Christmas is racing toward us at a breakneck pace! And with it comes the traditions we love: cookie baking, Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer on the television, Christmas Trains and houses covered in lights.
Coffee has been deeply tied to Christmas for hundreds of years. In 19th century Scandinavia, Russia and Eastern Europe -- when people worked hard in extreme cold with few modern conveniences -- coffee was always included as either part of the Christmas meal or given as a Christmas gift, Sometimes both. Strong coffee was an exquisite commodity back then, and being able to enjoy coffee as part of the Christmas holiday was quite the luxury. To give it as a gift was considered both thoughtful and tasteful (pun intended).
The tradition continues to this day in many Scandinavian countries. In Greenland, friends have gathered for centuries to have coffee celebrations called Kaffemikker as an alternative way to celebrate Christmas together, rather than the traditional dinner.
In the Victorian era, coffee emerged in the American culture as the drink of excellence and first choice for Christmas dinners and celebrations. Families during this time even roasted the beans together before enjoying them at dinner! In an excerpt from the 1886 version of “The Kansas Home Cook-Book,” women talk in thorough detail about preparing the most perfect Christmas dinner: how to set the table, what to serve when, how to prepare it, what to garnish with and serve alongside main courses. After all of the courses are mentioned, and dessert and fruit have been passed, the drink of choice, coffee, is the end of the celebration.
“Last of all should come the little cups of black coffee, accompanied by cream and sugar. It should be of good strength, for well-bred and sensible people do not affect pale and watery decoctions after a hearty dinner.”
This love for coffee as part of the traditional Christmas meal isn’t found in just the cold, blustery corners of Europe and Scandinavia, or here in America; coffee-lovers in Spain, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Colombia and other countries where coffee is hand-grown and harvested also enjoy having a cup as part of their celebrations.
So when you’re enjoying your cup of The Right Coffee this season, hopefully every day but especially with family and friends at Christmas dinner, and maybe even sneaking a bag or two under the tree as gifts for fellow coffee-lovers, just know you’re partaking in a tradition that families from around the world have reveled in for hundreds of years!