The History of Christmas Tradition: Magical Solstice, Practical Turkeys & Unusual Boxing Days

We all know how Christmas came to be one of the most wonderful times of the year.

Many of us will be putting our nativity scenes up and topping our trees with angels in a matter of weeks in recognition of where Christmas all began, and, no matter how much all children look forward to ripping open their presents on Christmas morning, the true origins ring true amongst the food, gifts and general merriness of Christmas day.

We know why Christmas is a magical day, but do you know why we munch our way through turkey, adorn our homes with luxury Christmas trees and pull crackers on Christmas day?

We’re talking about those strange yet wonderful traditions we follow every year without really knowing where they come from! The concept of bringing an evergreen into our homes at Christmas is certainly strange, but most Christmas homes just wouldn’t seem right without a tree now!

So here are those wacky traditions we just couldn’t do without in all their historical glory. Ever wondered why we opt for turkey over lobster at Christmas time? Wonder no more!

The Christmas Turkey

As you may know, the Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving (always held on the 4th Thursday of November) and the origins behind this one are apparently very simple: there were lots of wild turkeys around when the Pilgrim fathers and Wampanoag tribe shared the autumn harvest, so they ate them! A little like finding a reduced fruit salad in the fridge at Tesco, if it’s there it’d be rude not to!

The traditional UK Christmas turkey has similarly practical origins and while some claim that goose (or boar’s head) is the traditional fowl (cited in the song ‘Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat...’), others claim that Turkey was the original Christmas meat. We’re inclined to believe that after centuries of feasting on goose or boar, the turkey was introduced into England in 1526 by the trader William Strickland. Because of the birds’ succulent flavour and size it quickly became the centrepiece of Christmas dinner.

The Christmas Tree

Ah the Christmas tree, we love them because they look wonderful, but did you know their origins had an important meaning for people even before Christianity?

Ancient people assigned a special significance to evergreen trees because of the fact they stayed lush and live all year round.
Many people celebrated the solstice (the shortest day of the year landing on either 21st or 22nd December) as a sign that the sun God was returning after being weak and sick. They would decorate their homes with evergreens to signify that the harvest would be returning soon. Such traditions were prevalent all over the world, however it is the Germans who are widely thought to have popularised the modern day tree.

Boxing Day

Signifying the start of the Next sale for some, Boxing Day is actually the first weekday after Christmas – we just always celebrate it on the 26th December instead. Most assume the day may be to do with the sport, but ‘boxing’ actually refers to the day when bosses would bestow gifts, food and money on their servants and tradesmen – known as ‘Christmas Boxes’. Given that many working class people had to wait on their masters on Christmas day, boxing day was also a day when they were allowed time off work to visit their families.

Are there any more Christmas traditions you'd like to know the meaning behind? Let us know on Facebook and we'll do our best to oblige! On a separate note have you got your artificial Christmas tree yet? We've got pre-lit Christmas trees, black trees, white trees and trees of all sizes - take a look before you go!


Pre-Christmas wishes,

Christmas Tree World

Leave a Comment