5 Historical Items for the Christmas Table
Crackers – the Christmas cracker is generally credited to Thomas Smith in the Victorian era. It is unclear when crackers became a part of the Christmas table, whether this was during the Victorian era or later. Today, no Christmas table is complete without the Christmas crackers, whether they are placed on a side plate or stacked almost like a centre piece in various geometric shapes.
Candles – the Christmas candle can be dated back to the Roman festival of Saturnalia where tall papers of wax were lit and offered to Saturn. Luther used candles to decorate his first Christmas tree and like the Victorians, the candles became symbolic as the Star of Bethlehem. Regarding the Christmas table it is unclear when candles became a decorations for the main meal. It is likely to have started during the Victorian era. Traditionally candles are displayed in candelabras but in recent times decorative tea lights have become popular.
Table Cloths – it is not exactly clear when Table Linen or Table Cloths were introduced to the Christmas Table. It is known that the Romans used a form of cloth, possibly more like a napkin, as it was mentioned by the poet Martial. In Medieval times table cloths were far more common and there are paintings from the time that illustrate this, but again not clear if they were used at Christmas. The Victorians would use their best table cloth for the Christmas table. In more recent times a table runner has been added on top of the table cloth to help add more decoration.
Table Centrepieces – it is know that the Romans used foliage to decorate their tables. During the Middle Ages, the Christmas centrepiece was made of marzipan and shaped in to decorative objects. The Georgians would often use food in various vertical shapes like pyramids. The Victorians would place small Christmas trees in pots and place them on the table. And later the candle candelabras also became an important centrepiece. Today there is no formality around centrepieces and is only limited by ones imagination.
Christmas Food – food arguably is the most important item that is found on the Christmas table. The main course varies from the popular turkey, goose, pheasant and other meat choices. But most tables will have Christmas pudding, mince pies and possibly a yule log. The Christmas pudding probably dates back to the 14th Century and would have been made from meat. Mince pies dates back to the Crusaders of the 11th Century and the yule log to Pagan times (and possibly the Egyptians). The yule log was traditionally a log burnt at Christmas time. But in modern times this has become more associated as a festive pudding.