Another great British Christmas tradition is the making and eating of the Christmas Cake. The cake is a rich fruit cake that is decorated with marzipan and white royal icing and then a sprig of holly is placed on the top. Most cakes are made from mixed dried fruit and nuts that are often soaked in rum, brandy or whisky.
The tradition of the fruit cake is said to date back to 1573, but was associated with the cake´s predecessor – the plum pudding or plum porridge. The festive cake was also linked to the 12 days of Christmas that start from Christmas Day and was eaten at parties and social gatherings for the 12 days of holidays after Christmas. Nowadays the 12 days are not celebrated much apart from on Radio Christmas, due to the fact that most people have to return to work soon after the 26th December.
The British Christmas Cake may have inspired many other European countries to make their own versions, including the Three Kings Cake (image right) that is a firm favourite in Switzerland. The swiss cake is circular to represent the circular route taken by the Kings who visited the Christ-child and to confuse King Herold. Inside the cake one lucky person will find a small plastic figure inside their portion of the cake and that person then becomes King for the day in the family home. Three Kings Cake is usually baked and eaten on the 6th January (Epiphany).
One of the newest Christmas traditions and one which we love here at Radio Christmas is based on a book called “The Elf on the Shelf” by Carol Aebersold. Carol wrote the book to tell the story of an elf doll that would magically in a different part of the house every morning in the days leading up to Christmas Day.
Carol and her sister Chanda grew up with this family tradition thanks to her parents who would place a toy elf in various places around the house each night, causing great excitement with the girls each morning when they woke, as the hunt for the elf would begin. The parents also said that the elf would be watching them to make sure they were well behaved and would tell Father Christmas if they were naughty.
Radio Christmas has received many photos from listeners who let us know where their elf is each day. So, why not join the online community and let us know where your elf is this Christmas?
A London sweet maker is credited as the creator of the traditional British Christmas cracker. The cracker, a cardboard tube wrapped in shinny or festive paper, is filled with a little toy or game, a paper hat, a bad joke and has a paper banger that makes a bang when the cracker is pulled.
The cracker is usually placed on the Christmas lunchtime table and everyone is invited to hold one end of the cracker and invite someone sitting next to them to hold the other. When pulled the cracker will make a bang and only one person will win the contents of the cracker.
The British tradition started when Tom Smith a sweet maker from London tried to copy the idea of the French “bon bon”, but the idea was not a great success. One evening Tom was sitting by his recently-lit fire and became interested in the cracks and sparks that came from the fire. He wondered what it would be like if his new sweets made a bang when opened and so he started to experiment.
The cracker was born and Tom´s new sweets were now filled with a small banger and idea was a great success. Tom´s sons took the idea further after their father died and introduced paper hats, really bad jokes and fun toys into the cracker. The specialist crackers for men, women, war heroes and others became a firm favourite in the UK and now almost all families will include a box of crackers on their Christmas shopping list.
The world's longest Christmas cracker measured 63.1 m (207 ft) long and 4 m (13 ft) in diameter and was made by the parents of children at Ley Hill School and Pre-School, Chesham, Buckinghamshire, UK on 20 December 2001. The cracker contained balloons, toys, a hat (2.5 m (8ft) in diameter) and a joke and the school is just up the road from Radio Christmas.
LISTEN AGAIN TO RADIO CHRISTMAS
Saturday 14th December 2019
The birth of Jesus was one of the most important events in the history of the world and was foretold of in the Bible hundreds of years before as we explain below.
The gospel of Luke explains that: In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Jesus´ parents, Joseph and Mary, would have had to obey the Roman decree and travel to their historical tribal town in order to be counted in the census. Mary, being very pregnant with Jesus, would have had to suffer great discomfort making the 3- or 4-day journey south from Nazareth to Bethlehem.
It was an early Jewish custom for people to look for accommodation by going to the central area of the town and waiting to be invited into someone´s home. There were no hotels and lodges like there are today. However, when the family arrived in Bethlehem it was clear that the town was already fully booked, due to the Roman census, and so a kind innkeeper and his family offered them shelter in an animal stable.
The bible makes it very clear that Jesus was born into a suffering world in order to die the most horrific death. His death, given freely by him, was in order to satisfy the wrath of God, his father, and pave the way for us to be forgiven. Instead of us being punished for our failings and sinful life, the sentence was laid down on Jesus so that we could go free. But only those who accept that forgiveness and give their lives to love and serve God can enter into the relationship with God and know life eternal.
Jesus is the reason for the season, the motive behind our gifts and person whose birthday we remember and for that reason it is called Christ-mas.
The Promise of Jesus – the Messiah
Judah will hold the royal scepter,
And his descendants will always rule.
Nations will bring him tribute
And bow in obedience before him. (Genesis 49:10)
The Lord says, “Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are one of the smallest towns in Judah, but out of you I will bring a ruler for Israel, whose family line goes back to ancient times.” (Micah 5:2)
The royal line of David is like a tree that has been cut down; but just as new branches sprout from a stump, so a new king will arise from among David’s descendants. (Isaiah 11:1)
The Lord says, “The time is coming when I will choose as king a righteous descendant of David. That king will rule wisely and do what is right and just throughout the land. (Jeremiah 23:5)
You will always have descendants, and I will make your kingdom last forever. Your dynasty will never end. (2 Samuel 7:16)
But the LORD will still give you proof. A virgin is pregnant; she will have a son and will name him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)
A child is born to us!
A son is given to us!
And he will be our ruler.
He will be called, “Wonderful Counselor,”
“Mighty God,” “Eternal Father,”
“Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)
“What I saw in my vision
hasn’t happened yet.
