English Christmas Traditions for a December Wedding

English Christmas Traditions for a December Wedding

Many of the Christmas traditions that we celebrate here in the United States started centuries ago in England.  In this post I will discuss some of those traditions and ways to incorporate them into a December wedding during the holiday season. 

Christmas Cards

The tradition of Christmas cards started in England when children would often write letters to Father Christmas with their wishes for toys or other items.  Traditionally, these letters would be “delivered” to Father Christmas by putting them in the fireplace so that the ashes from the burnt letters would fly up the chimney because (as everyone knows, right?) Father Christmas can read the messages in the smoke!!  Since the Victorian times, sending Christmas cards in England has become a very important tradition and a wonderful way to send “Happy Christmas” wishes to family and friends.  English families would make their own Christmas cards to send and the ones that were received were often used as decorations within the home during the holiday season and displayed on fireplace mantles or shelves located near the Christmas tree.

Today, children in the United States have been known to sometimes mail their Christmas requests to Santa Claus in the North Pole.  Of course, there are other ways to get a message to Santa, sometimes children wait to give Santa their gift wish lists when they go to have their picture taken with him at the mall or sometimes they will write a special letter to him on Christmas Eve with their list and set it out with a plate a cookies and glass of milk for him and a couple of carrots for the reindeer.  (Magically, I have been able to save these letters to Santa that my children have written over the years!)

December wedding idea –

In regards to incorporating the idea of Christmas Cards into a December wedding would be to send invitations with a beautiful winter scene, as shown in the photo below. 

This second example shown below has a very clever wording

For the bride and groom’s first Christmas, they could send out a special Christmas card maybe enclosing their engagement or wedding photo.  I would suggest that they could keep one card for every year that they send out their Christmas cards.  Gathers the cards into a special box or another idea for a home decoration would be to display them as a framed collage which could be used every year for the holiday season.

Christmas dinner

In England, on Christmas day a special meal is served usually in the afternoon.  Traditionally, the meal consists of a roasted goose, duck or pheasant.  Side dishes could possibly include cranberry sauce or currant jelly, potatoes, brussel sprouts or parsnips and for dessert a Christmas pudding or English trifle.  This meal is very similar to one served to the British Royal Family when they gather together at Sandringham in Norfolk to celebrate during the holiday season.  (For more information regarding the traditions associated with the annual British Royal Family Christmas at Sandringham, please clink on the link)

A traditional English Christmas dinner table is usually set with the home’s finest dishes, flatware, glasses and table linens.  Also placed at each of the place settings is a very special item known as a Christmas cracker.  A Christmas cracker is a paper tube filled with three items usually small treats such as a spinning top or simple puzzle, a special joke or humorous limerick and finally a paper crown.  The filled paper tube is then covered with foil that is twisted at both ends to seal.  Traditionally, the crackers are usually opened at the Christmas dinner; each cracker is held between two people and pulled.  As the Christmas cracker is opened there is a small device inside which makes a loud pop sound.  The custom of the English Christmas Cracker is a wonderful idea to add fun and excitement to a Christmas dinner.

December wedding idea –

Any of the dinner entrees and side dishes mentioned above would be delicious to serve at a December wedding reception, turkey or roast beef would be a great alternative if something different than poultry is desired.  Maybe the menu could be served “family style” and all the mea

The guest tables could be decorated beautiful china, silver or gold flatware, crystal stemware and lovely table linens in white, burgundy red or forest green.  (The reason I suggested those colors is that they are less Christmassy than a bright red or green)

The next example shown below is a Christmas cracker

Christmas Tree

The tradition of the Christmas tree became very popular in England when Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria, brought the custom from his native Germany.  Christmas trees during that time where decorated very differently from the ones seen in the United States today.  In Victorian England, Christmas tree were cut from the nearby woods and brought indoors to be decorated with natural items such as nuts, berries, apples or possibly oranges and illuminated with candles clipped to the branches of the tree.

