Some Interesting Christmas Origins


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The Story of the origin of sending Christmas Cards

The origin of sending Christmas cards started in the UK in 1840. This was when the 'Penny Post' postal deliveries began. The Postal deliveries were a great success as they were aided by the new railway systems.
This public postal service was a great boon to 19th century communications. It was in the nature of a revolution, comparable to what email is for us today.
As printing equipment and methods improved, Christmas cards were produced in large quantities from about 1860. They became even more popular in Britain when a card could be posted in an unsealed envelope for a half-penny . This was half the price of sending an ordinary letter.

The Story of the Christmas Cake

The Christmas Cake as we know it today comes from two customs which merged together around 1870 in Victorian England. Originally there was a porridge, the origins of which go back to the beginnings of Christianity. Then there was a fine cake made with the finest milled wheatflour, this was baked only in the Great Houses, as not many people had ovens back in the 14th century.
Originally people used to eat a sort of porridge on Christmas Eve. Around the 16th century, it became popular to add butter, replace the oatmeal with wheatflour and add eggs to hold it together better.
In the more affluent houses with proper ovens, a cake was baked for the Christmas festivities, with dried fruits in season and spices. These represented the exotic spices of the East, and the gifts of the Wise Men . Such things were first brought to Europe and Britain particularly, by the Crusaders coming back from the wars in the Holy Land in the 12th century.
However, it was still not the Christmas Cake as we know it. Twelfth night is on the 5th January, and has been for centuries the traditional last day of the Christmas season.. It was a time for having a great feast, and the cake was an essential part of the festivities.
In smaller homes, the cake was a simple fruitcake, with a bean in it, which was given to guests during the twelve days of Christmas. Whoever got the bean was supposed to be a kind of guardian angel for that family for the year, so it was an important task, and usually, it was arranged that a senior member of the family would get the bean! This was observed until recently in Poland in fact.
In Britain the cake was baked as part of the refreshments offered to the priest and his entourage who would visit on the feast of the Epiphany, January 6th, to bless each house in the parish. The cake at this stage would have many figurines and models on it. This custom died in the late 16th century after the Reformation when these customs and Twelfth Night Feasting were banned by the Puritans.
The confectioners who made the cakes were left with boxes full of figurines and models for Twelfth Cakes so they began to bake a fruitcake and decorate it with snowy scenes. Firstly they were sold for Christmas Parties and then they developed into the Christmas Cake as we know it today.
Origins of the Christmas Tree
The modern custom can be traced to 16th century Germany, but apart from that, there was neither an identifiable inventor nor a single town to have been the sole trigger for the tradition, which was a popular merge from much older traditions mentioned above; in the Cathedral of Strasbourg in 1539, the church record mentions the erection of a Christmas tree, in that period, the guilds started erecting Christmas trees in front of their houses. Ingeborg Weber-Kellermann (Marburg professor of European ethnology) found a Bremen guild chronicle of 1570 which reports how a small fir was decorated with apples, nuts, dates, pretzels and paper flowers, and erected in the guild-house, for the benefit of the guild members' children, who collected the dainties on Christmas day. Martin Luther is said to have decorated a small tree in house to symbolize the way the stars shined at night. Another early reference is from Basel, where the tailor apprentices carried around town a tree decorated with apples and cheese in 1597.
In Britain, the Christmas tree was introduced in the time of the personal union with Hanover, Germany, by king George III's Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz but did not spread much beyond the royal family. Queen Victoria as a child was familiar with the custom. In her journal for Christmas Eve 1832, the delighted 13-year-old princess wrote, "After dinner...we then went into the drawing-room near the dining-room...There were two large round tables on which were placed two trees hung with lights and sugar ornaments. All the presents being placed round the trees...". After her marriage to her German cousin, Prince Albert, the custom became even more widespread. In 1847, Prince Albert wrote: "I must now seek in the children an echo of what Ernest [his brother] and I were in the old time, of what we felt and thought; and their delight in the Christmas-trees is not less than ours used to be".

The origins of the Christmas Turkey

The tradition of eating turkey only at Christmas is a distant memory of the days when the principal dish on that day was something special. Before turkey took over, the popular Christmas delicacies were bustard, goose and cockerel, and in the houses of the rich, peacock and swan. The peacock was often skinned before roasting. For serving, it was re-clothed in its feathers and its beak was gilded. Sometimes the beak was propped open with a bit of bread soaked in spirit. This would then be set alight and the bird brought into the dining hall with the greatest pomp and ceremony.
The turkey was introduced into Europe by one of Sebastian Cabot's officers on a return journey from the New World, which is where the birds came from. Strangely, they were called turkeys because of their similarity with another bird which was already established in England for human consumption. This was known as the turkey! Merchants from the Levant, or Turkey, first brought them to England, having originally imported them from West Africa. This soon created a lot of confusion. So, the first turkey was renamed the Guinea Fowl, as a reminder of its place of origin.

The Origins of the Christmas Pudding

The earliest puddings were nothing like the ones we enjoy today. They were long and round, and shaped like a thick sausage. They consisted of chopped-up meat, suet, oatmeal and spices and they were cooked in the scalded intestines of a sheep or pig. These puddings were served hot at the beginning of a meal as the first course.
Puddings rather like the ones we eat at Christmas began to appear in the sixteenth century. Since they were boiled in a bag, they were known as ‘bag puddings’. There is a legend about how such puddings came into being.
One Christmas Eve an English king found himself deep in a forest with only a little food for his journey. He knocked on the door of a woodman’s cottage and asked for food and shelter. The occupant had few provisions, so the king’s servant mixed together all the food the woodman would spare with the small amount the king had left. The result was a sticky mixture of chopped suet, flour, eggs, apples, dried plums, ale, sugar and brandy. This mixture was boiled in a cloth and a delicious pudding was invented.


In ancient times, the mistletoe was thought of as the plant of peace and friendship. If enemies met under a tree on which mistletoe grew, they would lay down their arms and call a truce for the rest of the day. If friends met beneath a tree bearing mistletoe, they would consider their friendship to be blessed with good luck.
Kissing under the mistletoe has come from a custom that was once found only in England. Foreign visitors to England in the sixteenth century were often surprised how often man and woman exchanged kisses in greeting and in parting. Perhaps it was this practice, as well as the belief that mistletoe was a plant of friendship, that led to the Christmas tradition.

The Origins of Mince Pies

Mince pies are descended from Christmas pies, which contained a variety of meats as well as fruit and spices.
Christmas pies were very much bigger than the tiny mince pies we eat today. One pie is recorded as having among its ingredients; a hare, a pheasant, a capon, two rabbits, two pigeons, two partridges, the livers of all these animals, as well as eggs, pickled mushrooms and spices. Sometimes these pies could weigh as much as 220 lbs. with iron hands to hold them together while they were baking.
As time went on, mince pies became smaller and smaller. Another name for them was ‘wayfarers’ pies since they were given to visitors during the Christmas holiday. It was thought to be lucky to eat twelve mince pies in twelve different houses during the twelve days of Christmas to ensure a happy twelve months for the year ahead.