We Love the holidays here at The Tea Can Company. One of the most interesting things about the holidays is learning about the wonderful traditions around the world. Tea is one of the common denominators many of us share. It is a tie that binds many of us despite our culture, religious and geographical differences.
For instance, in England, two centuries ago, drinking wine and ale to excess was a widespread tradition that teetotalers countered with extravagant Christmas Eve tea parties, offering snacks and festive blends. Tea started to become a tradition among those not wanting to partake in headache inducing ales. Every year since, especially in the royal houses, tea became a holiday tradition, even introducing tea as a way to cure the day after hangover.
In Germany, tea’s were formulated from wassail, which was a spiced mulled ale. The formulation of those spices became a popular tea and even made its way to England during Queen Victoria’s reign via her German betrothed, Albert. Black tea was the base, and it was flavored with ginger, cinnamon and orange peel. Tables held nutmeg and sugar cookies and nougat, a candy made with honey, roasted nuts and egg whites. It was quite an affair!
In Russia and throughout Europe, black tea from China was preferred among the royals and upper class. They first began drinking tea in and around the 1630’s. The lower to middle class Russians steeped a range of fruits and herbs in hot water from Siberia, including hopcones, chamomile, bearberry (a wild cranberry), and comfrey, which was a popular medicinal herb used to treat things like ulcers, bruises and rheumatoid arthritis.
The Russian Orthodox Church bases their celebrations on the Julian calendar (a calendar proposed by Julius Caesar in 46 B.C) and celebrates their Christmas holiday in early January, with a traditional feast on the night of the 6th. Kissel, which is a popular fruit dessert/drink in Russia, is served for toasting both New Year’s celebrations (one is on the 31ist of December and the other on January 14). During these events, hot tea is served to keep everyone warm throughout the festivities.
In France, Christmas markets, known as Marchésde Noël, are a destination for thousands of French shoppers before the holidays. The market at Strasbourg, known as the Christkindelsmarik dates back to 1570. They sold spiced tea to shoppers, urging them to stay warm, which allowed them to stay longer and keep shopping.
What traditions do you celebrate around the table at your holiday celebrations and how did they find a way to your table and family gatherings?