Discover the fascinating stories behind these festive traditions, from Christmas food and carols to greetings cards and crackers.
Christmas cards 圣诞贺卡
Having helped set up the Public Records Office (now the Post Office), Sir Henry Cole and artist John Horsley created the first Christmas card in 1843 as a way of encouraging people to use its services.
Cards cost a shilling (equivalent to almost £5.75 now) and stamps a penny (about 40p at modern prices). Advances in printing brought prices down, making cards hugely popular by the 1860s. By 1900 the custom of sending Christmas cards had spread throughout Europe.
The Christmas tree 圣诞树
While Christmas trees have been around for a millennium in northern Europe, the first one did not appear in the UK until the 1830s. When Prince Albert put up a Christmas tree at Windsor Castle in 1841, he started what became an evergreen trend.
Mince pies 肉馅饼
Early mince pies were made of meat, fruit and spice and inspired by Middle Eastern cuisine brought back by the Crusaders.
They commonly had 13 ingredients representing Christ and the Apostles, and were formed in a large oval shape to represent the manger. Meat had disappeared from the recipe by Victorian times, although beef suet is often still included.
Leaving stockings out at Christmas goes back to the legend of St Nicholas. Known as the gift giver, on one occasion he sent bags of gold down a chimney at the home of a poor man who had no dowry for his unmarried daughters. The gold fell into stockings left hanging to dry. St Nicholas was later referred to by the Dutch as Sinterklaas and eventually, by English-speakers, as Santa Claus.