|Author: Clara Lawrie||Published: 5th December 2009 17:44|
Christmas is steeped in tradition, but how did these start and where did they come from ? For example, why did we all decide it was necessary to send cards or eat Christmas pudding ?
It seems that the first recognised commercial Christmas card was produced in England in 1843 by Henry Cole, founder of the Victoria and Albert Museum. It was a hand-coloured print showing a family scene flanked by scenes of Christmas charity ( see image right ).
This was inscribed with the words, A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You, with space at the top to put the name of the recipient and at the bottom for the name of the sender.
However, it was not until the 1860s that the Christmas card as we know it came into being. Initially these were small cards with a simple greeting, set within an embossed border. Over time , they have evolved into the variety of cards available today.
The origins of the Christmas pudding go back to the 14th century when a type of porridge called frumenty (or furmety) was made by boiling beef and mutton with raisins, currants, prunes, wines and spices. This was similar to soup and was eaten as a fasting dish in preparation for the Christmas festivities.
By 1595, frumenty was beginning to evolve into plum pudding. It was thickened with eggs, breadcrumbs and dried fruit and was given more flavour by the addition of ale and spirits.
Over the years it became the customary Christmas dessert. However, with the arrival of the Puritans in 1664, it was banned as a lewd custom and its rich ingredients described as being unfit for God-fearing people.
In 1714, plum pudding was restored to the Christmas table by George I, who had tasted and enjoyed it, despite objections by the Quakers.
By Victorian times, the plum pudding had evolved into something that looked similar to the Christmas puddings enjoyed by people today. It is now estimated that in the UK more than 40 million people will finish their festive meal with a bit of Christmas pudding.
One of the many customs surrounding the Christmas pudding is that they should be made by the 25th Sunday after Trinity.
They should also be prepared with 13 ingredients - to represent Jesus and his disciples, and every member of the family should take turns to stir the pudding from east to west with a wooden spoon in honour of the three kings.
Another custom is for silver coins to be put into the pudding mixture before it is baked. Whoever finds one will have health, wealth and happiness for the coming year.