Tradizioni, ricette dan antichi riti natalizi… golosamente British!
Have you ever wondered how the original British Christmas traditions came about? We reveal some of them!
Christmas gifts as a good omen
In addition to the religious ones, do you know that Christmas also has very ancient pagan and secular origins? Especially with regard to the custom of exchanging gifts, which is very much felt in England, as in almost all of the West.
This tradition derives from the times of the ancient Romans, who in the days before Christmas celebrated the Saturnalia, dedicated to the settlement in the temple of Saturn, the god of agriculture. As a good omen of peace and prosperity, the custom of exchanging gifts was widespread!
British-style Christmas customs, dishes and symbols
Christmas, beyond his birth and the various religions, is for everyone a time of celebration, joy and conviviality. During the Christmas period (but also in the days before it) various customs are protagonists: decorations, exchanges of gifts, events to spend in company, recipes and various gastronomic specialties. The United Kingdom certainly played a decisive role in spreading some typical Christmas traditions. Others are and still remain characteristics of this land.
Greetings cards and crackling crackers
One of the most widespread traditions in the UK are greeting cards which are still handwritten in the digital age and sent to friends and family in time for the celebrations. They can be photos of the whole family, funny images or exquisitely Christmas postcards: the important thing is to keep the tradition alive!
Like that of decorating the party table with crackling Christmas Crakers: colorful cardboard tubes filled with surprises, typically in the shape of candy, which are "burst" by pulling the two ends by the diners gathered at the table. One of the many surprises that we find here at Babingtons during the Victorian Christmas Tea!
Are you curious to discover other Christmas culinary specialties and traditions typical of Babingtons' country of origin?
Plum Pudding (or Christmas Pudding)
Plum Pudding is a traditional dish served as a dessert during Christmas dinner in Britain. However, today's Christmas pudding is very different from what was prepared centuries ago. Christmas Pudding originated as a porridge in the 14th century and included ingredients such as beef, mutton, raisins, plums, currants, wines and spices. This dish at the time was eaten during fasting in preparation for the Christmas holidays. Around 1595 this preparation began to resemble more and more the Plum Pudding as we know it today, thanks to the addition of thickening eggs, breadcrumbs, dried fruit, giving it a more inviting flavor.
Christmas Pudding became the traditional Christmas dessert around 1650. In 1714, King George I reintroduced it as an integral part of the Christmas meal, after enjoying Plum Pudding. In the Victorian era, Christmas Pudding was further modified to resemble even more what is eaten today.
A typical (and very ancient) custom related to pudding is to insert a silver coin inside. In fact, it is said that it brings luck to the person who finds it. In the United Kingdom, the traditionally used coin was the silver "six pence". The closest coin to that is currently a five cent coin. Today we don't insert coins but “charms” of different shapes and meanings. And the Christmas Pudding is served flambèe, with a sprig of butcher's broom and red berries placed on top. Elegant and refined!
The Christmas Cake, as we know it today, comes from two Christian holidays: Twelfth Night and Easter. When families in the 16th century made their Christmas Pudding for the big day, they often used a portion of the dough, with the addition of flour and eggs, to cook at Easter. He liked it so much that the rich fruit cake was then also prepared for Christmas.
The addition of marzipan and the Royal Glaze came much later. The last day of Christmas is the twelfth night (January 5) and it was traditional to make a cake for the Twelfth Night with almonds and cover it with marzipan. In 1640, Oliver Cromwell and other Puritans banned the celebrations of that special day (they also banned the famous mince pies, which Babingtons make to order) as excessive for anyone who believed in God. Christmas Day remained a public holiday and only a few celebrations were granted ... including the Christmas cake covered with marzipan!
The tradition of mistletoe at Christmas
The tradition of hanging mistletoe in the house dates back to the time of the ancient Druids. It is said to have mystical powers and to bring good luck to the family by keeping evil spirits away. It was also used as a sign of love and friendship in Norse mythology and that's where the custom of kissing under the mistletoe comes from.
When the first Christians arrived in Western Europe, some tried to ban the use of mistletoe as decoration in churches, but many continued to use it! York Minster used to hold a special Mistletoe ceremony in the winter, where the unrighteous in the city of York could come and be forgiven. The custom of kissing under the mistletoe comes from England. Berries are poisonous to people, but not to birds and many animals.
The introduction of the Christmas tree in the Victorian era
After her marriage to the beloved Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1840, Queen Victoria wanted to import some religious and Christmas traditions from her husband's country of origin, to brighten up the English Christmas atmosphere at the time particularly conservative and disinterested. at this party. The most important thing among those introduced was the Christmas tree!
The first Christmas Tree was placed in Windsor Castle in 1841 and adorned with classic German decorations, at the behest of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Traditionally, it was purchased several days before the party, but had to be decorated on the night between 24 and 25 December: a custom still respected today in England and in the United States of America! At the time, the children could not see it until it was completed and turned on, then they were allowed to enter the room that hid the tree and, with great amazement and wonder, they also found the gifts decorated under the tree.
We must therefore thank Queen Victoria for introducing the many beautiful Christmas customs that have come down to us. And, above all, for being able to transmit the Christian and conservative values of this magical celebration in a simple and joyful way, strengthening the family bond that found maximum expression in the Royal Family built with her husband Alberto.
A magical Christmas at Babingtons
In our historic tea room, the Christmas holidays are a special time every year. In fact, at Babingtons customers in December are pampered with our typical specialties. Among these you will find the Plum Puddings, the Chrstmas cakes and the ginger bread men, the famous ginger men. And of course, our special Christmas teas, available only during the months of November and December.
You can enjoy our products sitting at the table in our historic tea room in Piazza di Spagna: the typical English atmosphere of our rooms decorated for Christmas will make your experience even more magical!
Or, you can buy our products in the Tea Shop in the room or in our online store!
Christmas itself is a special moment: spending a December afternoon here at Babingtons, sipping one of our teas, makes everything even more… enchanting!
And to celebrate the British-style holidays together, Babingtons hosts the Christmas Carols every year: traditional Christmas songs performed by the Campions Quartet in the tea room in Piazza di Spagna.
We look forward to seeing you with Christmas Babingtons!