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Christmas through the ages

Presents under the tree, roast turkey, jokes from crackers, and the Queen’s speech – there are elements that we recognise as a traditional Christmas Day whether we follow them all or not. As times change, we take a look at the traditions that have evolved, and the new ones we’ve embraced.

Christmas trees

What would Christmas be without our brightly lit and decorated tree? The custom of bringing a tree into the house in Britain is often accredited to Prince Albert, however, Queen Victoria actually grew up with this tradition and mentioned it in her childhood diary. It was certainly Albert’s love of the tree that made it so popular that the custom spread beyond the royal family and into nearly every home in Britain.

We just love the fragrance of a real tree for creating a festive atmosphere! You’ll find a British-grown, sustainable, fir tree from the Forestry Commission in your cabin if you’re staying with us this Christmas, complete with some natural, rustic decorations all ready for an afternoon of tree decorating. You don’t have to stop there though – the forest is a great source of festive decorations to bring natural cheer to your Christmas. Read our how-to guide here.

Advent Calendars

Today, Christmas still incorporates many old traditions but often with a modern twist. The advent calendar is one example. 

Paper advent calendars have been used since the 1900’s, with chocolate calendars first appearing around 1950. Today the choice of calendar is huge, many with gifts behind each door. 

Creating your own advent calendar is a wonderful and simple family tradition to start in your home. Hang 24 little gift sacks from ribbon and put a chocolate or small toy in each one for a fun surprise each morning.

Mince Pies

Who doesn’t love a mince pie, topped with lashings of cream? Our tasty sweet treat has changed over the years though. Back in the 13th Century the mince pie was made with meat and spices, influenced by Middle Eastern cuisine. By Victorian times, the pie had become similar to the sweet treat we love today. 

Children in the UK usually leave a mince pie out for Father Christmas on Christmas Eve – often along with a sherry to warm his bones after his long flight – a tradition of its own that seems to have begun in the last century.

Yule logs

The Yule log was a large wood log (some say a whole tree) that was burnt over the 12 days of Christmas. Although there are a number of variations to the tradition, the common feature was that the log was kept lit for the full festive period, and a small remnant would be kept in the house for luck, before being used to light the Yule log the following year. 

Few homes still follow this tradition, perhaps because traditional hearths have been replaced by central heating. However, as log burners grow in popularity, perhaps this is one tradition you could bring back to your home.

The Kissing Bough/Mistletoe

Another tradition that has evolved over time, the kissing bough was a ball made from weaving twigs of ash, hazel, and willow together. Households would decorate their bough with evergreen leaves, holly, and mistletoe, and a candle was placed in the centre. Visitors to the house would be greeted under the bough to show goodwill, leading to the custom of kissing under the mistletoe that we have today. 

Why not make your own? A traditional kissing bough can be a beautiful centre piece to the festive decorations, decorated with pine cones from the forest. 

Creating your own family traditions

Christmas is a magical time for families, and nothing makes it more special than personal family traditions. Here are five ideas we love… 

• 1. Sending a letter to Santa isn’t a new idea but it doesn’t have to go by post. Put Magic Dust on the fire to change the colour of the flames. Then when your child places their letter on the fire they’ll know it’s flown right up the chimney and is on its way to the North Pole. 

• 2. Cover the doorway to the living room with wrapping paper before you go to bed. Little ones can smash their way into the living room to see if Santa has been on Christmas morning. 

• 3. Choose a new Christmas ornament every year with your family to hang on the tree. When children they have their own home, they’ll have a set of decorations to take with them and the memories will come flooding back each Christmas!

• 4. Go to bed each Christmas Eve in brand new Christmas pyjamas and fresh Christmas bedding for a good night’s sleep.

• 5. Create a reverse advent calendar. Place an item of food in a box each day, and donate it to a food bank on Christmas Eve, helping another family have a lovely Christmas meal. 

New Christmas rituals seem to be springing up all the time, such as Elf on the Shelf or open-air skating. But will they stand the test of time to become a tradition, or disappear into the trends of yester-year?  

If you would like to get away from the hustle and bustle for a peaceful family Christmas, try a cosy cabin in the embrace of the winter forest. Presents under the tree, a glass of bubbly by the log burner, and plenty of room for the whole family to join you for Christmas dinner!

It’s a wonderful way to get the whole family together at Christmas without squeezing into your home. Book your Christmas adventure now. It could be the start of a whole new tradition!

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