News & Events

Christmas Traditions Unwrapped

We discover the roots of the country’s favourite Christmas traditions and present the finest selection of artisans for the festive period.

For many households the process of decorating their home is one of the best ways in which to capture the spirit of the festive season. Christmas trees, gloriously resplendent with their multitude of ornaments, trinkets, lights and star have become the talisman of this holiday. Similarly Christmas cards, crackers and stockings that adorn the mantlepiece each play an integral part in the day’s celebrations. But how much do we know of their origins? 

We uncover the why, how and when of these cherished traditions and reveal a handpicked selection of the finest artisans today.

CHRISTMAS TREES

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SO WHERE DID IT START?

The tradition of the Christmas tree has been well established for centuries, with the origins of the practice harking back to the good deeds undertaken by Saint Boniface in 772. The story goes that he stopped a child from becoming a human sacrifice to a pagan god by striking down the oak tree destined for use as the stake. A fir tree sprang up in its place and he declared it a holy tree and instructed the faithful to carry one to their homes and surround it with love and gifts. 

First appearing in England during the 18th century, The Christmas tree first appeared in England during the 18th century but didn’t become part of the festival until the reign of Queen Victoria. The size of the tree quickly became a new method for the aristocracy to demonstrate their wealth and status. As was the trend throughout much of the Victorian era, it was a case of ‘the bigger the better’ and extended to the decorations that adorned the tree and the gifts placed at its base.

BANDA’S BEST BET:

1. Creekside Christmas:

Website: www.creeksidechristmas.co.uk

2. Pines & Needles:

Website: www.pinesandneedles.com

Phone: 0203 384 9320

 

WREATHS

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SO WHERE DID IT START?

The practice of hanging a wreath can be traced back to the Romans who hung them from their front doors as a sign of victory or to display wealth and status. They were also commonly worn as ceremonial clothing, with women wearing laurel headdresses for weddings. More recognisably wreaths were used to decorate the victors in the ancient sporting events in Greece, where they remain a part of the tradition with laurel sprigs engraved on the medals in today’s Olympic Games.

Traditional Christmas wreaths are formed by twisting evergreen branches into a circle which is then decorated with all manner of items from pine cones and silk bows to silvered branches and dried fruits. The word ‘wreath’ is derived from the old English ‘writhen’ meaning to twist, with the circular shape said to represent Christ’s eternal love, strength, and the creation of new life. The tradition of hanging a holly wreath on the door at Christmas began during the 17th Century and signified a home that celebrated the birth of Christ.

BANDA’S BEST BET:

1. Wild at Heart:

Website: www.wildatheart.com

Phone: 0207 727 3095

2. The White Company:

Website: www.thewhitecompany.com

Phone: 0208 166 0199

3. Jo Malone:

Website: www.jomalone.com

Phone: 0370 192 5121

 

CHRISTMAS CRACKERS

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SO WHERE DID IT START?

The official creator of the Christmas Cracker remains a controversial affair. Some historians credit a man called James Hovell whilst others claim it was an Italian by the name Sparagnapane. However the most effective of the group was an English baker by the name of Tom Smith. Inspired by a trip to Paris, Smith returned to England and decided to build upon the simple principle of the wrapped sweet. His eureka moment arrived after much experimentation when he developed a strip of paper which included a tiny reactionary compound that would ‘crack’ when opened. Over time the sweet was removed and the wrapper extended to house small novelty gifts. Launched in London in 1847, they were immediately popular and appeared in many grand events before settling as a Christmas novelty.

BANDA’S BEST BET:

1. Thornback and Peel:

Website: www.thornbackandpeel.co.uk

Phone: 0207 831 2878

2. Tatty Devine:

Website: www.tattydevine.com

Phone: 0207 836 2685

 

CHRISTMAS CARDS

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SO WHERE DID IT START?

The Christmas card was a Victorian custom that started in 1843. Invented by Sir Henry Cole of the British Postal Service and artist, John Horsley. The idea to send family, friends and business associates cards caught on quickly and today it is estimated that the average person in Britain sends up to 50 per year.

By no means relegated to the general public, the Royal Family have been sending Christmas cards since the reign of Queen Victoria in the 1840s. Even in America where the governing practice is to separate the church and state, there remains a long standing custom for the President and the First Lady to issue Christmas cards each year, with President Coolidge being the first to start this tradition.

BANDA’S BEST BET:

1. Smythson:

Website: www.smythson.com

Phone: 0207 629 8558

2. The Cambridge Imprint:

Website: www.thecambridgeimprint.co.uk

Email:info@cambridgeimprint.co.uk

3. Fee Greening:

Website: www.feegreening.co.uk

Phone: 07917 061897

 

THE CHRISTMAS STOCKING

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SO WHERE DID IT START?

The custom of hanging a stocking on the hearth or bedpost on Christmas Eve can be traced over 400 years ago to Holland. The tradition is associated with the St. Nicholas or Sinterklaas and stems from children placing wooden shoes next to the hearth on the 5 December. Originally these shoes would be filled with straw for the white horse that carried the gifts and food for St Nicholas.

BANDA’S BEST BET:

1. West Elm:

Website: www.westelm.co.uk

Phone: 0207 637 9150

2. Cotswold Trading:

Website: www.cotswoldtrading.com

Phone: 01386 853 331

3. William and Mary Interiors via Folksy:

Website: www.folksy.com/shops/WilliamandMaryInteriors

The Banda Journal