It's time to turn on the Christmas lights - and we want to see yours

by Super User
TODAY is the day you are most likely to turn on your Christmas lights. A survey by English Heritage has revealed that Friday, December 1, the first day of the month, is the day most people "deck their halls" in festive splendour- and also shows that over the centuries we are celebrating the season earlier and earlier. This weekend is the busiest decorating weekend as almost a third of us will have put our lights up by Sunday night. (Except for the six per cent of us who admit to putting the lights up as early as November.) This is in striking contrast with the stoic Tudors who waited until New Year’s Day before dishing out the presents, medieval people who didn't dare decorate their homes until Christmas Eve and our pre-historic ancestors celebrating the midwinter solstice around December 21. Whenever you put the lights up, it seems most are agreed that they will be doing it. 77 per cent of respondents to the YouGov poll agreed that the festive season was not complete without Christmas lights. Tradition? What tradition? Christmas through the Ages Pre-historic For our pre-historic ancestors, celebrations centred on December 21, the date of the midwinter solstice. The sun’s light was revered - the tallest stones at Stonehenge were aligned to mark the position of sunrise on that day - and great feasting would take place. Romans For the Romans at least five days of feasting and partying called the Saturnalia, began on December 17. Present giving was not a major part of the festival, but white candles, named cerei, were given as gifts to signify the increase of light after the solstice. Middle Ages In the Middle Ages churches and private homes were decorated on Christmas Eve with frames covered in evergreens such as holly and stuck with candles. Churches bought candles in bulk to burn on Christmas Day morning and would have been ablaze with light on this ‘most joyous of days’. Tudors For the Tudors, presents were given on New Year’s Day, and roaring fires warmed the feasts in the great halls of the nobility and gentry, such as at Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire. Stuarts In early Stuart England, warmth and light was provided throughout the Twelve Days by the burning of the Christmas or Yule log. Victorians It was the Victorians, in particular Queen Victoria and her beloved Albert, who gave us the Christmas we know today. The Christmas trees Albert introduced from his native Germany in 1840 rapidly caught on, as did decking them with candles and presents, by now given on Christmas Day itself. 'Christmas Box' tips to servants and tradesmen were left until December 26, establishing Boxing Day for the first time. Wartime During the Second World War, the blackout put an end to the comforting sight of lit Christmas trees in people’s front windows, but by 1944 churches were allowed to light their stained glass windows again as the aerial threat from conventional aircraft was all but ended. English Heritage historian Dr Michael Carter said: “The use of light to celebrate Christmas and the mid-winter festivals which preceded it is a tradition which goes back thousands of years. This reminder of the prospect of warmth and growth in the darkest days of winter was vitally important. The date of these celebrations has varied over the centuries, but it’s clear that in the 21st century, we’re more impatient for Christmas to begin than many of our ancestors. What’s also clear is that throughout history, whether consciously or unconsciously, human beings have sought light to lift our spirits in the depths of winter.” English Heritage will be joining in by switching its lights on ten days before Christmas on 15 December when it launches ‘Enchanted.’ This December, English Heritage is opening the gates after dark to some of its most prestigious palaces, houses and castles across the country for the first time as it hosts Enchanted, a new season of twilight outdoor events. Let's see your lights!

Leave your comments


  • No comments found