Popular UK Christmas traditions – a brief summary

Thursday November 22nd, 2018

The run up to Christmas is a busy time for schools and families across the UK.  Many UK schools put on Christmas plays, pantomimes or carol concerts for children to perform to parents.  Towns and cities across the country hold special events to switch on their Christmas lights.  Historic houses sparkle with decorations from times gone by.  People skate on purpose-built outdoor ice rinks by London landmarks like the Tower of London, the Natural History Museum and Hampton Court Palace.  Parents sup mulled wine, spiced cider and soak up the festive atmosphere at Christmas markets where hand-crafted gifts are sold from wooden chalets.  Families visit Christmas tree farms to choose their tree; meet the reindeer and maybe even Santa himself!

Experience an authentic British Christmas and improve your English

Christmas Market in EnglandRegency Education works with a company that arranges for students to stay with teachers and their family over the Christmas period.  This provides the perfect opportunity for students to immerse themselves in the English language.  It also gives them a unique insight into the specific cultural festivities connected to Christmas in the UK.  It’s a fun, informative and very special way to spend Christmas.  Host families will take students to visit a Christmas market and a traditional Christmas carol concert in church.  They’ll also get to bake a traditional Christmas pudding and enjoy a traditional family Christmas meal with all the trimmings.  It’s the perfect way for students to experience an authentic British Christmas whilst improving their confidence and ability in English.  It’s not too late to book for this Christmas;

contact us today to find out more about our English courses at Christmas.

Popular UK Christmas traditions – a brief summary!


Dating back to the 16-th century, this particular English tradition is actually based on Italian street theatre (Commedia dell’arte) and can sound quite peculiar out of context! Usually based on classic fairy tales such as Snow White, Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella, Puss-in-Boots, Sleeping Beauty – or classic children’s stories like Peter Pan or folklore legends like Robin Hood – each pantomime will have its own script packed with silly jokes and songs.

Pantomimes are characterised by the actors’ unusual relationship with the audience: participation is not just encouraged but almost obligatory!  When characters state that something is the case, the audience is expected, en masse, to should out ‘oh no it isn’t!’ (or vice versa!).

Other popular pantomime refrains include the classic ‘it’s behind you’ direction from audience members.  By the time the character turns around to check, whatever it is will have disappeared: cue much humour and mirth!  Traditional pantomime casting involves over-the-top costumes with women playing male characters and men dressed as women (not so very different from Shakespeare’s theatre – though slightly easier to follow!)

Historic houses

The National Trust is a UK charity entrusted with preserving beautiful buildings and landscapes for the enjoyment of future generations.  At Christmas-time, many National Trust buildings dress their rooms and grounds in traditional Christmas decorations.  It’s an increasingly popular Christmas pastime to visit these historic places; learn about Christmas traditions from different eras and get into the festive spirit.  The stunning Waddesdon Manor in north Buckinghamshire is a great example of this.  With its beautiful architecture based on the style of a French chateau, the turreted building looks like something from a fairy tale when multi-coloured lights are projected onto it after dusk.  Visitors can view the opulent bachelor’s wing all decked out for Christmas.  Creatively decorated trees towering several feet above even the tallest guest dominate each room, bedecked in colourful baubles, trimmings and intricately detailed decorations inspired by the year’s specific theme.  In 2018, Waddesdon is celebrating the birth of pantomime with its ebullient Christmas Carnival.

Charity at Christmas

However people choose to mark the festive season, and often irrespective of their religion or faith, charitable giving is an important theme at Christmas-time.  Known as the season of goodwill, the run up to Christmas is punctuated by charities’ fundraising appeals.  Some are televised, such as the well-known Children in Need (which raised a staggering £50.5 million in November 2018).

Others are run online, such as The Big Give, where public donations are matched by philanthropists and their value to the charity doubled during a short window of opportunity.  Some charities write to their supporters, asking them to donate to help with specific challenges, such as people who will be homeless at Christmas or families affected by terminal illness for whom this might be their last Christmas together.

Some host sponsored runs where participants dress up in Santa suits!  Many charities sell Christmas cards to raise funds; others encourage people to make a donation (instead of posting individual Christmas cards) and spread the charity’s message by sending a specially designed e-card.  Some charities offer ‘virtual’ or ‘goodwill’ gift schemes where supporters’ donations fund something tangible and specific; for example: Oxfam’s ‘Unwrapped’ campaign where you can ‘give a goat’ (among other things) for a more sustainable livelihood.

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about some of the things that will be going on in the UK over Christmas.  Do let us know if we can help you with any aspect of your child’s education as we approach 2019.

In the meantime, our very best wishes for the festive season wherever, however and with whomever you plan to spend it!