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London Christmas rituals that you probably won’t be doing

Posted at 12:00 pm, December 23, 2011 in Arts & Entertainment

Pantomime DamesAre they true? Who cares. They are the rituals which every Londoner should know about (and most probably ignore).

Take the turkey for a walk
In Victorian times, goose was just as popular as turkey for Christmas dinner and Smithfield was overrun with them. Far too numerous to be transported, they often came in from Norfolk – walking! Their feet were covered in protective tar and the lucky turkeys were kitted out with leather booties.

Go for a dip
There’s nothing like a brisk Christmas morning breast-stroke in ice-cold water. JM Barrie began the ritual in the Serpentine back in 1864 when he presented the Peter Pan Cup to two dozen frostbitten dupes. The 100-yard swim is now only open to members of the Serpentine Swimming Club – how unfortunate.

Cross dressing
There’s a long tradition of cross dressing for Christmas. Today the ritual survives in the form of pantomime dames (above) and principal boys played by girls.

Get lectured
Introduced in 1826 by Michael Faraday, the Royal Institute’s Christmas Lectures for Young People are still thriving with past topics including ‘The Story of Petroleum’ (Frank Whittle, 1955). I’m sure that’s definitely something we’ll all be checking out this year to get us in the Christmas spirit.

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