games, we win a chocolate from the Quality Street tin, but the overall winning team gets the cup.
“We play various games, from monopoly and charades to football and beer pong. It’s chaotic, and there are many arguments, but it’s part of the fun. We used to keep note of our scores on the back of wrapping paper when we were kids, but we have a proper template now which we print out each year, which includes the team names, games, scores, and overall winner. We keep them in a folder in the loft with our Christmas bits.
“It would be great if the next generations kept it going!”
We hide the presents! Keith, 46, East Anglia
“It started off as a joke, but it’s now become tradition. When my brothers and I were kids, we’d try and think of obscure places to hide each other’s main presents. This soon got boring, as we’d exhausted every decent hiding place in the house, so we started thinking of inventive ways to wrap our main presents. I say main presents, because we don’t have the time to wrap every single present in this way, so we just do the big one.
“Our parents are now involved, and I even do it to my nieces and nephew, who have started thinking of their own ways to get me back. We’ve done everything from cable ties and padlocks, to freezing the present (in a waterproof bag inside a tub of water) that the recipient has to pick or smash out of the ice.
“It makes us laugh every year. We always think we’ll run out of ideas for the next Christmas, but I suppose having a full 52 weeks in between gives us enough time to use our imagination.”
I’ve turned into my parents! Daniel, 52, Coventry
“The most rebellious thing I’ve done is stick with tradition! I never thought I would. As children, we always had to wait until after the Queen’s Speech to open our presents. Our grandparents did this with my parents, who carried on the tradition with us. It always felt so Victorian.
“As a child I really found it hard to wait, and vowed not to make my children do the same thing. But since becoming a father my position has changed. I see other people’s children getting up at 6am and opening their presents and it all looks exciting, but then it’s all over. It feels nice to instill family traditions and values, and keep them going. I won’t be upset if my children don’t wish to do it with their families, but it would nice if they kept the tradition alive.
“It’s also nice that Christmas Day doesn’t feel ‘over’ by lunch time, when all presents are open and all food has been eaten. It makes each part of the day feel exciting.”
Christmas dinner is a group effort! Dawn, 62, Gloucester
“We have a tradition that’s been around for a few generations. Each year, a different person hosts Christmas dinner. This happens as soon as the children in the family are grown up and have moved out. Everyone takes it in turns, so we all have to do our bit. This isn’t too strange, but we also have a rule. Every single person has to bring something in terms of food. So for example, someone may bring carrots, someone will do the potatoes, someone will bring a pudding, and so on.
“At the beginning of December, that year’s host will send out a list of everything they’ll need, and the rest of the family pick something to do. Obviously we have ways of making sure no one brings the same thing. There are no rules surrounding the actual items; if someone has signed up to do the carrots this year, they can prepare the carrots however they like: chopped, sliced, boiled, steamed, roasted, honey-glazed, skin on, skin off…
“This means no two Christmas dinners are the same, and everyone gets to have a bit of fun with it. Even the children of the family are involved (with adult supervision of course). I picked the short straw this year, so I’m stuck with sprouts.”
We wear fancy dress! Dave, 53, Carlisle
“It’s actually a new tradition, born just last year out of the dire situation of the pandemic. We wear fancy dress to dinner. It started because we wanted to make Christmas a bit different. It had been a depressing year, we were all so looking forward to having a bit of normality, and then we decided, no. We don’t want to settle for normal. So we decided to get out of our pjs, and dress up for our Christmas day!
“Think Halloween, except you’re not limited to scary costumes. My youngest son had a full lobster outfit, my wife went as an elf, my daughter as a fairy, my eldest son as Bob Ross, and myself as rabbit. This year, we’re keeping it secret what our costumes are. We’re going to surprise each other on the day when we come out of our rooms all dressed up! The funniest part is that they don’t have to be Christmas-related, though I think someone is going as Santa… I found the white beard. It would be lovely if our children maintained this tradition for their own kids when they’ve moved out. It just makes Christmas day a bit different.”