Christmas: Festive features

Celebrate Christmas with BBC History Magazine


With Christmas just around the corner, BBC History Magazine has published a number of features to put you in the mood to celebrate, as well as shed a little light on the history and traditions of the festive season. From Santa Claus through the ages, to Christmas in the trenches, we’ve got Christmas well and truly wrapped up.



Christmastime Camaraderie

The fraternity between British and German soldiers extended beyond a one-off game of football over Christmas 1914, sometimes lasting up until Easter. Mark Rowe tells of a remarkable truce.

A Christmas controversy

Mark Mardell explains the festive customs in the Low Countries that prompt an ethical debate – from Sinterklaas the noble Santa Claus figure, to his mischievous minstrel sidekick Zwarte Piet (Black Pete).
Christmas songs – the oldest ones are the best

Christmas carols were mostly a Victorian tradition along with trees, crackers and cards. Eugene Byrne explains the why the popularity of Silent Night has never faded, why there’s always a place for Hark! The Herald Angels Sing and why the British fondness of Good King Wenceslas has not yet subsided.


A Dickensian Christmas. (© Alamy/Mary Evans)
The Dickensian Christmas

Thanks to his seminal 1843 novel A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens is often credited with inventing winter festivities as we know them. His book of literary favourites including Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim and the host of Christmas ghosts are thought to define the Dickensian Christmas but is Dickens’ pioneering reputation really deserved?


The Commercial Christmas

When it comes to exploiting Christmas for all its commercial possibilities, the Victorians take some beating. Mark Connelly looks at how our forebears turned the season of goodwill into the modern money spinner of today.

Front cover photograph from The Sphere, December 1916 showing a joyful soldier in a trench laden with Christmas parcels.     Date: 30th December 1916
Christmas parcels

Sent from loved ones at home to the frontline troops, food packages at Christmas were packed with something extra for the festive period. Christmas boxes were saturated with treats so that Christmas dinner could be an occasion when the disappointments of military rations were forgotten.

The old versus the new

Professor Arthur Purdue takes a look our fascination with ‘Christmas past’ and how the celebration has evolved since Victorian times.

The changing faces of Santa Claus

With Christmas Eve just a week away and Christmas stockings waiting to be filled with presents, Arthur Purdue looks back at the evolution of our favourite seasonal character whose waistline has waxed and waned throughout history.


And finally…

… a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year from all the team at BBC History Magazine.

(Pic credits: Mary Evans Picture Library/Getty Images/Alamy)