One of the oldest Christmas customs in Britain is doing up houses and churches with greenery - the symbol of everlasting life two weeks before Christmas day. Holly and ivy are popular plants, as is mistletoe of course - the English custom is to hang mistletoe over the door and any couple that meets underneath must kiss!
The custom of having a Christmas tree became widespread only after Prince Albert, the Consort of Queen Victoria, put one up at Windsor Castle in 1841. He brought the custom from Germany. Since 1947, the Norwegian capital Oslo, has made an annual gift of an immense Christmas tree to the people of London, which stands, brightly lit, in Trafalgar square. Nowadays Christmas trees are decorated with tinsel, tartan ribbons, baubles and twinkling fairy lights. Everything has to be left on the tree until Twelfth Night, which was the end of the Christmas Season.
A traditional Christmas dinner in Britain consists of roast turkey, roast potatoes, and Brussels sprouts, followed by Christmas pudding, Christmas cake and mince pies. Another important feature of the dinner table is Christmas crackers, which contain party hats, jokes, and toys.
For English children the Christmas begins in October. They write their Christmas lists and letters to Santa telling him what gifts they would like. These letters are 'posted' up the chimney or sent to local newspapers, which arrange for Santa to send a reply. Children usually get chocolate Advent calendar. They go to bed early on Christmasí Eve. They leave some milk and a mince pie for Father Christmas, and a carrot for Rudolf. Next morning they rush into their parentsí room and together they go to the living room. There are lots of presents under the tree or in the sacks. However, in the past, presents were not opened until the day after Christmas, hence the name of December 26 - Boxing Day.
The great 19th century novelist Charles Dickens also wrote about Christmas. His 'Christmas Carol' (1843) is about a mean, old man who on the night before Christmas sees ghosts of Christmases past, present and future. He realizes that he has been very unpleasant to people and that no one likes him. He immediately changes and sends gifts to the poor.