The holiday season is all about traditions - family gatherings, giving gifts, lighting candles, singing carols, and gathering around the table to share delicious meals, treats, and beverages. People tend to think of eggnog or mulled wine when it comes to time-honored traditional holiday beverages. However, tea is an equally important festive drink for the holiday season.
In this article, we'll explore how tea and Christmas celebrations go together like a sleigh and reindeer, observe other holiday tea traditions, and give you a few ideas so you can make tea a part of your Christmas celebration. It's time to get cozy by the fire, watch the snow falling outside, think about sugarplums and candy canes, and enjoy that warm, relaxing cup of hot tea.
Holiday Tea Traditions Around The World
Before we step into the world of Christmas tea traditions, let's look at how tea lovers worldwide make tea a part of their holiday celebrations. These wonderful traditions involve more than just enjoying a hot and delicious tea. They are closely linked to the spirit of the community, the act of giving, and a close-knit bond of honoring family and friends and time spent together.
The Flaming Tea Ceremony: A Hanukkah Ritual
In Eastern Europe, Jewish communities engage in this widespread tradition during Hanukkah, also known as the festival of lights. In this time-honored ceremony, participants ignite one brandy-soaked sugar cube after another as they sing festive songs. After singing each song, participants extinguish the flaming sugar cube by placing it into a cup of tea. According to Jewish lore, you can read an individual's fortune by how they drink tea.
Karamu: A Communal Feast At Kwanzaa
During the festive observance of Kwanzaa, North African tea sommeliers partake in a luxurious tradition by savoring rich and aromatic mint tea. This delightful tea ritual follows the communal feast known as Karamu, where friends and family come together to celebrate and share a bountiful meal and a successful harvest. The aromatic blend of fresh mint leaves and carefully brewed tea symbolizes unity, warmth, and the spirit of Kwanzaa, creating a memorable and flavorful ending to a joyous occasion.
The Chinese Tea Ceremony
One of the most well-known events around the holiday season is the Chinese tea ceremony since it is celebrated the most during Chinese New Year (also called Lunar New Year). This elaborate ceremony has several elegant steps and fine details for making and serving the tea. This ceremony's primary purpose is to show honor, respect, and gratitude for the coming year, but also to the host and the guests attending the ceremony.
Early Holiday Season Tea Traditions in Europe
Christmas Eve celebrations were not always a refined event in the past, and public drunkenness was widespread. Working-class men would hit the pubs on Christmas Eve and overindulge, spending all of their wages drinking alcohol. Scenes of women storming into pubs with frying pans raised and brooms ready to drag home their inebriated husbands from the pub were common.
With the emergence of the temperance movement in the 1800s came temperance tea parties as a way to crusade against the public drunkenness of the working class. The teetotalers wanted to change the holiday traditions to be more family-oriented. Members of this movement from the UK and the US created massive tea parties on Christmas Eve in halls festooned with holiday decorations lined with long tables.
The long tables held nutmeg and sugar cookies, roasted nuts, and egg whites. At these massive tea parties, there may have been up to 4,000 working and middle-class families enjoying all of these sweets along with their cups of hot tea. As an added measure to help stop the rampant public drunkenness, the teetotalers decided that sermons from preachers or testimonies from reformed alcoholics preaching about the virtues of an alcohol-free life would turn drunken Christmas drinking into wholesome Christmas tea parties.
Although the attempts to turn Christmas into a purely family-oriented tradition were largely successful, drinking wine, beer, and other alcoholic beverages is still a much-practiced part of the holiday tradition. However, mulled spice tea is one drink that has held a top position as a cherished holiday beverage.
Mulled Spice Hot Tea
One of the longest-standing holiday traditions is mulled spice tea. This hot Christmas tea is rumored to have started in the late 1800s in Victorian England. In contrast, other mentions of the tradition state it started centuries before in other parts of Europe and originated from a mulled wine beverage recipe.
Whatever story you follow, this spiced tea became a hit on Christmas Eve for carolers singing from door to door, spreading joy and hope for the holiday season. The household residents would give this hot tea and some freshly baked sugar cookies to the singers as a way of saying thank you for a heartfelt rendition of their favorite holiday song.
Mulled tea is typically made with loose-leaf black tea leaves in hot water, mulled spices, and some added fruits like wild cranberry or oranges. If you're looking for a great mulled spice tea recipe, here's one that you can use to wow your guests at your next Christmas party:
For the mulled spices ingredients, use:
1⁄4 teaspoon whole cloves
1⁄4 teaspoon allspice
1 cinnamon stick
The rest of the ingredients:
4 cups of water
5 teaspoons of black tea leaves, loose leaf is best. Here are some delicious black tea you can use!
