The holiday season is a time for traditions, some of which are specific to individual cultures.
Even people who celebrate Christmas in the United States probably don’t know everything about how the holiday is celebrated in different places around the world, like the United Kingdom.
Here are some Christmas traditions from the UK that might confuse Americans:
Christmas terms in the UK are just different enough from those in the US to be confusing
In the UK, you’re likely to hear “Happy Christmas” instead of “Merry Christmas,” and “Father Christmas” instead of “Santa Claus.”
Even more confusing for people outside of the UK, Christmas – especially more secular celebrations of the holiday – is sometimes referred to as “Chrimbo” (sometimes spelled “Crimbo”), according to BBC America.
Pantomime, a campy, family comedy show, is a British Christmas tradition
One of the more confusing British holiday traditions (for Americans at least) is pantomime, which are over-the-top musical comedies based on famous fairy tales.
The family-friendly theater performances are produced throughout the Christmas season all over the UK and involve plenty of slapstick humor and loud audience participation.
In the eccentric shows, the “Principal Boy,” traditionally played by a woman, and the “Panto Dame,” typically played by a man, are both dressed in drag, and the plot doesn’t necessarily closely follow that of the classic tale.
Despite its quirks, pantomime has remained a classic British tradition since the Victorian era and has even spread to places such as Singapore and South Africa, according to the BBC.
Retailers release beloved, heartwarming advertisements to mark the beginning of the Christmas season
Every year, UK retailers, including John Lewis, Sainsbury, and Tesco, release their Christmas advertisements. Instead of typical commercials, they’re typically short films that tell a heartwarming story.
John Lewis’ ads have probably been the most popular since 2011, according to The Telegraph, although the company has been making holiday ads since 2007.
People even count down to the day when the short films are released.
Christmas crackers aren’t a snack
If you’re from the US, you might think Christmas crackers sound like something that belongs on a cheese board, but they’re actually another UK holiday tradition.
Christmas crackers, which also date back to Victorian times, are cardboard tubes wrapped in colorful paper that, when pulled apart by two people, make a loud cracking sound.
Families traditionally open their crackers together on Christmas Day, and the tubes are usually filled with a small toy, a riddle or joke, and a tissue-paper crown.
After opening the crackers, it’s also tradition to wear the paper crowns throughout the Christmas meal.
Christmas pudding might seem a bit strange to Americans
Christmas pudding, also referred to as figgy pudding or plum pudding, is another long-time holiday tradition in the UK.
It’s a boiled cake made with dried fruit and soaked in aged alcohol, and it’s often served “en flambé” (on fire) before everyone digs in after Christmas dinner.
For many years, the queen has even gifted each member of her staff a Christmas pudding from Tesco.
‘Top of the Pops’ is a television special featuring performances of the year’s most popular songs
The program actually ran weekly from 1964 until 2006, when it was canceled. People were so upset that the BBC decided to keep the Christmas special, which airs late-morning on December 25.
Every year, the queen gives a broadcasted speech on Christmas Day
King George V started the Royal Christmas Message as a radio broadcast in 1932, and it has remained an annual tradition ever since. In 1957, Queen Elizabeth II moved to the broadcast to television.
During the speech, the queen talks about current issues and reflects on what Christmas means to her, according to the royal website.
People in the UK also celebrate the day after Christmas
Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, is a public holiday in the UK.
Although Americans may sometimes wonder if the holiday is about getting rid of boxes from Christmas or about the sport of boxing, it actually has nothing to do with either of those things.
The exact origins of the holiday aren’t clear, according to the History Channel. But it likely either sprung from the aristocratic tradition of giving a kind of holiday bonus to household employees the day after Christmas or the distribution of the alms collection boxes that churches put out during Advent.
Today, however, Boxing Day is more about shopping (or returning gifts) and watching sports.
In the UK, it can be bad luck to keep your decorations up for more than 12 days after Christmas
Another difference between US and UK Christmas customs comes after all of the festivities have ended.
In the Anglican tradition, Twelfth Night, or Epiphany Eve, is the day before Epiphany, which celebrates the coming of the Magi to baby Jesus and marks the end of the 12 days of Christmas.
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