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Wherever you go in the world you will find traditions associated with Christmas, from decorating trees and hanging stockings to sending cards and munching mince pies. We all have our favourite traditions. Here is part II of our Christmas Traditions blog, taking a closer look at the history behind some of the most popular things that we do at this special time of year.

Leaving Milk & Mince Pies out for Santa.

Even homes without chimneys will leave milk and mince pies out as a tasty snack to sustain Santa as he delivers our presents on Christmas Eve.  Some of us will even leave a carrot or two for the reindeer parked on the roof as he does so.  There are many historic beliefs linked to the charming tradition such as offerings to spirits of ancestors in pre-Christian Europe. However in modern times the tradition was adapted in America during the depression to teach children that we should give thanks for something doing something special for you.

Giving Chocolate Coins

Why do we have Chocolate coins at Christmas? It is believed the tradition may have been started by Saint Nicholas himself.  Around the globe many countries have the custom of hiding treats around the house for children to discover in a treasure hunt.  Over time, these customs evolved into chocolate coins to hang on the Christmas Tree and put into stockings on Christmas morning.  These sweet treats a relatively inexpensive but can bring big smiles to any lucky recipients during the holiday season. 

The Christmas Tree in Trafalgar Square.

Every year since 1947 the people of Norway have donated a giant Christmas tree to the people of Britain in gratitude for Britain’s support during the Second World War.  The large tree is generally cut down in November and shipped to Immingham Docks where it then makes its way to Trafalgar Square in the heart of London.  It is then decorated with over 500 Christmas lights and displayed proudly as a symbol of friendship between the two countries.

Pulling a Christmas Cracker.

The Christmas cracker is a tradition that dates back to Victorian times.  In the 1850’s a London Confectioner selling Bon Bons in twisted paper packaging added a motto to his sweets.  After being inspired by the sudden bangs that originate from a crackling log fire the sweet maker made a log shaped package that would produce a ‘bang’ when pulled open.  The sweets inside were later swapped for a paper hat, a terrible joke and a small gift and became known as a ‘Cracker’.

Why do we kiss under mistletoe?

The tradition of kissing under mistletoe was first recorded in the 16th century in England, but no one knows why. Presumably, someone had the genius of idea of using the plant as an excuse to kiss people, although it is unclear why they picked a parasitic plant known for growing on trees and absorbing its nutrients. Regardless of this it is a loving tradition held dear across many countries.

Where did Boxing Day start?

It is believed that Boxing Day started in England in the Middle Ages. Many servants working for the rich and wealthy were required to work on Christmas Day to ensure that their bosses had a pleasant day.  To thank them, they would often grant them the following day off so that the workers could spend time with their families.  History records that workers were given boxes from their masters containing a variety of presents – this could include leftover food, silver coins or other tokens of their appreciation. It is believed that this is where the name Boxing Day comes from.

Maybe you have your own Christmas tradition? Why not comment below with one of your own? We would love to hear from you!

“I hope you have enjoyed reading our Christmas Traditions blogs- And from all the team here at The London Mint Office we wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas”