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Now that Halloween is over, the shops in the UK are starting to focus on Christmas and a jolly time for food, shopping and parties.

Food plays a big part of the English Christmas experience. You may feel that all you do is eat for now 6 weeks before the big day. However, that’s not the case and we have some very lovely traditions that perhaps you recognise in your home country too.

However, there are plenty of English traditions that you can take part in that involve ceremonies or decorations.

Holly

We sing a lot about holly during Christmas. It is a prickly plant with bright red berries. It is used to decorate homes, although it is considered to be unlucky to bring the holly into the home before Christmas Eve. It does have significance within old pagan and Christian beliefs. There is a tradition that says that whoever brought it home over Christmas first into the home would be the boss of the home for the next year.

Mistletoe

This is a plant that grows in trees and we hang above doorways at Christmas time. The berries are poisonous to humans, but many animals can eat the berries.

They are known as kissing boughs and is thought to bring good luck although is a sign of love and friendship in Norse mythology. In York, there used to be a ceremony where the wrongdoers of the city could come and be pardoned under the mistletoe.

The mistletoe encourages laughter and kissing whether it be friends or people in love. A little kiss on the cheek is the norm for this tradition. A berry is then picked off the mistletoe and once all of the berries have been picked off the kissing must stop!

Christingles

This was originally from the Moravia area, but found its way to the UK. It is a fast fading tradition to make the Christingles, but there are a small number of people trying to keep it alive. It is a tradition that is more for children’s enjoyment.

It is made from an orange with a candle stuck in the top and four sticks with fruit and nuts skewered onto it. Around the orange is a red ribbon. Children will hold these while they sing at Christmas carol festivals.

This is a lovely little tradition to include children in the Christmas festivities.

Christmas Trees

These were introduced to the UK in the 1800s by Queen Victoria’s German husband, Albert although they were originally thought to originate from the Baltics. Decorating the tree is a matter of personal taste. Some people like many colours, others like more traditional colours like red and gold. Some people like to use a very elaborate tree, whereas other people are happy to go cheap and cheerful. You might notice that some families have one designated tree decorator and woe betide anyone who touches their tree!

Depending on convenience, some families will have a fake tree and others will have a real one. In centrally heated homes, the needles will fall quickly and many don’t have the patience to keep clearing up needles – hence the fake tree!

You do not need to decorate the Christmas tree with chocolate and gingerbread men, admittedly they do look nice!