‘Old traditions should be kept’ for Christmas

Singing carols was a habit 31 per cent thought was worth maintaining. Picture: Walter Neilson
Singing carols was a habit 31 per cent thought was worth maintaining. Picture: Walter Neilson
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Playing parlour games, singing carols and getting dressed in your best for Christmas lunch are British festive traditions that need to be saved for future generations, according to a poll.

More than three-quarters (78 per cent) of people look forward to Christmas time each year, and three-fifths (60 per cent) think festive traditions are important to the celebrations, but classic activities such as roasting chestnuts are at risk of losing favour to more modern pursuits.

The survey of 2,000 people, commissioned by Egmont Publishing - a publisher of Winnie-the-Pooh stories - has inspired a series of new illustrations which show the characters enjoying simple festive pleasures of old.

Drawn by illustrator Mark Burgess, the pictures show Pooh characters singing carols, hanging Christmas stockings, writing letters to Santa, putting on fancy clothes and playing charades.

The survey found that the festive pleasure people believe is most in need of saving is playing parlour games as a family, with 33 per cent of those surveyed giving it the nod.

Carol singing is close behind on 31 per cent, with making paper chains to decorate the home on 28 per cent, putting satsumas and nuts in stockings on 26 per cent and enjoying roasted chestnuts on 25 per cent.

Other traditions on the list include sending Christmas cards, your Christmas stocking being a proper stocking, getting dressed in your best clothes for Christmas lunch, and going for a family walk on Christmas Day.

Popular pursuits also listed as being in need of saving are opening non-chocolate advent calendars, making Christmas cake, putting decorations up on Christmas Eve, making home-made mince pies, watching a pantomime and writing a letter to Father Christmas.

The study also found that 64 per cent of British families celebrate the festive season with their own family-specific traditions, such as leaving the tree decoration to the children, and 62 per cent of people said the most important element in having a good Christmas is spending time with family.

Dr Martin Johnes, from the department of history and classics at Swansea University, said: “Wearing your ‘best’ clothes and giving fruit and nuts in stockings both have their origins before the Second World War.

“Although satsumas are still given because it links parents with their own childhood, the pre-war tradition of putting a lucky lump of coal in children’s stockings has disappeared. Many Christmas traditions are imports from America, but Christmas cards are one that Britain gave to the world.

“The first Christmas card is widely claimed to date back to 1843, the same year as A Christmas Carol was published by Dickens, but they were actually on sale by the end of the 1820s.

“The Victorians saw them as luxurious items and bought them individually, choosing specific designs for each friend.”