There is no doubt that we have a number of weird-but-wonderful Christmas traditions here in the UK and that’s what makes the holiday so special. Here at ABC we like to keep warm, cosy and dry, but there seems to be a trend to get yourself cold and wet at Christmas?! We have done a little digging to share some of the crazy and cold traditions at Christmas.
We have to kick things off with the Thames frost fair in 1789 and 1814. Back then the winters were so cold that the ice was thick enough to hold a fair on the River Thames. Londoners are said to have stood on the frozen river eating gingerbread and sipping gin for up to four days! Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that the frozen fair on the famous river will return as it hasn’t frozen in over 200 years! You can probably thank global warming for that.
One of the bravest events held on Christmas morning has to be the Peter Pan Swim at Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park. This 100-yard race takes place every Christmas at 9am for members of the Serpentine Swimming Club. For a country with notoriously cold waters, (5°c and under!) it does make you wonder whose idea it was in the first place? The event actually dates back to 1864, when author J M Barrie, (who famously wrote the Peter Pan novel) presented winners of the first race with the Peter Pan cup! There is no evidence stating exactly why the event took place, other than a few ‘kindred spirits’ spent time planning the race. Unfortunately, non-members can’t take part in the race; however, spectators are welcome on the banks – if you can brave the cold!
This isn’t the only Christmas swim to take place in the UK. It’s quite common for families living in coastal areas to congregate with other families and friends by the shore-line on either Christmas Day or Boxing Day and go for a chilly dip, before sitting down for their festive feast!
Some of the more famous ones include the Tenby Boxing Day swim where people from around the world gather to take part and join the hundreds of locals who gather on the beach to take the plunge in the icy Welsh waters. For some reason people think that dressing in fancy dress will distract them from the cold waters!
Sticking with the beach theme – every Christmas morning in Scarborough, North Yorkshire a game of beach football takes place. The tradition dates back to the 19th century, when the match was first played as a charity fundraiser for the wives and children of fallen fishermen. Today, the tradition has had a modern twist with players arriving in fancy dress. When the final whistle blows, there’s a raft race in the harbour to end the event.
It seems that Britain has a bizarre link to celebrating the cold at Christmas, proving that us Brits will do anything to have fun and get family and friends together. We all know that whatever you plan to do at Christmas having family and friends together is there real secret to success, whatever the weather!