«Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat.
Please to put a penny in the old man’s hat.»
This is an old English rhyme which connects to interesting Christmas traditions.
In England the 25th December is the big day. Children wake up in the morning and find the stockings they put at the bottom of their beds before going to sleep full of sweets and fruit. Who brings them? Father Christmas, of course… In days gone by, he would come down the chimney, but most people have central heating now, which makes it difficult for him!
When everyone has got up, the family goes to the Christmas Tree and everyone exchanges presents.
Once, a roast goose was the typical English Christmas Day dinner, but now most people have a roast turkey and we eat at 12 or 1 o’clock.
We cook a big turkey, together with roast potatoes and lots of vegetables! And, of course, we finish the meal with Christmas Pudding, which is carried to the table in flames! Well, we pour some warm brandy over it and set light to it, but it doesn’t burn the pudding. Sometimes the cook hides a silver coin in the pudding, and the person who gets it must make a wish. The wish must be made silently, because nobody must know what you wish for.
Later in the day it is time for tea! Christmas cake, mince pies, and naturally a big pot of tea. Are you still hungry? In the evening you can have cold ham, cheese, whatever you want.
So what is the connection with the penny in the old man’s hat? A long time ago, priests used to come to the house the day after Christmas to ask for pennies for the poor. People were happy because they had eaten a lot on Christmas Day and felt very generous, so they gave money and often food too.
The priest didn’t put the money in a hat, but in a box. This is why we call the day after Christmas Boxing Day. It is nothing to do with hitting people! That would not be a good idea at the Christmas season.
There are twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany, and you must eat a mince pie every one of those days, so that you have twelve months of good luck. However, each mince pie must be made by a different cook or it doesn’t count!