The History of England

from Celts through 20th century


Category: Customs + Festivals

Christmas (shortened: Xmas) is an annual church festival kept on December 25. It is a day of special gifts and greetings. The usual salutation is: “A merry Christmas to you,’’ and the reply: “The same to you.’’ There is a custom amongst English children of hanging up their stockings at the foot of their bed on Xmas Eve, in expectation of finding them in the morning filled with toys and sweets.

Christmas trees are not always seen in English families; holly, ivy, mistletoe and other evergreens are used to decorate the rooms. The Christmas festivities and tea-parties go on until Twelith Night (January 6th). Crackers, streamers and Chinese lanterns contribute to the fun.

Pantomimes have been part and parcel of the British Christmas for 200 years or more, providing entertainment and amusement for both young and old. For the visitor to Britain who is enjoying his first experience of this popular show, it must be pointed out that there are certain peculiar customs which are more or less “rules of the game’’. For instance, the principal boy is often played by an actress and the Mother or Dame by a man — usually one of the leading comedians of the day.

One of the more familiar pantomime stories recalls the adventures of Dick Wittington (and his cat) who lived 600 years ago. He eventually became London’s chief citizen, holding office as Mayor three times (the title of Lord Mayor was fot used in his day). Other popular pantomime characters are: Robinson Crusoe, Cinderella, Peter Pan, Red Riding-Hood, Puss in the Boots and Mother Goose.

Pantomimes are linked via the harlequinade with the com. media dell’arte. The harlequinade had one basic theme, with many variations, and a set of stock characters who are the forefathers of today’s panto personalities — Harlequin and Columbine, the lovers, Pantaloon, the father or guardian of Columbine. In our time pantomime has assumed yet another form—that of Ice panto. It must be added that the pantomime has become one of the most commercialised and one of the most lucrative forms of entertainement today.

« ||| »

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.