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Christmas Traditions

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My family and I are just sitting down together after decorating our home for Christmas (each with our own favourite tipple!) for one of my favourite times of the year……I love this season and all the traditions that go along with it, and if you think about it, it is interesting as to why we carry out some of these traditions and where do they come from??

As often is the case when you start to look into any traditions there are many legends surrounding the history of some of them but these seem to be among the most common…    

Why do we drag a tree into our houses and then decorate it? Our Christmas trees seem to have humble beginnings. Apparently one theory is that the Pagans used branches to decorate their homes during the winter solstice as it made them think of the spring to come. Then they began to decorate them to add colour and interest and it has continued from there- fast forward a few hundred years to our generation. A symbol of hope and life during grey winter days.

Christmas Crackers!

 What are they all about? It would seem not just to make your table look pretty and colorful. Crackers were first made in about 1845-1850 by a London sweet maker called Tom Smith. He had seen the French ‘bon bon’ sweets (almonds wrapped in pretty paper), he then came back to London and tried selling sweets like that in England and also included a small motto or riddle in with that sweet. But they didn’t sell very well.

Legend has it that, one night, while he was sitting in front of his log fire he became very interested by the sparks and cracks coming from the fire. Suddenly he thought what a fun idea it would be if his sweets and toys could be opened with a crack when their fancy wrappers were pulled in half.  When crackers are pulled – with a bang! – a colourful party hat, a toy or gift and a festive joke falls out! The party hats look like crowns and it is thought that they symbolise the crowns that would have been worn by the three wise men, and we thought they were just pieces of tissue paper made into party hats!

Christmas Pudding?

Traditionally a silver coin (six pence) was hidden inside the christmas pudding. The silver coin brought good fortune to whoever was lucky enough to find it in their portion when the pudding was served. The traditional time for making a christmas pudding is on ‘stir up Sunday’ at the beginning of advent. Apparently a ‘proper’ christmas pudding is always stirred from the east to the west in honour of the three wise men and traditionally made with 13 ingredients to represent Christ and His Disciples. Every member of the family must give the pudding a stir and make a secret wish. 

I always thought the flaming garnish on the holly on top was a nod toward festive decoration and cheer, but some say it represents the crown of thorns.

Well I like all of these little legends and I am a sucker for traditions, so we raise our glasses (mine is mulled wine, others a wee dram!) To relishing and continuing them for many more years to come.

Merry Christmas from us all at Valley Living. As a little gift I’ve also decided to treat you to my *very special* mulled wine recipe… but shhh its a secret.

The *best* Mulled Wine Recipe

1 x 75cl Red Wine Bottle
1 Pint of orange juice
Half a Pint of Water
1 x orange pierced with cloves
1 x orange sliced
1 x lemon sliced
3 tablespoons Icing Sugar (add more to taste if required)
1 Cinnamon Stick
2 Star Anise
2 tablespoons brandy ( my secret ingredient)
1 small whole piece of peeled ginger
1 tsp ground ginger

Audrey Spencer, owner

My passion for cooking stems from my childhood growing up on my family's farm. Mealtimes would often involve being joined by friends, family and neighbours, all eager to enjoy the wonderful farmhouse fayre. As a professional chef I’ve worked in award winning restaurants, boutique country house hotels, and even the Royal Palace! Today, I hope my recipes can help you to enjoy good food, and good company, in style.