Whether you call it Christmas, Noel, Natale or Navidad – chances are you’re right in the thick of planning your festive celebrations. You’ll be shopping for gifts, digging the tree out of the attic, planning your menu and scouring the internet for the perfect party outfit - the more sequins the better, right? But, do you know where all these traditions came from? Their true meaning? And, how they’ve morphed into our modern-day reveries?
The Christmas tree
Many believe that it was Prince Albert – Queen Victoria’s beloved husband – who first to introduced Christmas trees to England. This is false.
Long before 25th December became a key date in the Christian calendar, our pagan ancestors were celebrating winter solstice – the return of the sun and beginning of spring – by hauling an evergreen fir branch into their homes. By the 14th century, the branches had been replaced by full trees and the tradition as we know it was born.
Advent calendars are having what could be described as ‘a moment’ right now – their doors concealing everything from Zoella lip gloss to whiskey. However, as far back as the 1500s people were counting down the days of December, with 24 candles delicately placed in fir garlands. Complete fire hazards, the candles were soon reduced to four, to represent the four Sundays of the Advent season. Then, in the 19th century, one Munich housewife, sick of answering her children’s’ endless questions as to when Christmas would come, invented the advent calendar as we know it - or so the story goes. The first commercial calendars were printed in Germany in 1851.
In the Christian religion, from which Christmas takes its name, gifts are absolutely key. Jesus was God’s gift to the world and, when the Wise Men rocked up to the stable with gold, frankincense and myrrh, a tradition was established.
Sorry, no matter how much you love your iPad and inbox, an e-card for Christmas just doesn’t cut it.
We’ve been sending and receiving Christmas cards ever since the mid-1800s and, despite a growing society of digital-natives, the tradition is still going strong. Originally hand- made, colour printing technology and industrialisation in the 1880s saw the Christmas card really take off, as well as the price of postage dropping to a halfpenny - a lucrative industry, 11.5 million cards were produced in 1880 alone! The commercialisation of Christmas was well on its way.
Another commercial Christmas industry borne by the Victorians; crackers were invented in 1848 by a British confectioner as a bold new way to sell sweets. Inspired by a trip to Paris where he saw bon bons – sugared almonds wrapped in twists of paper – he came up with the idea of the Christmas cracker: a simple package filled with sweets that snapped when pulled apart. The sweets were replaced by small gifts and paper hats in the later Victorian period and have remained this way as an essential part of modern Christmas dining.
Christmas and feasting have gone hand in hand as far back as the Middle Ages, though the star of the show wasn’t always turkey. Up until Victorian times, beef and goose were the most frequent choices but the turkey’s size made it an ideal choice for a middle-class family gathering, and by the 20th century it was a firm favourite.
The tradition of mince pies dates all the way back to Tudor times, when the filling was actually spiced meat (er… interesting).
Prestige Venues & Events are experts at Christmas; catering to all the wonderful (and weird) traditions of the season within our venues and events. To learn more about Christmas with Prestige Venues & Events click here.