Is the tradition of Christmas tipping still going strong?

A Royal Mail postal worker in the snow Image copyright Alamy

To some, slipping a note or two into the hands of the postie or the refuse collector at Christmas time is second nature.

But others have never heard of it.

The tradition of the "Christmas box" sees people give cash or small gifts to those who perform personal services in their lives - be it the person delivering the milk or post, cleaners or hairdressers.

And some can take home a decent haul.

Modern manners specialists Debrett's suggest giving a £5 tip to those delivering goods to your door, along with those taking rubbish away.

But in the days where people rarely see their refuse collector, don't know their postie and carry less cash, is the tradition dying out?

Jason King and his dad Neil have worked as postal workers for more than 14 years.

Last year Jason says he made £350 from tips, which he puts down to knowing his customers, and never leaving a package undelivered.

But more experienced dad Neil brought home a haul of £600, plus around 50 bottles of wine and a huge stash of chocolates.

Neil has a special technique to help his customers embrace the season of goodwill: he delivers post dressed up as Santa.

Image copyright Jason King
Image caption Postie Neil King, left, made £600 in Christmas tips last year

In the run up to Christmas, he and his colleague, who dresses as an elf, embark on festive deliveries around their patch in a Cambridgeshire village.

"The kids love it, the mums and dads spend a bit of a time saying hello," Jason says.

Jason said he's only gone as far as sporting a Christmas jumper, but is tempted to follow his father's footsteps.

Throughout December, their sorting office is awash with gossip of colleagues' Christmas tips totals.

But he says "it's not a competition" and that those who deliver to villages tend to do better than those in towns, since they know their customers better.

Despite his postal worker credentials Jason admits: "If I wasn't a postman, I wouldn't think of tipping the postman. It wouldn't occur to me."

"I would never tip my postman!" he laughs.

He isn't the only one who doesn't think about festive tipping nowadays.

A recent survey of 2,000 people by British Corner Shop found only 8% of 25-34 year olds said they'd tip their postal worker and refuse collector at Christmas, versus 20% of over 55 year olds.

'My milkman is the supermarket'

Rachel Waterman, 44, from Northwich, Cheshire, hasn't carried on her parents' tradition of Christmas tipping.

"My parents gave 'Christmas boxes'," she says. "They gave the postman, the binman, and the milkman a bit of money to say thank you for doing your job."

But she says times have changed, and services have become far less personal: "Now the postman doesn't come until halfway through the day - I'm at work.

"Mum and dad knew the postman, they knew them by name. Nowadays your milkman is Sainsbury's, Waitrose, Tesco."

"Mum talked about tipping the hairdresser - I've never tipped my hairdresser," she said.

Rachel says like others, she doesn't carry cash as often, making it harder to quickly pass on a few pounds or tell people to "keep the change".

Royal Mail previously warned postal workers against accepting festive tips of more than £30 for fear of bribery charges.

But they told the BBC they want colleagues to "get the recognition they deserve" and regard the giving of Christmas tips "as a matter between customers and individual postmen and postwomen."

William Harvey, a 24-year-old postal worker from North Lanarkshire, said he didn't know Christmas tipping existed until a woman came up to him and tried to give him £20.

"I hadn't really spoken to her. She just came up to me and I was like 'don't be daft'," he says. "I tried to give it her back."

In his first winter as a postal worker, he's received £90 in tips so far.

"Even if I've not got mail for them, they just run after me and say 'here, that's for Christmas'," he says.

One of his colleagues, who has been working the same affluent area for 30 years, said he's been given a £1,000 so far this season.

"He says he's got a grand, he's just paid for his holidays next year," William laughs.

But it's still only a minority of people who tip, he says.

Image copyright Alamy

Neil Fay, 45, from Liverpool, says he gives a tenner to the postie and the person delivering his milk - but the refuse collectors won't be getting a look-in this year.

"My parents did tip the binmen in the days when they would take anything from you.

"But these days with wheelie bins and the strict collection policies I feel I do 80% of their work by taking the bins to the end of the back entry every week."

"A milkman costs me more than supermarket but I like the idea of a community based service and he's a lovely fella.

Neil says he's picked up the tradition from his parents' generation but he doesn't think it's so common now.

"But even just a small token of appreciation to somebody might just put a smile on their face for a bit and that can't be a bad thing," he says.

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