Christmas in the United Kingdom
In the UK (or Great Britain), families often celebrate Christmas together, so they can watch each other open their presents!
Most families have a Christmas Tree (or maybe even two!) in their house for Christmas. The decorating of the tree is usually a family occasion, with everyone helping. Christmas Trees were first popularised the UK by Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria. Prince Albert was German, and thought that it would be good to use one of his ways of celebrating Christmas in to England.
Like a lot of countries, Nativity Plays and Carol Services are also very popular at Christmas time. The Church that I go to always has a Carols by Candlelight Service where the church is only lit up by candles. It is a very special service and always makes me feel very Christmassy! Lots of other British churches also have Carols by Candlelight and Christingle services.
Children believe that Father Christmas or Santa Claus leaves presents in stockings or pillow-cases. These are normally hung up by the fire or by the children's beds on Christmas Eve. Children sometimes leave out mince pies and brandy for Father Christmas to eat and drink when he visits them. Now, some people say that a non-alcoholic drink should be left for Santa as he has to drive!
Children write letters to Father Christmas listing their requests, but sometimes instead of putting them in the post, the letters are tossed into the fireplace. The draught carries the letters up the chimney and Father Christmas reads the smoke.
There are some customs that only take place, or were started, in the UK. Wassailing is an old anglo-saxon custom that doesn't take place much today. Boxing Day is a very old custom that started in the UK and is now taken as a holiday in many countries around the world.
In Scotland, some people celebrate New Year's Eve (which is called Hogmanay) more than Christmas! The word Hogmanay comes from a kind of oat cake that was traditionally given to children on New Year's Eve.
Also in Scotland, the first person to set foot in a house in a New Year is thought to have a big effect on the fortunes of the people that live there! Generally strangers are thought to bring good luck. Depending on the area, it may be better to have a dark-haired or fair-haired stranger set foot in the house. This tradition is widely known as 'first footing'. In England it is sometimes said that a stranger coming through the door carrying a lump of coal will bring good luck.
In Scots (a Scottish dialect) Happy/Merry Christmas is 'Blithe Yule'; in Gaelic it's 'Nollaig Chridheil'; and in Welsh (which is spoken in some parts of Wales it's 'Nadolig Llawen'. Happy/Merry Christmas in lots more languages.
In the UK, the main Christmas Meal is usually eaten at lunchtime or early afternoon on Christmas Day. It was traditionally roast beef or goose, although it's common to have turkey now, roast vegetables and 'all the trimmings' which means stuffing and sometimes bacon and sausages. (In Scotland, some people might even have Haggis instead of turkey!) Dessert is often Christmas Pudding. Mince pies and lots of chocolates are often eaten as well! The dinner table is decorated with a Christmas Cracker for each person and sometimes flowers and candles.