But some day, a king of Israel
will appear like a star. (Numbers 24:17)
The Lord says,
“A sound is heard in Ramah,
the sound of bitter weeping.
Rachel is crying for her children;
they are gone,
and she refuses to be comforted. (Jeremiah 31:15)
The Lord says,
“When Israel was a child, I loved him
and called him out of Egypt as my son. (Hosea 11:1)
The tradition of the nativity play goes back to 1223, but today it is a firm favourite in most primary schools in the UK. The recreation with child actors of the birth of Jesus not only helps to teach the children the reason why we celebrate Christmas, but also is a great artistic opportunity for schools to involve many, if not all, the children in a play for their parents and the community.
The play usually begins with Mary receiving the promise by the angel of the Saviour´s impending birth and her journey with Joseph to Bethlehem in order to register with the authorities due to a Roman decree. The shepherds, wise men, angels and animals create opportunity for the involvement of many children, culminating in the birth and adoration of the baby Jesus.
However, the very first play was performed by Monks and not by children. The Monks of St.Francis of Assisi in Italy used the idea of a nativity play in order to tell the story to the local population that Jesus was born for everyone and not just for rich people.
The nativity play continues to be a popular activity for children in UK schools and the idea of the baby in the manger, the central focus of the play, has now become part of many family homes, with cribs, characters and animals being placed around the manger in order to remember the reason for the season.
In many parts of the world, particularly in Latin America, Italy and Malta, the manger scene (local name Pessebre), is the focus point in the home for the celebration of Christmas, not the Christmas tree.
The tradition is kept alive by a special society in Malta and we are sure this will be part of our Christmas celebrations for many years to come.
The history of the Christmas card dates back to 1843 when British civil servant and inventor, Sir Henry Cole, found himself with a problem. Sir Henry was very well known, due to his many innovations in commerce and education, but this meant that he received many letters from the social elite at Christmas. A quaint custom in the 19th Century was to send out a Christmas and New Year letter, encouraged in part by the expansion of the British postal service and the introduction of the Penny Post. The Penny Post provided a safe and secure way of sending a letter or card anywhere in the country for a fixed fee of one penny.
Sir Henry came up with the ingenious idea of making a card and discussed this with his friend, J.C.Horsley, who he encouraged to design a card based on an idea he sketched out on a piece of paper. Horsley returned to his friend with what is now known as the very first Christmas card. The design featured a family feasting at a table flanked by images of people helping those living in poverty. The wording “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you”, with space to write “to” and “from” formed the front of the stiff cardboard design, and that was the very first Christmas card. Around 1000 cards were initially printed and some originals still exist today.
Meanwhile many years later in the USA, a Prussian immigrant created the first American Christmas card. The card, which was printed in 1875, was simple and featured the painting of a flower with the wording “Merry Christmas”.
George Buday published a book called The History of the Christmas Card in 1968 and explored how Christmas card art had, over a period of nearly 100 years, illustrated not only the traditional nativity and winter scenes, but also “the transitory conditions of society and its production methods”.
In the early 1900 a quick-thinking postal worker in Denmark is attributed to be the idea behind the modern-day charity Christmas card. The worker, whilst making his daily rounds, thought that money could be made from the cards and be used to help charities. The idea was an instant success, with 4 million cards being printed in the very first year. The idea spread and is now a popular way for charities to raise money at Christmas.
WHY NOT SEND AN E-CARD THIS YEAR?
For most families having a Christmas tree is one of the basics of the Christmas season.
Putting an evergreen tree in your home and decorating it can be traced right back to 1605 when German families would “set up fir trees in the palours…and hang thereon roses cut out of many-coloured paper, apples, wafers, gold-foil, sweets, etc.” according to an anonymous writer in Strasburg, Germany.
In the UK it is known that Queen Victoria and prince Albert brought one into their home in 1840, but before this Queen Charlotte is said to have started the royal tradition by bringing the evergreen fir into her home whereby she would decorate it with candles and sweets.
According to History Today, Christmas trees then became all the rage, especially in upper-class circles where they often formed a central part of the festive social gatherings.
One tradition has it that Martin Luther was walking home late one evening and was struck by the starlight piercing through the fir trees. His enthusiasm to share this experience with his family led him to place a small candle on the branches to symbolise his view of the Christmas sky.
The people of Oslo, Norway, continue a tradition that started in 1947 when they donated a Christmas tree to the City of Westminster, England. The genuine expression of friendship was in gratitude for Britain´s help to Norway in World War II.
Today 98% of fir trees are grown for the festive period and the Nordmann Fir is considered to be the leader among the festive evergreen trees.
However, the growth in artificial trees, made from PVC plastic, have created a discussion around whether they are no longer environmentally friendly. The debate centres around the re-using of the plastic tree as opposed to growing a tree, cutting it down and then disposing of it after Christmas.
The Independent, quotes the Carbon Trust, in saying that real Christmas trees have a much lower carbon footprint compared to the plastic imitation, if disposed of in a sensible manner. The fake tree has a carbon footprint 10 times the size of the fir unless they can be used for more than 10 years.
Emi Murphy, campaigner at Friends of the Earth suggests that “if you´ve got a fake tree already, keep using it and make it last as long as possible”, in an interview The Independent.
There are more options today for buying fir trees in pots, where you can transfer it to the garden during the year and then bring it back in at Christmas.
Whatever side of the debate you are on, we suggest you take great care with Christmas trees as every 52 reported home fires during the Christmas season are attributed to a fire from a tree.
We are thankful that Sergio has made it through his 4 months of rehab and is now looking for work and ready to begin again.
Sergio left the streets 4 months ago after taking the decison to not return to street life, thanks to the support of the SKD Guatemala street team.