A couple of years ago, I was in Germany for Christmas. The tradition there is that on Christmas eve, once the sun has set and the night takes hold, that’s when the presents are opened.
Better? Not to me.
When it comes to Christmas, more than often, change from the tradition isn't what you want. We all tend to get set into our ways, especially at Christmas and as you may have noticed, many cultures hold the same Christmas traditions.
With this in mind I explore some of our most loved Christmas traditions, looking into how you can give them a re-vamp without losing any love. I also look into their origins, which may actually come as a bit of a surprise…
Christmas without chocolate? It's something I daren't even think about. With origins that mainly come from Europe, chocolate at Christmas can spark a debate. The French gave us Buche de Noel (Yule log), Belgium and Germany are renowned for their chocolate figurines, Turkey is the reason we have the chocolate coin and British chocolate can't be faulted. Our golden rule? Never ask "Who does it better?".
"Chocolate, to me is the epitome of Christmas. On Christmas Eve, I always start picking chocolate baubles off the tree and feasting on truffles. A hot chocolate with cinnamon and ginger before bed is our family's tradition" -Sandra, 25.
Try something new with chocolate this Christmas…
- Create delightfully indulgent yet simple canapés and mix 1-part chocolate with 1-part cream for a smooth, truffle-like mixture. Scoop onto vintage and decorative spoons. Sprinkle marshmallows, walnuts or dried cranberries and figs on top for a Christmas twist.
- Hide chocolate coins around the house and leave Christmas themed clues for a fun, chocolate hunt that the children will love. It’s a perfect Christmas Eve game to keep them occupied whilst you can prepare Christmas dinner.
Gingerbread houses are a right of way when it comes to Christmas. A festive tradition derived from Germany, the same country also brought us the delightfully soft and decorative Lebkuchen. Perfect enough to be used as a dining room decoration as well as snack, we adore creating gingerbread men and women to hang from Christmas trees.
Try something new with gingerbread this Christmas…
- Make a stack of four or five gingerbread men, tie together with a piece of red ribbon and place on a bedside table or pillow for a handmade Christmas gift that they’ll adore.
- Create a fun game by drawing silly faces on gingerbread men and placing in a bowl for wee ones to dunk into frothy cups of hot chocolate and milk.
- Get the little ones together on Christmas eve and construct a gingerbread house for a fun family task. Ideally, make the pieces the night ahead or use a shop bought one to keep things running smoothly.
Seen as more of an American Christmas touch, peppermint canes are a staple in many homes. Usually adorning a Christmas tree or piled into a stocking, they give an instant sense of Christmas fun.
“Candy canes usually decorated our Christmas tree like tinsel. I’ve always loved mint so always enjoyed the peppermint ones. Butterscotch is another delicious flavour” – Christina, 32.
Try something new with peppermint canes this Christmas…
- Give your guests the perfect naughty treat to nibble on whilst watching a Christmas film and add a layer of chocolate frosting onto warm doughnuts. Sprinkle crushed peppermint canes on top, for a truly American Christmassy finish.
- Hang peppermint canes from your Christmas tree for a delicious and charming touch.
- Slot a peppermint cane into the ribbon of a wrapped present. Not only will it look great, but it will also get rid of a surplus of sweets!
Mulled wine in Britain has actually been traced back to 1390, so we can safely say that it’s a British Christmas tradition. Nothing beats snuggling up to a Christmas film with a cup of hot mulled wine and a fluffy throw.
“In my family mulled wine and chocolate coins are a must when decorating the Christmas tree. We heat a pot of mulled wine on the stove, listen to Christmas songs and hang chocolate coins from the branches.”- Abigail, 26.
Try something new with mulled wine this Christmas…
- Take a leaf out of Norway’s book, and add a generous helping of cardamom pods to your mulled wine this Christmas.
- Create mulled wine spice sachets and pop them under the tree for guests. They can get practising for next year.
- Create “mulled wine pot-pourri”. Add cinnamon sticks, oranges stuffed with cloves (or orange peel) and star anise into a stylish glass dish and place in a prime location.
The use of cinnamon at Christmas goes back so far that it's difficult to trace. Whether it's the fresh baked aroma of cinnamon rolls, a bunch of sticks hung from a tree or a scented candle, it's hard to not think of Christmas as soon as you get a whiff of its delicious scent.
Try something new with cinnamon this Christmas…
- Create bundles of cinnamon sticks and tie them with ribbon into wrapped presents. They’ll look and smell wonderful.
- Pop a cinnamon stick into a hot chocolate in place of a stirring spoon. When left it will infuse the drink and add a lovely, wintery aroma.
- Fill a shallow dish with cinnamon sticks and place on a windowsill or shelf. It will act as a natural air freshener and leave a charming, Christmassy scent.
Keep calm and read our 5 Golden Rules to Being a Perfect Host this Christmas.