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Eye on London - 10 of London's Christmas Traditions

  • Monday December 25th 2017
  • Get Outside

Pink Illuminated London Eye At Night

London from the inside Monday 25th - Sunday 31st December 2017

Best. Monday. Ever! Happy Christmas! We hope you have a brilliant day whatever you’re doing and that you manage to continue the festivities for as long as possible. This week the blog delves into the history of London’s biggest Christmas traditions.

1. The Smithfield Meat Auction

If you didn’t go you’ve missed it for this year - but there’s always next year. On the morning of 23rd December at 10.30am, Smithfield Market auction off the meat that would go to waste as they close over Christmas. Bring some cash and a bag and get bidding for your Christmas grub. Trusting winners pass their money through the crowd to the front and get their meat passed back. What fun!

2. Christmas Shelters

This Christmas Day, London Euston station will turn into a shelter for the homeless with volunteers from Network Rail, St Mungo’s and Streets Kitchen setting up an event there for 200 homeless people. This continues in a long tradition of Christmas shelters in London. Crisis at Christmas was founded in 1967 and St Martin-in-the-Fields is in it’s 91st Christmas appeal year.

3. Christmas Window Displays

“Window-shopping” began in the early 1800’s when large plate glass became available. Macy’s in New York were thought to be the first to create a festive display in 1862 and also hosted the first in-store Father Christmas in 1874. Harry Selfridge, the American founder of Selfridges, brought the idea to London when he opened his namesake store in 1909, coining the marketing phrase “Only xx Shopping Days Until Christmas”. Other large department stores like Harrods quickly followed suit.

4. Christmas Street Lights

The beautiful displays decorating London’s streets come from the tradition of putting candles on Christmas trees, symbolising Christ being light. In the early 1900’s, decorating trees with electric lights became popular and by the mid-1900’s strings of lights were hung along buildings and streets.

5. Christmas Markets

London’s Christmas markets and fairs continue to grow in number and size every year. The wooden chalet style huts are popping up from Leicester Square to Tower Bridge and most are open into the New Year providing street food, mulled wine, handmade crafts, live entertainment and workshops.

6. Christmas Football

Boxing Day is the big day now for Christmas football but Christmas Day itself used to host the matches. This tradition had died out by the 1960’s as Christmas Day public transport had also stopped by then, making it hard to get to the games (much to the relief of everyone’s families we imagine!) Brentford and Wimbledon tried to revive it in 1983 with an 11am game on Christmas Day scheduled, but they received too many complaints from fans and had to change it to Christmas Eve.

7. The Serpentine Swimming Club’s Christmas Day Swim

Every year since 1864, the Serpentine Swimming Club have hosted their 100m swim for their amazing, if not slightly crazy, and very cold, members. The swimmers are serenaded by a piper for the 9am start as they race to win the Peter Pan Cup. We think it might be more of a spectator sport!

8. The Queen’s Speech

Many of us will be tuning in at 3pm for the Queen’s annual Christmas Day broadcast. The tradition began in 1932 under King George V as a radio broadcast. The Queen writes her own Christmas speech and the contents is kept top secret until the day.

9. Carol Services

Surely one of the oldest Christmas traditions, the first known Christmas hymns can be traced back to 4th century Rome. These days in London you can enjoy anything from traditional carol services to charity concerts and gospel choirs, from the smallest of venues to St Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey.

10. The Christmas Day Walk

It’s the perfect way to feel a little less guilty about all the calories consumed. The capital pretty much shuts down on Christmas Day (with the exception of the amazing shelters, hotels and restaurants), but you can always go for a walk! If you’re super keen, this year London author Ed Glinert is hosting the Big Big Christmas Day London Walk - a five-hour(!) tour of London starting at 10am at Nelson’s Column.


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