The tradition of drinking tea during the winter holiday season has been around for hundreds—and in some instances, thousands—of years. From Germany to Morocco and from England to Russia, tea has played a vital role in the shaping of many cultural holiday traditions.
Here are some of our favorite seasonal tea traditions from around the world. Any of these special tea ceremonies are sure to ignite your festive spirit and holiday cheer!
Caroling or “Wassailing”
Singing Christmas carols is a popular holiday festivity in modern times, but did you know that this practice actually began as a drinking ritual in Medieval Germany? During the bitter cold winter months following the harvest season, German farmers would drink from a bowl of “wassail”—ale with mulling spices, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and sugar—to bestow good fortune upon the following year’s apple harvest.
In the 1800s, this practice made its way to the English countryside, but with a few adjustments. During the Christmas holiday season, young women would travel from door to door singing songs and offering a bowl of a wassail to their friends and neighbors. However, ale was no longer the only option for preparing the wassail bowl. Given England’s monumental role in the global tea trade during the 1800s, it makes sense that they began adding mulling spices to hot tea, and serving it during their Christmas wassailing.
Over the years, wassailing eventually came to be known as caroling. While the origins of the wassail bowl have been forgotten by many, the tradition of caroling and sipping on a warm mug of spiced tea during the winter holiday season remains.
Flaming Tea Ceremony
While it may not be a well-known practice in the United States, the flaming tea ceremony is a beloved holiday tradition for Jewish families in Eastern Europe. The ceremony involves soaking a sugar cube in brandy, placing it in a teaspoon, and lighting it on fire. Then, everyone sings a holiday song while the brandy-soaked sugar cube burns. As soon as the singing ends, everyone drops their flaming sugar cube into a glass of tea and drinks it.
This Hanukkah ritual is mostly performed in Russia and other Eastern European countries, although it can be celebrated by anyone who wants to embrace the spirit and history of the Jewish “Festival of Lights” this holiday season.
Moroccan Hanukkah Tea
In Morocco, the winter holiday season means celebrating Hanukkah with plenty of tasty fried pastries and Moroccan mint tea. Made from green tea, fresh mint leaves and sugar, Moroccan mint tea is a Hanukkah staple. It is often served with fried donuts and latkes as families visit with friends and neighbors and celebrate the season together. It may also be served with mofleta, a pan baked Moroccan flatbread.
Traditionally, the tea leaves are left in the pot while the tea is served, allowing the loose tea leaves to settle at the bottom of each glass. This means that the flavor may change from one glass to the next, as the tea leaves make each subsequent glass stronger. To take part in your own Moroccan mint tea celebration this Hanukkah season, stock up on fragrant and refreshing Full-Leaf Moroccan Mint Green Tea, and plan to keep the conversation and laughter going late into the night.
Extravagant Christmas Tea Parties
In 19th century England and the United States, drinking wine and ale on Christmas Eve became a widespread tradition… perhaps a bit too widespread, according to some. In response, teetotalers in both nations started a movement to make Christmas a tea holiday, rather than a drinking holiday.
Supporters of this movement would host extravagant Christmas Eve tea parties, and would invite thousands to gather together, sip hot tea, and listen to sermons. Over the years, the tradition of the Christmas tea party became less about reducing alcohol consumption and more about hosting a glamorous, ritzy affair meant to impress.
Snacks and treats like mince pies, sausage rolls, and three-tiered trays of desserts have become the norm for these lavish holiday tea parties, which are now often hosted in luxurious hotels. However, many households in England also host their own intimate tea gatherings, where they will consume hot tea with various treats like bread, cookies, and other sweets.
Create Your Own Holiday Tea Tradition
The holiday season is all about creating traditions that are meaningful to you and your loved ones, and making memories with the people closest to you. So, why not create your own special tea tradition this holiday season? You could share a warm cup of festive holiday tea while hanging stockings or decorating the Christmas tree, or start a tradition of giving tea as a gift each year.
Whichever tea tradition you plan to celebrate this holiday season, make sure to browse our full selection of limited edition seasonal teas, such as: