Herbs play a rich and varied historical role at Christmas time and many favorite traditions surround these wonderful plants and their uses. Here are some traditional Christmas herbs to enliven your festivities with a few out of the ordinary recipes to try them:
- Clove: The lovely rich spicy fragrance of cloves is very much part of Christmas and was traditionally used this time of year to provide lovely aromas in the warm rooms of the home. Clove studded oranges, pomanders, are a very traditional Christmas craft.
- Lavender: It is said that Mary draped Jesus’ robes and blankets on lavender bushes to capture the scent. This herb is also credited with changing Mary’s robes to blue from the flowers. Lavender is a very important and familiar fragrance, which also can help treat insomnia.
5” x 5” cotton muslin or cheesecloth squares (2)
Sew large "tea bags" out of the muslin or cheesecloth squares, leaving an opening at the top to fill with lavender. Sew the top shut. No need to sew fancy, just place the squares together and sew a single seam along the top about ¼ inch from the edge. Roughly squeeze the bags before tossing in the dryer with wet laundry. When laundry is done the scent is light, not overwhelming at all. Especially nice to use on loads of bedding (sweet, fragrant dreams). Bags are reusable! When the lavender is no longer doing its job, take a seam ripper and open about 2 inches on one end, empty the bag, refill and sew shut. For one last kick at the can, crush the used lavender and toss it around your carpet. Let sit for about an hour then vacuum. Tip: Make more than one dryer bag so that the same bag isn't in one load after another, alternate them so each bag has a chance to cool down before being used again.
- Mistletoe: This herb has played a role in Christmas celebrations for centuries and many people have fond memories of being kissed under this herbal sprig. It is interesting to note that this herb was a symbol of love before Christ or Christmas. The berries on the mistletoe sprig are supposed to be removed as each kiss is taken; however, since these berries are poisonous this probably is a tradition best left in the past!
- Rosemary: Traditional legends say that anyone catching the scent of rosemary on Christmas Eve will have happiness and good fortune. This herb can also make a charming tiny Christmas tree trimmed with decorations or just a pretty festive bow. This herb was scattered on the floors of homes in medieval times so that the pungent pine like scent rose as people walked across the room. I enjoy cooking with it for holiday dinners.
Make a rosemary essential oil inhaler. Inhalers are small containers about the size of a tube of lip balm for carrying a scent. To use one, take it apart, add a few drops of rosemary essential oil to either a cotton ball or cotton rod, and screw the whole thing back together. Some containers are made of metal and come in a rainbow of color choices, or you can purchase a more simple plastic model. Rosemary for improved memory. You can also use lavender essential oil for relaxation or peppermint to ward off depression.
- Costmary: Costmary exudes a wonderful balsam scent and is called Bible leaf. The large leaves were often pressed into bibles to use not only as a page marker, but the scent was believed to help you stay awake. The legend is that Mary created a healing ointment from costmary for various ailments.
- Rue: This herb is considered to be an herb of grace and The Roman Catholic Church used brushes fashioned from rue to sprinkle holy water during mass. Grace is a very important part of Christmas and rue is still used in several countries to make Christmas crowns for celebrations. Crushed rue seed can be added to soups, salads and sauces for seasoning and flavoring. Dried rue repels insects such as fleas and lice and is good to tuck into pet bedding.
- Peppermint: Peppermint is a popular flavor and taste for the holiday. In candy, teas and decorations this flavor can not only freshen the breath, release stress and settle the stomach it is good for treating depression.
- Ginger: It simply would not be Christmas without gingerbread cookies, and gorgeous gingerbread houses. This spicy flavor warms us and can be wonderful for treating digestive issues.
1 cup sour cream
1 egg, slightly beaten
2½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
6 tablespoons butter, melted
Sweetened whipped cream for topping
If you enjoy these recipes, please check in on our daily Advent Calendar for more holiday theme herbal recipes.