Our weird Christmas traditions - from pork pie for breakfast to a monkey on the tree!
PUBLISHED: 10:00 15 December 2018 | UPDATED: 11:48 15 December 2018
Beyond the Christmas tree, decorations and pudding, do you have any special customs unique to your family? Here's a look at some weird and wonderful festive traditions.
Christmas trees might be a standard Christmas idea, ever since Prince Albert made them popular in the 1800s, but some people put all kinds of surprising spins on them.
Angels, stars and fairies are not the only decorations which appear on top of a tree. Alexander Seddon from Ipswich writes: “I usually have a monkey on the top of my tree at Christmas.
“It came from when I first moved into my own flat, and had to beg, steal and borrow all the decorations. The only thing I didn’t have was a star or an angel to put on the top, so I improvised with a cuddly monkey. He is now an essential component of my Christmas tree.”
In the Ipswich Remembers Facebook group, Margaret Woollard said her tree still looks like pictures of classic trees from years gone by, writing, “My decorations are 50 years old!”
Thinking back to Christmas past, Nik Gray said: “My auntie used to have silver candle stick holders and candles on the tree, imagine trying to get that past health and safety these days.”
A quirky new tradition which has caught on with many families in the last few years is Christmas elves. The mischievous elves are supposed to keep an eye on how children have been behaving in the run-up to Christmas, but many elves belong on the naughty list themselves, after causing mayhem in their young owners’ homes.
The elves usually arrive on December 1, often bringing an early present, with a warning that they will report back to Santa on any bad behaviour. While in the home, they appear in a different place each day, with antics such as wrapping the Christmas tree in loo roll or popping up next to the eggs in the fridge.
One Ipswich couple, Abbey Farthing and Kevin Hurst, have taken the elf idea to a new height this Christmas, by getting elves to wrap up a whole living room in Christmas paper. Abbey said: “My son has told me they discuss with the class and teacher what their cheeky elves did that night. It’s great for the children’s imagination.”
Festive fun and games
Judy Rimmer writes: “When I was a child, my family used to go over to my grandparents’ home in rural Suffolk on Christmas evening, where we drank a glass of my grandfather’s homemade wine (once we were over 18!) and took part in various traditional games, particularly Charades.
“Unfortunately, while my grandparents were brilliant at these games, some of us, including me, were completely useless! These days, we don’t actually play “Charades, I must confess, but we now go in for other similar games.
“Over the last few years, my family has created a new tradition of playing Pictionary, where we all valiantly try to draw something which will let people know the clue - but my artistic “talents” just result in my grown-up children falling about laughing.”
Twitter user Sue Hughes shared a particularly unusual festive tradition.
She said: “Someone I knew years ago told me they sent balloons up the chimney and stood outside with family shooting them Annie Oakley style as they emerged - a midnight pursuit as I recall.”
Being with the family is of course absolutely at the heart of Christmas.
Liz Nice writes: “No one thinks their family is weird at Christmas or any other time, but I think mine probably is.
“We always play the Christmas hat game - who can keep their cracker hat on the longest. We always play a game which everyone pretends to be grumpy about but enjoys really, and I always buy my dad something really rude which cause my mother to say, ‘Oh, for goodness’ sake, Roly, don’t encourage her.’
“Over the years, Dad has received fart machines, whoopee cushions, T shirts with very rude messages and, on one particularly memorable occasion, a pair of pants which left nothing to the imagination.
“I will never forget Dad putting them on immediately (over his trousers, I’m relieved to say), and standing next to the Christmas tree with tears of mirth streaming down his face.
“I don’t think I have ever seen him look happier in his life, and know that long after he has gone, the vision of Dad in those ludicrous pants will live with me forever.
“Because it’s not about the pants, really, is it? It’s about the fact that Dad and I find the lowest form of humour funny and it is something we have always shared, throughout the ups and downs of our lives. The disapproval of family only serves to make us play up to it even more.
“‘Don’t encourage her, Grandad,’ my sons will say this year. ‘You and Mum are so embarrassing.’
“Yes, we are. And I’m glad.”
Still with dads, one Suffolk daughter (who asked to remain anonymous to spare her dad’s blushes!) writes: “Christmas Day in our household has a structure that can never be deviated from. Despite pleas from my children, whose friends tear open their gifts as soon as daylight breaks through the window, we all have to wait until after Christmas lunch - which begins around 1pm (depending on how long those darn spuds take to crisp up) and lingers until 3pm.
“It’s the only time of the year we see my dad get blind drunk. Bolstered by the spirit of Christmas, it takes just a few glasses of ale before he turns a crimson shade of Santa. There will occasionally be some kind of shanty sung.
“And he’s always the first to pop on and last to remove his paper hat. Until very recently all recipients of gifts had to sit on Santa (dad’s) lap to get their present. This even included my poor husband, whose rite of passage into our family while we were dating was to sit uncomfortably on dad’s knee as he said: ‘What would you like, little boy?’
Turkey, Yorkshire pud ... or pork pie?
Christmas dinner might be turkey for most of us, but what do you eat for Christmas breakfast?
Kim Briscoe of Norwich writes: “My family enjoys a “Birmingham Breakfast” every Christmas Day morning. This consists of a slice of a good quality hand-raised pork pie, bread and butter and a measure of whisky.
“It sounds weird, but is strangely good.
“My dad swears it’s something he picked up from working in the Midlands, but no one else has ever heard of it. We suspect he might have made it up just as an excuse to get out his single malts once a year.”
Paul Geater of Ipswich writes: “My grandma used to think a Christmas dinner was not complete without Yorkshire pudding to go with the turkey, as well as stuffing and cranberry sauce.
“With carveries coming in at pubs and restaurants, many people now eat Yorkshire puddings together with turkey or chicken as a matter of course, so I think she was ahead of her time!”
Take a dip in the sea
Would you fancy plunging into the sea on Christmas Day? You don’t have to be in Australia to do so.
One of the more bizarre East Anglian festive traditions, followed by thousands of people in the region every year, is joining in a Christmas swim in aid of charity. Increasingly, swimmers are being invited to wear costumes for the occasion.
If the bitterly cold North Sea does not appeal, though, the less brave among us may prefer to go along as spectators.
This year, Hunstanton’s Christmas swim, organised by Hunstanton and District Round Table in aid of local charities, will start at 10am at the Oasis Leisure Centre. Organisers are trying to set a Guinness World Record for the most people swimming in fancy dress, so they are looking for as many swimmers as possible. Sponsorship forms can be downloaded from their website.
Southwold is another town staging a fancy dress swim, organised by the Rotary Club of Southwold and District. Last year’s swim attracted 172 participants, a record turnout, and organiser Cathy Ryan said: “There was a great atmosphere - you could smell the mulled wine from the beach huts.”
This year’s swim will start at 10.30am near Gun Hill, and you can get full details and register via their website.
Lowestoft and Felixstowe are both also among the resorts staging major Christmas Day swims, while a number of other towns have equally popular events on Boxing Day, giving a chance to work off the pud.
Customs around the world
There are many unusual Christmas customs around the globe. For instance, Norway, families hide their brooms before they go to bed on Christmas Eve, so that they can’t be used by witches, who are traditionally believed to arrive overnight.
Surprisingly, Kentucky Fried Chicken has now become a “traditional” Christmas meal in Japan, where the festival is not a holiday but many people do celebrate. Christmas cakes are also sold as romantic gifts for your loved one.
And, in Iceland, children receive visits from 13 mischievous trolls, or “Yule Lads”, over the days running up to the Christmas, who leave gifts in a shoe at the end of their beds. These can either be small presents or cold potatoes, if the child has been naughty!