Perhaps more than any other time of year, Christmas is based around traditions.
These include everything from the customs we picked up from our parents as children and continue to recreate, to the strange little rituals we build as adults and repeat every year.
They give us a sense of comfort and help punctuate the passage of time.
There are some traditions that are incredibly common in the UK, which even if you don’t practice yourself you’re probably aware of.
But have you ever stopped to think where these annual rituals really come from?
Some may not be quite what you’d expect.
The myth that Coca-Cola put Santa in an ad and turned him red forever more is often espoused as an example of the consumerist nature of modern-day Christmas.
In fact, the colours of Father Christmas’s outfit have more to do with his origins with Saint Nicholas, who was the Bishop of Myra in the fourth century.
Traditional bishop attire at that time would have been red and white robes.
While Saint Nicholas’s kindness to children and ecclesiastical background may be the basis for today’s tradition, it is true that Coca-Cola ran Christmas ads for 30 years featuring him, so perhaps we do owe some of his popularity to the beverage.
One of our favourite and most universal Christmas traditions is dragging a big tree inside and decorating it with lights and baubles – but when you think about it it’s also the most incongruous.
The fir tree has been a part of pagan winter traditions for centuries. Christians adopted it when they decorated evergreen trees with apples to represent the Garden of Eden.
It was eastern Europe that first began using it as a Christmas tree in the way we do today, but it wasn’t until Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, inspired by their German heritage, popularised the tradition in this country that it took off across the world and reached the US, where it would be incorporated into popular culture.
While most other traditions can vary slightly, the one thing most non-vegetarian British families agree makes Christmas special is the big roast turkey for the main meal.
Turkey has been the bird of choice for more than 500 years, but it was only the very rich that were able to afford it – for everyone else goose or even peacock were the norm.
It was only in the 1950s that the turkey became more popular option, primarily for a very mundane reason – fridges.
With more families able to afford fridges and freezers, they could keep turkeys in the run-up to Christmas, making them safe to eat.
As prices dropped it became the most common option for most families.
During the pagan festival of Saturnalia, children were given wax dolls to represent the human sacrifices they believed Rome had given to Saturn as a payment for good harvests.
When this macabre tradition intersected with the legend of Saint Nicholas giving gifts to poor children, and the story of the three wise men bringing presents to a newborn Jesus Christ, there was ample opportunity for this to translate into modern-day gift giving.