by Emeric Harney December 10, 2020 4 min read 3 Comments
No time of the year is more associated with traditions than the holidays. Whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza or another holiday, there are wonderful traditions that are celebrated both universally and uniquely within our own families. And while eggnog may try to hog the spotlight during this time of the year, you can be sure that tea plays its own important role in holiday traditions. But it wasn’t always that way.
Back in the 1830s, celebrating Christmas in the UK and America was a perfect reason to let your drunken freak flag fly. For the working class, it was a rare day off, and they took celebrating with alcohol to raucous levels. Let’s hope they didn’t try imitating Santa sliding down the chimney, but they may have. Folks got a little out of hand.
Disgusted by this practice, teetotalers decided to take matters into their own hands and make tea the beverage of Christmas revelers’ choice. They organized large, elaborate tea parties on Christmas Eve with as many as 4,000 working and middle-class men and women drinking tea at long tables in decked-out halls. Food was plentiful, and entertainment was provided by preachers, recovering alcoholics and temperance advocates lifting up the many benefits of living alcohol-free. The reform worked, and the tradition remained for years to come.
While popular Christmas teas served these days in many upscale hotels are not strictly alcohol free -- many are offered with champagne -- the tradition of having a Christmas tea is a long-held, beloved one by many. It’s an opportunity to put on the dog, break out your china, slather a scone with clotted cream and savor a cuppa.
While people in the late 1830s weren’t getting lit on Christmas anymore, there is a Hanukkah tradition that does involve actual fire. The Flaming Tea Ceremony is appropriately held during Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. And it is quite beautiful.
During the ceremony, each person receives a glass of tea, often poured from a traditional Russian samovar, and a sugar cube. A container of brandy is passed around, and each person dips their sugar cube in the brandy, then places the sugar cube on a teaspoon held over the glass of tea. As the lights are turned down, a flame is passed. Each person lights their brandy-soaked sugar cube, letting it burn as the room fills with light. Songs are often sung, and then on cue, everyone drops their flaming cubes into the glasses of tea.
We know, right?
Traveling back in time again to the 1800s, the practice of groups of people traveling from door to door singing songs and offering hot tea with mulled spices along with their gift of song became a holiday ritual. Those spiced beverages, like our Holiday tea or Mulled Plum Cider herbal tea, were served in wassail bowls, leading to the practice of caroling with hot spiced tea being called “wassailing,” as in the lyrics in “Here We Come A-Wassailing”:
While caroling rarely features wassail or tea any longer, the tradition of bringing the unexpected joy of song does continue, often with the caroling group finishing their rounds with a shared cup of wassail at the end. Or, with…
Our mouths are watering already. There are no cookies more magical than Christmas cookies. Whether it’s your great-grandmother’s recipe or something you just ran across on Pinterest and decided to try, the time and love we put into making Christmas cookies are often the stuff of memories.
A cuppa hot tea enjoyed with a freshly made Christmas cookie is one of the best moments life has to offer, especially when we enjoy it with friends and family. While your favorite tea is always the best one to choose for ul-tea-mate enjoyment, we’d also recommend Gingerbread Festival (for obvious reasons), Celebration (for more obvious reasons), White Christmas Tea (you can see we’re goin’ with a theme here), and if you’re up late wrapping presents but don’t want to pull an all-nighter, our decaf Vanilla Comoro is a perfect smooth choice to pair with a pair of cookies.
Interested in having tea IN your Christmas cookies? Check out Peppermint Tea Cookies recipe, made with Chill Chamomile Mint CBD tea from our sister company, The Hemp Division.
And while donuts aren’t cookies, we aren’t going to turn our nose up at the Moroccan Hanukkah tradition of having their favorite tea, Moroccan mint tea, along with donuts or beignets dusted with powdered sugar. While our Spearmint tea is a tisane and not a green tea like Moroccan mint, we don’t think your donuts will mind.
Have holiday tea traditions of your own? Share them with us in the comment section below. Here’s to holiday cheers!
December 28, 2020
I really enjoyed your December 10th post. I like that fact you dug into history and shared those facts with us, your readers and tea lovers. So interesting. I also enjoy your writing style. I just wanted to say thank you and good job! As a side note, I want to share that I have been drinking your family’s tea for over 20 years. On one occasion I called to order some tea and your grandfather (?) Mr. John Harney himself answered the phone. I was so surprised. Although he couldn’t take my order because they were closed for the day we had a lovely chat. That was early on in my tea journey with Harney Teas. That conversation cemented my loyalty and love of your wonderful teas. Merry Christmas to you and your whole family!
December 28, 2020
I enjoyed this article and now I think I want to go bake some tea cookies with your Chocolate Mint tea!
Comments will be approved before showing up.
by Emeric Harney March 23, 2023 5 min read
by Emeric Harney March 16, 2023 6 min read
Enjoy getting to know Tsuyoshi Sugimoto, the owner and president of Shohokuenchten tea company in Kyoto, Japan, and a longtime colleague and friend of the Harneys.
by Mike Harney March 14, 2023 5 min read
Sign up to get the latest on sales, new releases and more!
December 28, 2020
Emeric, Thank you so much for this lovely informative article. I have been a fan and drinking Harney and Sons tea for over 20 years. It’s the best! Your writing style is wonderful and in addition to learning more about tea I love international flair that reminds me how connected we are and that gives me hope for the future. Thank you.