Origins of our modern Christmas

20/12/2017 — Rosie Lemprière

This year I wanted to dig a bit deeper into why and where all the Christmas traditions around food and decorations originate and why are we so keen to carry on with them? Here are just some of the nuggets of information I came across.

Christmas Pudding

We all love a bit of fruity, booze infused Christmas pudding after the big feast but in fact originally it was a 14th century porridge called ‘frumenty’ that was made of beef and mutton with raisins, currants, prunes, wines and spices.   Yummy!

Christmas Trees & decorations

There’s nothing like the smell of a fresh Christmas tree or if you’re more inclined, a tinsel covered pink, LED, artificial monstrosity! But where did the tradition come from?

Vikings thought that evergreens were the special plant of the sun god, Balder but Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition in the 16th century when devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. The first Christmas Trees came to Britain sometime in the 1830s. They became very popular in 1841, when Prince Albert had a Christmas Tree set up in Windsor Castle.

Christmas Crackers

A staple of every Christmas day table they were invented by Tom Smith of London 1847. He created the crackers as a development of his bon-bon sweets, which he sold in a twist of paper (the origins of the traditional sweet-wrapper). As sales of bon-bons slumped, Smith began to come up with new promotional ideas.  He was obviously a marketing genius!

Turkey for Christmas Dinner

Not everyone likes Turkey but just think that prior to the turkey tradition Christmas fare included roast swan and peacocks and as a special treat a roast boars head decorated with holly and fruit. I think I’ll stick with the turkey, thank you!

Mince Pies

Mince pies were first made in an oval shape to represent the manger that Jesus slept in as a baby, with the top representing his swaddling clothes.  But guess what, it has been claimed that the act of eating a mince pie on Christmas Day is illegal in England. They were reportedly banned in Oliver Cromwell’s England as part of efforts to tackle gluttony. So, step away from the mince pies or risk being arrested by the Honorarys on Christmas Day mah luv!

I’m sure there are many more you can think of, so what’s your weird and wonderful family tradition?

Have a great Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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