By Tim Lambert

Early Festivals

354 AD 25 December is made the official birthday of Jesus

496 14 February is made the feast day of St Valentine

11th Century The word Christmas is first used (previously it was called Yule). However Christmas is just one of many festivals and is not particularly important.

1415 The first known Valentines Day note is sent by a Frenchman, the Duke of Orleans

1477 The first known English Valentines Day note is written by a woman named Margaret Paston

16th Century In Central Europe Christmas trees are decorated with candles, wax ornaments and gingerbread. In England people eat mince pies at Christmas. (Originally they actually were made with mince).

17th Century In Europe Christmas trees are decorated with tinsel

1752 New Years Day is moved from 25 March to 1 January

Modern Festivals

1800 Christmas trees are first recorded in England

1843 The first Christmas card is designed by John Horsley

1847 Christmas crackers are made for the first time by a confectioner named Tom Smith

1848 Victoria and Albert are shown in a picture in the Illustrated London New with a Christmas tree. As a result Christmas trees become common in England

1860 The 'bang' is added to Christmas crackers

1862 Cartoonist Thomas Nast creates our modern image of Santa Claus

1868 The first heart shaped box of chocolates for Valentines Day is sold

1871 Christmas Day is made a bank holiday

1882 Christmas tree lights are invented

Late 19th Century Christmas cake was originally eaten on 6 January but at this time people began to eat it at Christmas

1974 New Years Day is made a bank holiday in Britain

A history of Christmas

Tudor Christmas

A history of New Year