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Christmas Traditions: Where they Began

There are huge numbers of traditions that we observe over the Christmas period – but how much do you really know about their origins? The dawning of some traditions is quite surprising: read on to find out why we eat mince pies, the history of pulling crackers at the Christmas table and more…

1. Stuffing your stockings…
This tradition goes right back to the 4th century, to the days of Saint Nicholas who was known for giving gifts to the poor. One day, he posted bags of gold coins down the chimney of a man who had no dowry to marry off his daughters, and the coins fell into stockings that were hung on the fireplace to dry.

2. Munching on mince pies…
Did you know that the original mince pie wasn’t sweet, but savoury? Up until Victorian times, it was filled with meat, fruit and spices – the inspiration coming from Middle Eastern foods that the Crusaders had discovered. Originally, mince pies were oval-shaped to symbolise the manger in which the baby Jesus lay, and they contained thirteen ingredients which represented Christ and his twelve apostles.
3. Christmas gone crackers…
It was in the 1840s that the first Christmas crackers were made by Tom Smith, who was a sweet-maker who lived and worked in London. His inspiration came from French bonbons which were wrapped in paper and he included riddles or mottos in each. They didn’t take off in popularity, though, until he found a way to make them “crack” – and it was Smith’s sons who added novelty gifts and paper hats further down the line.
4. Tucking into turkey…
A golden turkey is a common sight on most Christmas tables…but where did its link to Christmas come about? The first turkeys were bred in Mexico, and it was William Strickland who brought them to British shores in 1526. When it first arrived in the UK, it was a bird eaten only by the upper classes, with Henry VIII being a huge fan. It wasn’t until the 19th century that it became popular amongst the middle classes at Christmas, and this was all thanks to King Edward VII.
5. Carousing with carols…
Christmas carols originally had no religious significance – quite the opposite, in fact! It was thousands of years ago that they first appeared in Europe. Sung as pagan songs, and normally at Winter Solstice celebrations, the Christians adopted these songs of praise and joy when they began to celebrate Christmas at the time of the Solstice celebrations, but new songs were written with Christian messages. The very first Christmas carols were sung in Latin but over the years they grew in popularity, as they were written in people’s native languages – so everyone could actually understand what was being sung!
6. Satisfying Santa
Christmas Eve isn’t Christmas Eve without leaving a mince pie and a glass of something boozy out for Santa – and a carrot or two for his reindeer. This is a tradition that began in the Great Depression of the 1930s in America. There was a lesson behind the gesture: parents wanted to teach children that despite their own economic hardship, it was important to give to others wherever possible, and to show how grateful they were for the gifts that they received at Christmas.


Another Christmas tradition that is of great significance: you should never drink and drive! It isn’t just your life you are risking when you get behind the wheel under the influence!

Tis the season to be jolly and H&H Van Hire has a selection of self-drive minibus solutions that would be perfect for all your Christmas celebrations – choose a designated driver for the night so that everyone can look forward to a safe journey home.

H&H Van Hire would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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