Language Arts, Reading, Social Studies, World History
Grade 3- 5
Students will learn about the Christmas customs in Great Britain.
Happy Christmas! is the traditional English Christmas greeting. Many of the most popular Christmas customs in the world today come from Great Britain. For example, the Christmas card originated in England, and some think that school children were the first to send them. Away from home attending school, they would make and send beautiful cards informing their parents of their progress and hinting that gift-giving season was near. The first Christmas card was printed in England in 1843, and its popularity grew.
"Wassailing" is also a British custom. Groups of people walk up and down the streets of their neighborhoods at Christmastime singing carols while sipping a hot punch-like drink. The children in the group hope to receive treats while they sing. Wassail means "be in good health," and when a group of people drink wassail together, all quarreling is supposed to end. Wassailing takes place most commonly during the twelve days of Christmas (between Christmas and January 6). Traditionally, this whole period is a time of great revelry.
"Mumming" is another English tradition. People dress in costumes and masks to put on Christmas plays throughout the holiday season. Sometimes Father Christmas joins in the festivities, too.
Before the English have their Christmas feast, they pull open Christmas "crackers." These are paper cylinders filled with small prizes and riddles. They make a noisy cracking sound when opened. Sometimes they include paper hats which are to be worn around the holiday dinner table.
After dinner, the family goes to a sitting room to tell ghost stories or "Christmas Tales." The most famous tale is Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. There may be a Yule log in the fireplace, although this is not as large as it was many years ago. In many homes today, candles have replaced blazing fires to represent the Star of Bethlehem and the Light of the World.
Boxing Day in England is on December 26. In the past, people rewarded their good servants with gifts of money enclosed inside special boxes that were opened on the day after Christmas. Today, this public holiday is still celebrated, but the "Christmas boxes" are given to community workers such as mail carriers.