Christmas 2022

Have you ever wondered why we give Christmas gifts, or what previous generations ate for Christmas dinner? Read on to explore the history behind some of your favourite Christmas traditions.

Christmas 2021 saw the return of our popular Enchanted events at Eltham Palace and Audley End House and Gardens, allowing visitors to experience the grounds and gardens bathed in a magical world of illumination, sound and colour. Our family-friendly adventure quests also provided a fun way to follow trails, find clues and experience the stories of sites across the country.

Keep an eye out for our Christmas 2022 events, which will be added to this page later in the year.

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Decorating our homes with greenery is a Christmas tradition ingrained in our national consciousness. The Christmas tree is, of course, the most well-known, but it is equally hard to imagine Christmas without wreaths, holly and mistletoe. When and why did such traditions emerge?

Discover the history of festive foliage from Louise Ellis, Head Gardener at Audley End House and Gardens, as she prepares the house for Christmas.

The History of Gingerbread

From festively shaped biscuits to extravagantly decorated gingerbread houses, gingerbread has become a culinary staple of Christmas. But this wasn't always the case. Food historian Sam Bilton discusses its ginger-less medieval origins and significance in Queen Victoria’s household, and even unearths a Dickens family recipe.

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How to Make Gertrude à la Crème – The Victorian Way

It's the festive season, which means lots of entertaining at Audley End House. Mrs Crocombe is preparing a Gertrude à la Crème, a great way to use up stale sponge cake and produce a decorative sweet centrepiece for the Christmas table.

Christmas Through the Ages

  • Why do we give gifts at Christmas?

    Giving and receiving gifts at Christmas is one of the joys of the festive season. But why do we engage in this annual tradition?

  • History of Christmas

    Discover the history of Christmas through time, starting around 5,000 years ago in the Neolithic and evolving traditions throughout the centuries.


    Christmas is one of the major festivals of the Christian church. Find out how it was marked by the monks at Rievaulx Abbey?


    Special effort has been made across the social spectrum to mark Christmas. Here are five culinary highlights from medieval England.

  • The History of Father Christmas

    The jolly old man who sneaks into our houses every 24 December is beloved across the world. But should you call him Father Christmas, St Nicholas or Santa Claus?


    Christmas marks the anniversary of William the Conqueror’s coronation. Find out about the coronation after a turbulent 1066.

  • Christmas Dinners Through History

    Explore festive feasts through time, from prehistoric midwinter feasts, to Tudor banquets fit for Henry VIII and a 1930s dinner you might recognise.

  • The Twelve Days of Christmas

    We all know the popular song, but which days are the twelve days of Christmas? Explore some of these traditions and discover how the Tudors celebrated Christmas.


Learn more about our historic properties and collections in our weekly podcast. Join presenter Charles Rowe as he meets leading experts to find out about the people and places that helped to shape England’s history.

Throughout the festive period we will be exploring the origins of Mead, learning which Christmas traditions were invented by Victoria and Albert, and finding out about the raucous Christmas party planner of the past, the Lord of Misrule.

  • A Christmas conversation: The history of midwinter traditions

    Explore the history of the midwinter traditions that extend beyond Christmas Day into the New Year. Discover the alternative name for Boxing Day, why there are 12 days of Christmas and the origins of Christmas carols and gift giving. Plus, we reveal the surprising truth about when you should take your Christmas decorations down.

  • The rise of mead: the world's oldest alcoholic drink

    Once the Vikings’ drink of choice, mead now has a new and growing following of people who are putting a modern twist on the historical classic. To celebrate the revival of this golden brew, we head into the studio with resident expert Cameron Moffett to discover the history of the world’s oldest alcoholic drink. 

  • Celebrating Christmas with Queen Victoria and Albert at Osborne

    Osborne curator Michael Hunter to reveals how Queen Victoria and Prince Albert celebrated Christmas. Discover how the royal couple popularised a new way of seeing in the festive season, how Prince Albert was instrumental in bringing German traditions to Britain and what Christmas was like for the servants working at Osborne.

  • A weird and wonderful history of Christmas

    English Heritage Trustee Ronald Hutton discussed weird and wonderful Christmas traditions. Listen on to discover the story behind Santa Claus, the yule log and Christmas cards, carols, trees and stockings, not to mention the puzzling traditions of kissing under mistletoe, wassailing, Mummers' plays and the Lord of Misrule.

Things to do in winter

A selection of our free-to-enter and staffed sites remain open across England. All have large outdoor spaces for you to get outside safely this winter.

Wrap up warm and explore the sites open near you. Enjoy frosty garden walks or discover local historic ruins. If you are staying in, we have a wide range of videos, articles and quizzes so you can learn something new from the comfort of your own home. We've got all the tips you need to enjoy the colder months ahead.

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More to Explore

  • Dog Friendly Days Out

    We've got lots of options for dog-friendly days out at our castles, abbeys and historic gardens. Find a day out for you and your furry friend.

  • Gift of membership

    Give the gift of unlimited access to over 400 historic places this Christmas, with English Heritage membership. 


    Our carefully chosen range offers inspiring, imaginative, and unusual alternatives to the high street.

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