The Background and History of Cultural Holiday Tea Traditions
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.
So the next few posts will highlight several of these historical tea traditions.
Flaming Tea: The Wildest Hanukkah Tradition
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. But in keeping with the custom of making it a “Festival of Lights,” many Russian Jews practiced this custom.
So, here is how it goes…
Everyone at the holiday table soaks a sugar cube in brandy, places it on their teaspoon, and then lights it with a candle. While the brandy soaked sugar cube burns, everyone sings a festive holiday song. As soon as the singing ends, everyone drops their flaming sugar cube into their glass of tea and then drinks it.
The ritual of setting the sugar aflame at Hanukkah stretches back to Eastern Europe and Russia. In some versions of the story, sugar was abundant and guests indulged freely. In others, sugar was scarce and each person at the table was limited to a small cube.
Most often, sugar was a luxury. When it was available, daily tea-drinkers would sometimes place a sugar cube between their teeth and sip the tea through it in that fashion. It had its devotees: the 19th-century Russian writer Aleksandr Pushkin is quoted as having said, “Ecstasy is a glassful of tea and a piece of sugar in the mouth.”
Next…Moroccan Hanukkah Tea