Every family and every community has its own Christmas traditions, some relatively new and some maintained over many generations. Looking forward to the things my own family does every Christmas got me thinking about how Christmas was celebrated in the past and the historical origins of so many of Britain’s seasonal traditions. For example, why do we eat certain foods at Christmas? Why do we put up a Christmas tree? And what on earth is a wassail?
After pondering the answers to these and other questions, I dug out the keys to the Another Kind Of Mind Christmas time machine (it’s a bit like the Tardis, only with more tinsel and fairy lights) and decided to go on a whistlestop tour of festive history to find out the truth behind a few of our often ancient Christmas traditions.
Tomorrow we’ll be visiting the Victorians to find out how they reinvented the festive season. Wednesday will see a trip to the 17th century, when Christmas was briefly banned by the Puritan government, and Thursday takes us all the way back to the Middle Ages, when seasonal celebrations combined pagan and Christian traditions with great gusto.
But we start off today with a short hop back in time to the Second World War, where we’ll discover what Christmas was like during a period of rationing and the constant threat of bombing…