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Project Britain

British Christmas Traditions
by Mandy Barrow

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Information and Origins of Christmas Decorations

Woodlands Junior School is in the south-east corner of England

Traditional Christmas Decorations

Why do we decorate our houses at Christmas time?

To celebrate Jesus' birthday on Christmas Day many people decorate their homes. © copyright of

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hollyWhat are the traditional Christmas Decoration Colours?

Red and green are the traditional colours of Christmas.

Green represents the continuance of life through the winter and the Christian belief in eternal life through Jesus. © copyright of

Red symbolizes the blood that Jesus shed at His Crucifixion.

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When are Christmas decorations put up?

Christmas decorations used to be put up on Christmas Eve and not before. Indeed, many people believed that it was extremely unlucky to bring evergreens, the traditional item to decorate homes, into the house before that date. copyright of

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Decorations on the ceiling

Christmas Decoration in the home

In Britain today, few people would now wait until Christmas Eve. Most people put up their decorations about a fortnight to a week before Christmas Day. copyright of

Hanging paper bell
Hanging paper Christmas tree

In the weeks leading up to and during Christmas, people hang decorations in their homes. These decorations are made of coloured paper or foil.

Christmas Day
Foil or paper chains hang across the ceiling

Every house decorated for Christmas in Britain will have a decorated fir tree. Find out more about Christmas trees here

Natural Decorations

People also hang greenery around the house, such as holly and ivy. The needlelike points of holly leaves are thought to resemble the crown of thorns that Jesus wore when He was crucified. The red berries symbolise the drops of blood Jesus shed. © copyright of

Find out more about traditional Christmas decorations


Many Christian homes will have a nativity scene. The baby Jesus is added on Christmas Eve.

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Interesting Fact about Christmas Decorations
In 1647 Christmas was banned in England, and anyone found making Christmas pies, or putting up Christmas decorations, was in serious trouble, and often arrested as an example to others.


When should Christmas decorations be taken down?

It is unlucky if you don’t take your decorations down before the end of the 12th Day of Christmas, on the 5th January. This custom has been around since the reign of Queen Victoria. © copyright of

Up until the 19th century, people would keep their decorations of holly, ivy, box, yew, laurel and mistletoe up until 2nd February, Candlemas Day, the end of the Christmas season, 40 days after the birth of Jesus.

Robert Herrick in his poem 'Ceremonies for Candlemas Eve' writes,

DOWN with the rosemary and bays,
Down with the mistletoe ;
Instead of holly, now up-raise
The greener box (for show).

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Mandy is the creator of the Woodlands Resources section of the Woodlands Junior website. 
The two websites and are the new homes for the Woodlands Resources.

Mandy left Woodlands in 2003 to work in Kent schools as an ICT Consulatant. 
She now teaches computers at The Granville School and St. John's Primary School in Sevenoaks Kent.