Things have changed considerably over the years, lite candles on Christmas trees have been proven to be a fire hazard and it was determined that cutting down trees was not good for the environment.  Today, artificial Christmas trees have become popular and there are a variety of light styles and colors to string on the trees (our Christmas tree was bought pre-lite so my husband doesn’t have to spend hours un-tangling the lights to put on the tree!)  The decorations for the Christmas tree have also changed throughout the years, during the 1940s-1960s my mother used glass ornaments and shiny silver tinsel and I have been purchasing Hallmark ornaments for over forty years now for our Christmas tree.

December wedding idea –

Simple white light Christmas trees would look lovely flanking a ceremony site or set in a group in the corners of a reception venue, shown below are two examples of Christmas trees used for a wedding reception.  

(For additional inspiration for more decorations for a December wedding winter theme, click on the link to “A Rehearsal Dinner Theme – Harry Potter Yule Ball”)

In keeping with the Christmas tree idea, another item for the bridal couple to purchase is a special First Christmas ornament to hang on their Christmas tree, this would make a great tradition to start and an ornament could be added every year throughout their married life.   

Christmas stockings –

In England, the custom of hanging stockings above the fireplace started centuries ago mainly out of necessity because this was generally the way for the children to dry them overnight.  Of course, Father Christmas used this as an opportunity to leave small presents of fruit, nuts, candy or other small gifts for the good little boys and girls.  Traditionally, on Christmas Eve the children would leave a snack of cookies or small meat pies for Father Christmas near the fireplace.

In the United States, the custom of hanging Christmas stockings is a wonderful tradition to celebrate during the holiday season.  Christmas stockings can be bought in a variety of retail stores and are available in styles ranging from inexpensive simple ones to expensive and elaborate ones.  For those that wish to make their own Christmas stockings they are several sewing patterns available in different styles that could be used to create special ones in fabrics ranging from inexpensive felt and denim material to expensive silk or satin material.  There are also embroidery and needlepoint kits that can be purchased at craft stores that can be used to create custom Christmas stockings.  The gift of a custom Christmas stocking makes a wonderful gift for a child’s first Christmas, my son received one these and I am planning on having it framed.

December wedding idea –

A custom Christmas stocking would make a wonderful gift for a couple’s first Christmas; of course it can be personalized with their names.

Shown below is an example of a stocking hanger

Father Christmas/Santa Claus –

Across the world Santa Claus is known by many different names and in England he goes by the name of Father Christmas, in Ireland it is Daidi na Nollag, in Italy it is Babbo Natale, in Spain it is Papa Noel and in France it is Pere Noel.

In 16th century England, the feast day of Saint Nicholas was no longer celebrated due to King Henry VIII’s break with the Catholic Church centered in Rome.  Centuries later, the Father Christmas character, normally associated with the feast of Saint Nicholas, was revived during the reign of Queen Victoria and generally pictured as a large man wearing a crimson robe lined with fur.

Today in America, the character known by Kris Kringle or more commonly by the name Santa Claus became famous in the 1823 poem, “A Visit From St. Nicholas” and later by an 1897 editorial in the New York Sun newspaper that answered the important question of his existence with the response, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus”.  The popular character which has become a major part of Christmas in the United is usually depicted as a large man with a white beard wearing a red coat trimmed with a white collar and cuffs matching red trousers also trimmed in white and a black leather belt and black leather boots.  The story of Santa Claus was written in the famous 1934 song, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” is said to have a list of children throughout the world, the naughty ones get a piece of coal in their stockings and the nice ones receive wonderful gifts of toys and candy on Christmas Eve.  Santa lives far away in the North Pole and the elves help to make the toys and the presents are loaded onto Santa’s sleigh which is pulled by eight reindeer that fly.

Christmas wedding idea – A wonderful way to end a wedding reception (for old and young guests!) would be the appearance of jolly Santa Claus.  He could give out a candy canes and of course be available for photos.