Nothing encapsulates the excitement of Christmas gift-giving like a beautiful basket full of exciting goodies.
Here we delve into the history of the Christmas hamper, let you in on some top hamper-building tips, and give you a run-through of our very own festive chocolate hampers.
When did the Christmas hamper tradition begin?
You may know that we have the French to thank for inventing the likes of the parachute, photograph, and aspirin. But did you know they also created the concept of the much-loved ‘hamper.’
In Britain, we can trace the treat-filled wicker basket back to 1066 at the time of William the Conqueror’s rule. In the 11th century, hampers were used as a means to give food, drinks and clothes to families hit by hard times.
As time went on, people began to use hampers to carry specific items. For example, in the 1200s, people would use a small wicker case called a ‘hanaper’ to store important documents.
Fast forward to 1706 and you have individuals travelling the country by stagecoach. These long journeys necessitated food and drink on board. Hampers were a handy way for travellers to carry everything they needed for a pleasant dining experience on the road.
Trains and hampers
Although treat baskets were introduced to England as early as the 11th century, it was not until the Victorian era that these bountiful gifts really grew in popularity. The extensive development of the railways throughout the 1800s made it infinitely easier to send goods up and down the country. All of a sudden, friends and families could feasibly send perishable goods nestled in hampers far and wide.
Hampers offered a way to send numerous items at a time in one safe case. This was particularly useful if you were gifting to a family.
When sending goods this way became not only possible but more affordable, everyone wanted to put a smile on a loved one’s face by sending an abundant display of affection.
Hampers became somewhat of a tradition as more were sent to and fro between loved ones and relations.
Cars and hampers
The invention of the automobile revolutionised the game once more. Carrying tea sets including tea kettles and burners meant it was always possible to pause a journey for a hot beverage. A rather tempting and luxurious prospect for both drivers and passengers!
As the ways in which these hampers could be transported became more sophisticated, so did their uses, and thus, the contents of the baskets. On the one hand, people still used baskets to deliver essential food and clothing supplies to those most in need. But on the other hand, the wealthy were curating lavish baskets to proudly presently delicacies to share with friends.
People even started to create dishes with hampers in mind. In 1738, London-based grocers Fortnum & Mason’s created their Scotch Egg. The humble breaded egg would become a classic picnic basket-filler and centrepiece amongst the affluent in the 1800s.
Alongside this progression, people began developing the tradition of putting a few items in a simple wicker basket as a Christmas present. Gradually, hampers grew bigger, sturdier, and more aesthetically pleasing.
Modern Day Christmas Hamper Traditions
Traditional Christmas hampers are brimming with gourmet delights and treats. As they become more widely used, their contents are diversifying to suit the recipient.
Hampers make a heartfelt Christmas gift for your foodie friend, or to shower your family with their favourite items you’ve remembered over the years. However, they’re also great for corporate gifting. Whether you need to say thanks to a colleague or want to reach out to a loyal client, hampers show you’re willing to go the extra mile and really do care. So why not make your corporate Christmas gifts stand out?
You might have also seen hampers offered up as raffle prizes at Christmas parties and fundraising events. And for an excellent reason — they present a beautiful array of goodies everyone wants a chance of winning.
It’s not uncommon for modern-day Christmas hampers to include tasty items such as fine chocolates, wine, spirits and liqueurs, jams, spreads and chutneys, biscuits, and sweet treats.
What should be in a Christmas hamper?
There isn’t really a solid answer to the question ‘What should be in a Christmas hamper?’ as this is completely up to you! We will say, however, that you should keep the tastes of the person you’re buying for at the front of your mind at all times. It can be tempting to get caught up with thinking about what you’d like if you were receiving it. But try to remember any specific items they told you that they particularly like or have even recommended to you.
That being said, there are a few things that are pretty much guaranteed to be a hit for any recipient! We might be biased, but we always think chocolate is a surefire winner. (You can check out our vegan chocolate options for those with a dairy-free diet). Simple but high-quality biscuits or biscotti and organic tea also make great hamper fillers.
Whilst it can be tempting to include alcohol, unless you know for sure that they’re a drinker, it’s best to spend your money on other items.
Hampers usually revolve around food (the way to anyone’s heart). So, to make your hamper special it’s nice to focus on including fewer higher quality items. Look for hings they wouldn’t buy themselves in their weekly supermarket shop. This little bit of luxury will make your recipient feel extra spoilt.
Look out for natural, organic, artisanal, ethical, eco-friendly, homemade, or top-quality items. Even better, if you can think of something that they love to eat, you could try to find a more premium substitute. They’ll taste the difference immediately and be blown away by the effort you went to.
