xmas traditions

What Christmas rituals could you not do without?

Christmas is coming, but it means something different to each and every one of us. For some of us it is a significant religious event that celebrates love and hope. For others it is simply a great opportunity to have fun and party. And yet others would rather avoid it altogether.

But whatever Christmas means to you, there are bound to be a variety of rituals involved. Things that you do every Christmas. Just because it’s Christmas. None of these are right or wrong, just different for everybody.

So in this article we take a fun look at a few Christmas rituals that some of us simply can’t do without!


Christmas Eve boxes

This tradition originated in Germany but has snuck over here in the last few years. And if you take it on board it means yet more Christmas shopping! 

The idea is to exchange boxes of small but meaningful Christmas gifts on Christmas Eve, ahead of the main event the following day. Typical gifts include ingredients for a cosy evening, such as a Christmas DVD, pyjamas, slippers, sweet treats, hot chocolate or alcohol.

People in Iceland have made a major tradition of this known as Jolabokaflod. Literally translated as “the Christmas Book Flood” it involves gifting books to those you love then settling down to read them together. 


Christmas Eve dinner

Talking of Christmas Eve, when do you have your Christmas dinner? The usual tradition in the UK is on Christmas Day, but some people prefer it on Christmas Eve. This is in keeping with many European countries such as Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Poland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Sweden.

Having Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve enables you then to enjoy Christmas Day in a more leisurely fashion without all the focus being on the food. Perhaps it’s worth considering this year? Or another option – particularly for families where someone is working Christmas Day – is to have the dinner on Boxing Day instead.


Leaving a treat for Santa

Children may wonder how Santa gets down the chimney, particularly if their home doesn’t have one! But somehow the Ho Ho Ho man always finds a way. And he needs a snack to keep his strength up. But what should that snack be? Different people do it in different ways. 

American families tend to leave him milk and cookies, whereas in Australia the milk is upgraded to beer. In the UK, one of the most popular combinations is sherry and a mince pie. And many of us also leave Rudolf something too, the most popular being a carrot. 

Whatever you leave for Santa, you can be sure it will always be gone in the morning.


Where does Santa leave the presents?

Exchanging Christmas presents is another important Christmas ritual. But where do you put them? And if Santa is involved in the process too, where does he leave them? 

Many families adopt the tradition of leaving their own presents under the tree. And sometimes Santa decides to do this too. But if children have stockings hanging up in the home, perhaps even at the end of their beds, he will twig that that’s where they want the presents leaving. And if a stocking is not going to be big enough, some parents put out sacks to make the process easier.

There’s also the issue of whether Santa’s presents are wrapped or unwrapped. Wrapping will take his helpers extra time, but some children just love to rip those wrappings off. But other families prefer Santa to leave his gifts unwrapped so that children can see straight away what the gift is. Which, let’s face it, saves the elves a lot of time and wrapping paper.

But, whatever you decide in terms of wrapping materials and gift location, Santa will magically know what to do!


Midnight Mass

In parallel with Santa’s present deliveries, many people love to go to Midnight Mass. Even if you are not regular churchgoers, there is something very special – almost magical – about the midnight service. The word Mass implies it is a catholic tradition, but Christian churches across all denominations include a midnight service in their Christmas offerings.

So if you fancy a bit of fresh air, company, and good old-fashioned carol singing to see in Christmas Day, look around for a midnight service near you and see for yourself just why this is a must-have ritual for so many people.


Christmas jumpers

This is another ritual that has gradually crept up on us. Christmas jumpers originated in Norway in the 15th century for very practical reasons. The patterned jumpers were made by women from sheep’s wool in order to keep the whole family warm during the winter season. During the 20th century they began to become more mainstream, particularly amongst the skiing community. But then the trend was picked up by celebrities of the day – including Ingrid Bergman, Clark Gable and Gary Cooper – and fans began to knit their own versions of the jumpers.

Their popularity grew further in the 1980’s onwards, when different types of yarns became more widely available. By the early 2000’s – particularly with the appearance of Colin Firth in a reindeer jumper in the first Bridget Jones movie – they became an essential part of Christmas for many people.


The King’s Christmas broadcast

It can still feel strange to say King instead of Queen. Particularly at Christmas, as Queen Elizabeth II made 69 Christmas broadcasts during her reign. The only year she missed was 1969, when she sent a written message instead. As well as reflecting what Christmas means to them, the monarch refers to global and national events of current concern.

For many people, the Christmas Broadcast – which was started by George V in 1932 – is a vital part of Christmas Day celebrations for many in Britain and around the world. So 3:00pm on Christmas Day is a sacrosanct time for many households, and everything else has to stop for the Christmas broadcast.



Love them or hate them, Christmas would not be Christmas without a pantomime. Oh no it wouldn’t! 

The concept of pantomime is thought to date back to Roman times, where comedies such as Lysistrata featured plenty of slapstick humour and silly jokes. Contemporary pantomimes are a blend of traditional fairy tales, pop culture and drag, with a liberal helping of adult humour thrown in.

Many people insist on including a pantomime in their Christmas celebrations, even long after the kids have left home. So if you’ve not been to one for years, maybe 2023 is the time to give it another try?


We hope that this article has been a fun reminder of how different people celebrate Christmas. And perhaps you might even decide to adopt some of the above rituals into your own Christmas celebrations this year!

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