6 teaspoons honey
In a large saucepan, bring water, orange peel, cranberries, allspice, cloves, and cinnamon stick to a boil over high heat.
Add your tea leaves to the mulled spice mixture and gently stir it a few times to combine all of the ingredients.
Cover the pot and steep the mixture for 5 minutes.
Pour your tea mixture into mugs through a strainer.
Stir in the honey into each mug to sweeten.
Add a stick of cinnamon to decorate and enjoy your hot cup of mulled spiced tea.
Afternoon Tea Holiday Party
The Christmas tea tradition of serving spiced tea to carolers on Christmas Eve would evolve. Soon, these singing groups would go from neighborhood to neighborhood, singing and sharing their homebrew of wassail, spreading joy and hope through song.
Today, you may not have carolers coming to your door to sing songs for the holidays as they once did in Old England. However, this spicy tea is excellent for your Christmas tea parties. Or you can offer this brew after your Christmas family dinner as a warm and inviting accompaniment that goes perfectly with Christmas cookies, roasted nuts, and other sweet treats.
This tradition of sharing Christmas tea eventually became known in England as afternoon tea and is now celebrated at any time of the year. Whether it's spring, summer, fall, or winter, you can host an afternoon tea whenever you feel like it. Serve finger sandwiches or stick to the tasty sweet treats that are so popular around Christmas.
Russian And Easter European Holiday Tea Traditions
The next leg of our tea journey takes us to a holiday tradition a few centuries back in Russia. The Russian Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas on the night of January 6th with a traditional feast. The hot tea served from the samovar, an ornate metal container traditionally used to boil water, keeps the tea warm while warming everyone who drinks it.
Black tea from China was typically used with the upper class, who were the first to begin drinking tea in Russia in 1638. Middle and working-class Russians steeped the tea with various fruits and herbs from Siberia, including hop cones, bearberry (a wild cranberry), chamomile, and comfrey, a traditional medicinal plant.
The annual Christkindelsmarik dates back to the late 1500s. Also known as the Christmas markets of Strasbourg, vendors sold festive blends of spiced tea and other goodies to shoppers every year to keep them warm and stay longer to keep shopping. Christmas markets would soon become popular in other parts of the world. Today, it's pretty easy to find a version of this ancient spiced tea being served much as it has been for centuries.
The Art of Christmas Cookies and Christmas Tea
Christmas tea parties would only be complete with serving a range of sweet goodies. Cakes, cookies, sweet fruits, and candies have long been a staple treat for Christmas gatherings. Families even decorated the inside of homes with sweets to honor the Christmas season.
It was a time of the year when people would celebrate with family and friends and reflect on the good times and cherished memories, creating new memories. Holiday tea and sweets were a perfect way to set the mood.
Today, the tradition of holiday tea and sweet baked goods continues. Families get together and have baking parties where they bake endless batches of their favorite cookies. These parties are often filled with laughter and nonstop conversations as the family bakers share the joy of the holiday season and an array of sweet treats with loved ones. Some baking parties carry the act of sharing one step further and bake several batches of cookies to donate to charity events.
The most important part of any baking party is serving a fresh pot of tea to enjoy with your baked goods. Steep a pot of your favorite tea or seasonal tea blends as you and your loved ones mix the ingredients for your cookie dough, roll it out, and cut the dough into festive shapes. Let's look at the two main teas that go nicely with a freshly baked cookie and ways you can give them a holiday twist.
This tea has to be a top contender on our holiday tea list. Its versatility makes it the perfect tea for several Christmas tea concoctions. Add mulling spices to black tea to create a warming blend to sip while sledding, ice skating, or baking cookies. Mix your favorite black tea with peppermint leaves, add a sprinkle of cocoa powder, and top it off with chocolate nibs and a candy cane for a Christmas tea blend with all the season's flavors.
If you want to start a new tradition with a twist on traditional holiday tea flavor, consider a green Christmas tea blend you can make yourself. Combine loose-leaf green tea leaves with a drop of vanilla extract, some orange peel, cinnamon, and clove.
Keeping Holiday Tea Traditions Alive
Whether you'll be hosting large Christmas tea parties, a Flaming Tea Ceremony, an afternoon tea, or starting your Christmas tea traditions with family and friends, tea brings people together long after the holidays have come and gone.
But don't wait for the holidays to enjoy a cup of tea with the ones you love. Any time is tea time; you can share those feelings of hope and joy throughout the year. You can also share the gift of tea this holiday season with these great holiday and Christmas tea gifts. Check out these amazing Christmas tea-giving ideas to help make your tea gift-giving extra special.