There are some times when we are busier than others in the Kentcare offices; and so a few years ago, when we received an enquiry to attend a property and put a Christmas Tree up in the Reception area in early December and take it down again in the new year, we decided to do a bit of research. This gets updated every year so feel free to pass it on..
Why do we put a tree indoors?
In 680 AD the Saxon Boniface was born in Crediton, Devon. Boniface grew up to become a monk, missionary and finally a martyr but before fulfilling his final destiny Boniface travelled to Germany to spread the word of God.
Whilst in Germany, legend tells that Boniface used the triangular shape of the fir tree to demonstrate the holy trinity – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to the German people but first he had to overcome the local people’s superstition.
St Patrick used a shamrock for much the same demonstration.
Until then the people had revered the oak. One story tells of how Boniface felled Thor’s sacred Oak at Geismar, in front of hostile tribesmen by his own hand and it was here that he laid the foundation of a new church. The church grew to flourish and soon the local people began to worship the fir tree as God’s own tree.
This was probably before Thor joined Iron Man, Hulk and others to appear in the Avengers series of movies..
Jump forward 500 years or so to the twelfth century and records show the fir tree was now becoming more commonly used in worship. All across Central Europe people were hanging fir trees upside down as a symbol of Christianity at Christmas time but it was another few centuries before the first decorated tree was recorded at Riga in Latvia, in the early 1500s.
The Christmas Tree in Britain
It was the Georgian Kings from Germany and German merchants who first brought the Christmas tree to England. However, the British people of the time were not overly keen on the German monarchy so the fashion never reached the common people.
It was not until 1846 that the Christmas Tree took root in the nation’s conscience. Queen Victoria and her German Prince, Albert, appeared in the Illustrated London News stood around a Christmas Tree with her children. Victoria was a popular Queen and the fashion took off. The Christmas Tree as we know it was born.
Exactly who came up with Black Christmas trees made of plastic and wire sold in some Garden Centres and hanging chocolates out of reach of certain family members is unclear but we will still keep looking.
Obviously pets and trees have a different relationship including being used as houses, food suppliers or toilets. How an animal interacts with a tree in your living room may need closer monitoring! or some additional cleaning regime!
A Very British Festival of Christmas Food
Why do we eat Turkey at Christmas?
Turkeys were introduced in to the UK in the 16th Century, some say that it was possibly the first real import from the New World of the Americas. Previously, Goose and Duck were favoured at Christmas time, the upper classes would even feast upon Swan! after realising that no one actually has seen a swan break a humans arm, the realisation that they are not a popular roasted dish seems to have dawned. Nowadays, due to Freezers and better food storage, more meats are widely available, so the choice is broader. The key really is how many people are going to be served and what you can cook the meat in. Some large turkeys do not fit in many ovens, so be careful inviting all your neighbours over! Vegetarians will probably have to make a special effort to deliver a dish which is not made from soya protein to taste “like chicken”. In all fairness, I await any information that can be provided.
Sprouts, I find, are a bit like ‘Marmite’ – you either love them or hate them – there doesn’t seem to be any half way house or take it or leave it when it comes to sprouts. Whether you like them or not, you may find it surprising to know that in recent years in Worcester the humble sprout was the centre of attraction at “The British Sprout Festival” where there were all sorts of events ‘sprouting’. They had a sprout garden, sprout cookery demonstrations, sprout marbles and even sprout dancing (the mind boggles). Some are served with bacon, roasted sweet chestnuts, cream or even vinegar!
A story my Dad used to tell was of a lady at a greengrocers asking for “4 sprouts please!”
“Why only four?” asked the greengrocer,
“Because none of us really like sprouts so we only have one each!” replied the customer
“So why have them at all?” asked the Greengrocer
Shocked the lady insisted “It’s Christmas, we’ve got to have sprouts”
A Very International Festival of Christmas Food
In many Eastern European countries the period before Christmas, Advent is marked by fasting and abstaining from meat in preparation for Christmas, (in the same way as people give things up for Lent in the run up to Easter); this means that on Christmas Eve a great candlelit feast featuring as many as 12 vegetable and bread dishes .
In Scandinavia, many homes, have fish as the star dish, often lutefisk and gravlax (salted, smoked and dried salmon and similar fish), and with roasted ham.
There are also laatikko, casseroles with a combination of meats, including liver, as well as pretty much anything else including potatoes, rice, carrots, pasta even raisins and other fruit; all cooked in a, usually creamy sauce which features, cream, butter and eggs.
In the Czech Republic, traditional fare includes batter fried Carp served with a potato salad, but respectfully they set a place at the table for any friends or family that have died that year; an equivalent would be our toasting “absent friends” or “the dearly departed” at a Chrismas meal.
In France they, rather typically, feast upon a huge variety of very rich and indigestion-inducing foods including oysters (as pictured), foie gras (goose and duck livers), lots of roasted meats, lots of desserts, lots of cheese, butter, cream etc washed down with different wines for daytime, starters, main course, dessert, after dinner, later in the evening, and probably one for when you can’t sleep because of chronic indigestion.
In Australia and New Zealand, with it being the southern hemisphere, obviously it is the summer (it saves them waiting till June to hold Christmas), so the apparent tradition is to have Turkey and all the trimmings, mainly because of the British Victorian influence.
But what is becoming the traditional dessert at Christmas time is Strawberry Pavlova. Of course, after a traditional Australian aperitif of a “few beers” , the Pavlova when dropped can be adapted to become an Eton Mess (same ingredients- less care!).
And finally where to genuinely find Tripe this Christmas…
Menudo is a traditional Mexican Christmas recipe featuring tripe and a combination of spices. It is a long-simmered slow-cooker soup served family-style with corn tortillas. Though menudo is also believed to cure a hangover, we don’t recommend testing it out. As if tequila needed something like this to follow the morning after…!
In truth, we only added this because we thought that a lot of what passes for television entertainment at Christmas could be used as a substantial ingredient in Menudo! Tripe!
From us all at Kentcare have a very happy Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous new year!
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