History at The Athenaeum : Dawn Geddes
This months Mayfair Insider series features Freelance Journalist Dawn Geddes, who tells of her family stay at The Athenaeum
16th October 2017
Like many other European cities, London literally lights up at Christmas time. Expect to see Christmas trees in shop windows and coloured lights – some with incredibly intricate designs – adorning all the main streets and thoroughfares. The most famous Christmas tree in London is the one that is erected in Trafalgar Square. Each year, Norway gives the tree to Londoners as a gift, in recognition of the help Great Britain gave the Norwegians during the Second World War.
London is also famous for its Christmas lights, particularly along the main shopping streets of Oxford Street and Regent Street. London’s Christmas light tradition is thought to date back to Regent Street in the 1880s, which is the first time festive lights were hung. Nowadays, these two shopping streets plus many others have new light displays every year. Some say London’s festive season only truly begins when the lights are switched on, which is usually done by a celebrity every November.
Christmas trees and lights will all have disappeared again by 6th January, which marks the end of the traditional ’12 days of Christmas’. Nowadays, people believe it’s unlucky to leave Christmas adornments up for any longer.
Christmas in London has become a time of great entertainment, with an array of transfixing recitals and productions on at this time of year. The roots of Christmas music lie in Christmas carols, which have been sung in England since the Middle Ages. Another sign the Christmas season has arrived in London is the calendar of carol concerts that emerges. Many churches and venues host lunchtime and evening carol concerts, the most famous of which are at St Paul’s Cathedral and St Martin-in-the-Fields.
Another great Christmas tradition in London is the pantomime, a musical comedy stage production, which is thought to date back as far as the Middle Ages – in some form anyway – in Great Britain. Nowadays, pantomimes can be watched up and down the country at Christmas. The most popular venue in central London for pantomime is the London Palladium. Other than carols and pantomime, there’s also an array of festive theatre shows, ballet and opera on in London every year.
Another great London Christmas tradition is Christmas shopping and everything it entails. Christmas shopping is a social ritual among Londoners, with shops offering late night openings to help shoppers make an evening of it. The well-known department stores and main shopping streets try to out-do themselves each year with their festive window displays – a tradition that started in the early 1900s. Stroll along Oxford Street, or visit the likes of Harrods, to check out the inventive displays.
In more recent years, London has also become well-known for its outdoor winter markets, borrowed from Germany’s great Christmas market tradition. As well as being a place to buy hand-crafted gifts, London’s winter markets are also popular social hang-outs, where hot food, mulled wine and sweet treats are consumed. Winter Wonderland is the largest of London’s winter markets, with markets at the Southbank Centre, the Tate Modern and London Bridge also full of Christmas spirit.
Stay with us this festive season and relax, shop, celebrate and make the most of being in the city of London during the most wonderful time of the year!
Our Festive Stay Package includes an indulgent Festive Afternoon Tea experience, a full English breakfast each morning, the choice of a complimentary glass of Champagne or mulled wine and a special Christmas gift. Are you feeling festive yet?SEE PACKAGE
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