Christmas Tree in a living room


Christmas Essentials

As Andy Williams said, Christmas is ‘the most wonderful time of the year’ and we tend to agree.

We all have a different view of what a traditional Christmas should be, often shaped by our experiences, these could range from enjoying a glass of mulled win on a cold December evening to reading A Christmas Carol in front of the fire.

We've put together the top ten Chrsitmas traditions that everyone enjoys:

1. A Christmas Tree

Whether it’s real or artificial, there’s something magical about a Christmas tree, it lights up the room and creates a fabulous centre point in your room. Christmas trees were introduced to Britain in the 1830’s. Candles used to be what lit up the tree until Ralph Morris created the first set of electric lights in 1895.

2. Christmas Pudding

The traditional end to a British Christmas lunch, the pudding has been around since the 14th century. The original recipe was one that not many of us would follow today, containing beef, mutton, raisins, currants, prunes, wines and spices.

During Victorian times the pudding was displayed in elaborate ways through the use of pudding moulds; towers and castles were often favoured designs. Putting a silver coin in the pudding is another age-old custom and is said to bring good luck. Other tokens that have been placed in puddings include bachelor’s button, spinster’s thimble or a ring.

3. Turkey/Goose

Believe it or not, these aren’t the only choices that have graced Britain’s Christmas dinner tables. Both roast beef and roast pork have been popular in the past, as has chicken, capon and pheasant. In wealthy or royal households it was not unusual to be served Peacock or Swan. The goose remained popular until the Victorian era, when it was overtaken by Turkey as the meat of choice.

4. Mulled Wine

A drink that goes back as far as the 2nd century and still popular today, mulled wine was created by the Romans who took to boiling red wine to help them cope with Britain’s cold climate. Over time the recipe for the drink evolved through the addition of herbs, spices, sugar and orange pieces. The process of boiling the wine also removes the alcohol making it suitable for teetotallers too.

5. Christmas Cards

The tradition of sending Christmas cards was started in Britain by Sir Henry Cole in 1843. As someone who helped to establish the Post Office, Sir Henry wanted to find a way in which the service could be used more widely by the general public. Working with his friend John Horsley, the first cards were designed, selling for 1 shilling each.

Christmas cards appear to have become less popular in recent times. The advent of digital technology has meant that some of us send e-cards and attach them to our Facebook profile or we give the money that we would have spent on cards to charity. However, for a truly traditional Christmas feel, there’s nothing quite like filling your living room with Christmas cards - plus it’s great to receive a card and have the simple joy of opening an envelope.

6. Christmas Crackers

Christmas crackers are a great thing to have at a traditional celebration. The expectant bang, prize, joke and crown always raise a smile and a friendly groan. Introduced in Britain in the 1840’s by Tom Smith, the original concept was based on French ‘bon bon’ sweets (almonds wrapped in pretty paper) a small motto or riddle was added to the sweet.

The original crackers didn’t sell very well so, searching for inspiration, Tom picked up on the sparks and cracks from his log fire. The insertion of the crack made all the difference and the Christmas cracker was born. Today, crackers flex to suit your budget, with top end packages costing upwards of £550.

7. Holly and Ivy

Adding some lush green foliage to your decorations can only make things that bit more special. Holly and Ivy have been used at Christmas since ancient times. The plants were used to freshen up the air and remind everyone of the coming spring. The Romans believed that using holly as décor would please Saturn, the god of agriculture and husbandry.

8. Christmas films

Christmas films hold a certain sense of nostalgia and offer something pretty special when it comes to celebrating Christmas. From classics like ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ and ‘White Christmas’ to ‘The Snowman’ and ‘Home Alone’, who doesn’t love a Christmas film to get in to the festive spirit?

9. Roast Chestnuts

A lovely and surprisingly sweet Christmas delicacy, these are a great tradition. A staple in the mountainous regions around the Mediterranean, they are low in fat, high in fibre and full of minerals.

It’s not clear when roasting chestnuts became associated with Christmas, though there is evidence that they were popular in the 16th century, when street vendors sold them on the streets of Rome.

10. Pantomimes

Pantomimes have become synonymous with Christmas (oh yes they have) I hear you cry. Although pantomimes are an Italian import they became popular in the UK in the 18th Century. Music hall entertainers, comedians and singers, changed plots and took the opportunity to dress up as pantomime dames. The shows became increasingly popular with children and audience participation became the norm, forming the pantomime performances we’ve come to know and love today.

Home Insurance

Christmas is all about celebrating the things you value so I make no excuses for putting home insurance on the list. From protecting all those extra presents under the Christmas tree right through to claims for accidental damage during the festivities, home insurance should be on your home’s Christmas list.

At NFU Mutual, we recognise that Christmas is a special time for you, that's why we take the time to get to know you and your home, offering home insurance tailored to your needs. To find your nearest NFU Mutual branch, click here.

We'd love to know what your top 10 Christmas essentials are, tell us now on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.