British Holiday Traditions, Part III

Eat, Drink & Be Merry

Be Merry . . .
Christmas Crackers have been a British tradition since the 19th century. They were introduced by confectioner Tom Smith who was inspired by French sugar almonds wrapped in paper. While his adaptation of sweets accompanied by a riddle were initially well-received, it wasn't until he came up with a way to make the cracker 'pop' did it gain popularity.

Beyond Christmas, crackers were created to celebrate major events, including The Coronation and The Paris Exhibition. Smith also specialized in exclusive crackers in collaboration with Wedgwood and ones for members of the Royal Family — a tradition that continues.

Today, while Christmas Crackers are still a favorite UK party favor, they can also be found

throughout the world during the holidays as well as other festive events. Typically, crackers are colorfully wrapped cardboard tubes placed at the dinner table.

The crackers 'pop' when it is pulled on either end by two people. For groups of three or more, it is tradition for each person to cross their arms to pull all the crackers at once. Each cracker contains a ‘crown’, gift or toy along with a joke. Similar to advent calendars, today’s crackers can be filled with a wide array of items, including alcohol, chocolate, jewellry, cosmetics and musical instruments.

They can be purchased from high-end retailers like Harrods or Selfridges to your local grocers — a perfect way to start the holiday season or the New Year with a 'bang'!

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British Holiday Traditions, Part II

Eat, Drink & Be Merry

Drink . . .
Mulled Wine is a popular Christmas time beverage made with red wine and spices. The Romans were the first to heat wine in the 2nd century to combat the cold winters. As the Romans conquered Europe, the popularity of mulled wine grew, including the addition of spices for added health benefits and flowers to make the wine taste better.

It is not surprising that interest in the beverage spread in colder climates, such as Austria, Germany (glühwein) and Scandinavian countries (glögg).  Mulled wine became synonymous with Christmas when Charles Dickens mentioned 'Smoking Bishop', a popular mulled wine at the time, in his classic A Christmas Carol.

Today, mulled wine is served warm at outdoor markets and pubs throughout the holiday season. Two places to enjoy mulled wine complete with holiday shopping, include:

The Crusting Pipe (Covent Garden) — Located close to Jubilee Market, the only market in London that is owned by traders. Monday features antiques; Tuesday to Thursday is a general market; and Saturday and Sunday arts and crafts items are sold by 200+ vendors. 2078 361415
27 The Market, Covent Garden, London WC2E 8RD

OXO Tower Restaurant (South Bank) — Housed below the

rooftop restaurant with views of the River Thames, are 25+ contemporary designers selling art, ceramics, fashion, photography and other gift items. 2078 033888
Barge House Street, London SE1 9PH

If Pimm's is a sign of summertime, no winter season is complete without mulled wine!

Next post, how to Be Merry this holiday . . .

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British Holiday Traditions, Part I

Eat, Drink & Be Merry

Eat . . .
Afternoon Tea is one of Britain's most popular and time-honored traditions. Introduced in the early 19th century, afternoon tea was intended to bridge the gap between lunch and dinner when dinner customarily started at 8 pm.

Today, afternoon tea is usually associated with a special occasion.  It generally consists of finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam (interestingly, a 20th century addition) and cake.

In London there is no shortage of afternoon teas to indulge in — a perfect way to kick off the holiday season. Some of my favorite places have put a festive twist on their afternoon tea — making it even better to re-visit one you love or try a new one altogether.

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Brown's Hotel

Hotel Cafe Royal
Hotel One Aldwych — Charlie & the Chocolate Factory

The Ritz
Sanderson Hotel — Mad Hatter’s Tea Party

The Savoy
Watch this space for what you can Drink only this time of year . . .

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