Christmas traditions in the UK date back mainly to Victorian times. I hope you all had a wonderful day yesterday. Its Boxing Day and still a public holiday today in the UK and some commonwealth countries, the reason for which I’ve explained a bit below.

Boxing Day got its name when Queen Victoria was on the throne in the 1800s and has nothing to do with the sport of boxing.

The name comes from a time when the rich used to box up gifts to give to the poor. Boxing Day was traditionally a day off for servants, and the day when they received a special Christmas box from their masters. The servants would also go home on Boxing Day to give Christmas boxes to their families.

Christmas traditions
Christmas traditions

Christmas Traditions

The day also has religious connections and is celebrated as Saint Stephen’s Day in Ireland and the Catalonia region of Spain. In some European countries – such as Hungary, Germany, Poland, and the Netherlands – Boxing Day is celebrated as a second Christmas Day.

Collection money

Churches also played a part in the creation of Boxing Day. Through the year they would take money from churchgoers in the form of a collection and hand it out at Christmas. Many of them stored the collection money in a box, which they opened on Christmas Day. The money was then handed out to the poor the next day – on Boxing Day. Today, those boxes aren’t as popular. However some people leave out extra money for people like paper boys and girls in the weeks before Christmas, and call it a Christmas box.

Mostly here in the UK our Christmas tradition is to eat a big roast lunch on Christmas Day, not unlike the turkey feast on Thanksgiving in the US. I nuked a turkey with garlic, stuffing and bacon, and had it with Brussels sprouts, roast potatoes and carrots and in a nod to my Australian side, some roast pumpkin in its skin and sweet potato. After we have Christmas pudding or mince pies – more info below –

Where do mince pies come from?

Filled with a mixture of dried fruits and spices called ‘mincemeat’, mince pie ingredients can be traced back to the 13th century. Returning crusaders brought with them Middle Eastern recipes that contained meats, fruits and spices. However, the pies themselves are a British invention. Mincemeat developed as a way of preserving meat without salting or smoking 500 years ago. The filling comes from the medieval tradition of spiced meat dishes, usually minced mutton.

Why are mince pies called mince pies?

Mince pies were originally known as ‘minched pie’ ‘mutton pie’, ‘shrid pie’ and ‘Christmas pie’. Today, we are accustomed to eating mince pies as a dessert or a sweet treat, but mince pies began as a main course dish with which contained minced meat and fruit. As fruits and spices became more plentiful in the 17th century, the spiciness of the pies increased.

These savoury pies were associated with Catholicism and during the English Civil War, Puritans frowned upon them.The Puritans didn’t deter anyone from eating them though and it continued through to the Victorian era. During this time they became sweeter and shrunk in size from the large oblong shape they were originally.

Though I’ve lived extensively outside the UK for almost all my adult life I still love the traditions from when I was a kid and one year in Australia, even though it was 40 degrees C outside I still cooked a roast dinner and we ate it in my daughters paddling pool to keep cool ! Feel free to comment on some of your favourite family Christmas traditions over the holiday period, or what you do if you spend Christmas alone. I’m not a Christian so sometimes I feel maybe I shouldn’t embrace this time of year, but I think as long as you are loved and feel love you can enjoy this time as a time of relaxation. Here’s some more light reading for you on what we get up to in the UK.