British Christmas Traditions Americans Have Never Heard of

Pantomimes, or “pantos,” are plays performed around Christmastime in the UK.

british pantomime

Pantomime dames playing the role of the Ugly Sisters in a production of Cinderella.

Gideon Mendel/Corbis/Getty Images

Pantos are humorous, slapstick entertainment for the whole family, often featuring men dressed in drag. They are sometimes based on a famous fairy tale or story, like “Cinderella,” “Peter Pan,” or “The Wizard of Oz.” 

According to Babbel, there are certain tropes in pantomimes that make them unique. For example, there’s often a villain who will sneak up on the protagonist intermittently throughout the play. It’s then the role of the audience to scream, “He’s behind you!” to the main character — while he or she struggles to figure out what’s going on.

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