Homemade or store-bought?
It makes no difference whether your hamper is lovingly filled at home or extensively researched and store-bought — all that matters is that you’ve or purchased it with the lucky recipient in mind.
If you’re making a Christmas hamper at home, this can have some advantages. Obviously, you yourself will have complete control over what goes into the hamper, meaning you can personalise to the max.
This is a good option if the recipient is your partner or a loved one that you know well. It gives you the scope to include things like their favourite chocolate or a nostalgic wine that you once shared on a special occasion. You can also include some additional sentimental items, such as a letter telling them how much you appreciate them and some handmade goodies.
On the other hand, if you’re a bit strapped for time and stuck for choice, a store-bought hamper could be the way to go. You’ll be able to browse a few different options and choose one with items you think will surprise and delight the recipient.
Brand-specific store-bought hampers are fantastic if you know that someone has a penchant for a particular brand. Although you haven’t hand-picked every individual item, it still shows you care about them and listen to their likes and dislikes. They can also be great value for money, as these hampers often cost less than if you were to purchase each element separately.
If you don’t know the recipient’s personal tastes, it may be best to go for a store-bought Christmas Hamper. They are helpful if you’re choosing a gift for a raffle, client, or colleague.
Store-bought hampers contain a varied selection of items that have a good chance of pleasing even the pickiest of recipients. It’s still a sensible idea to find out if the person receiving the hamper has any allergies or dietary requirements. It’s also good to check whether they drink alcohol to avoid choosing one containing problematic items.
Our Christmas hampers
At Hotel Chocolat, we only want you to give gifts to people that are going to put sparkles in their eyes. We know that everyone has different preferences, which is why we’ve created a few chocolate hamper options.
Our Eat, Drink and Be Merry Hamper is brimming with decadent festive treats, all wrapped up in a traditional hamper. With a bottle of crisp prosecco and some of our Velvetised Chocolate Cream, it’s certainly a grown-up option. But don’t worry, there are truffles, biscuits and some Classic Hot Chocolate flakes to treat the kids, too.
For a smaller gesture of Yuletide joy, how about our Merry Little Christmas Collection? Ideal for lovers of caramel, this box of goodies contains our Salted Caramel Snowflakes, the Comet Does Caramel Slab and the Ultimate Caramel Slab. Ultimate Christmas deliciousness. You’ll also find some decadent dark chocolate and even a Rocky Road Slab. Good things come in small packages, after all.
Want to go all-out? Maximise the merriment with The Festive Feast Hamper. There’s something for everyone and it’s sure to keep your recipient stocked up on delicious macarons, Sleeksters and truffles well into the New Year. There are also some boozy delights and even a Mini Chocolate Dipping Adventure For Two.
Hampers for all year round
As well as our specially curated Christmas selections, we have an array of hampers that make wonderful gifts any time of year.
The Everything Chocolate Gift Hamper Collection, for example, does exactly what it says on the tin. This elegant collection contains a little bit of everything to suit every taste. From Strawberries and Cream Chocolate Puddles to a Billionaire’s Shortbread Selector, this beautiful bundle is a good bet, even for those you don’t know too well.
For gin lovers, we recommend The Chocolate & Gin Gift Collection. Here, you’ll find gin-flavoured chocolates and our original, small-batch Cocoa Gin. With this one, the gin is truly the star of the show, featuring hints of juniper, zesty Minneolas, coriander, and of course, our Saint Lucian cocoa shells. They’ll receive Gin Truffles and dark chocolate almonds and some delightfully rich batons. And, of course, two 50ml bottles of cocoa gin.
The All Dark Vegan Chocolate Hamper Collection is sure to please any of your dairy-free or vegan pals. This bumper hamper includes 70% Dark Chocolate Ginger Puddles, an 80% Fruit & Nut Dark Slab and a 70% Dark Chocolate Slab. Nestled inside, you’ll also find a Mini Hazelnut Buche Log, a Dark Chocolate & Cocoa Nibs Slab, and a Dark Chocolate Pocket Box. Everything’s better on the dark side.
Curate your own
We’re sure you’ll find the perfect Christmas hamper for your friend or loved one in our collection. However, there’s always the option to build your own! All you have to do is select a gift bag or gift box and choose a selection of goodies. We’ll put it all together so there’s no need to wrap!
Whether you choose a pre-packed hamper or make your own, you’ll be pleased to know we craft all our chocolate with a ‘more cocoa, less sugar’ mentality. This helps us bring the richest, most balanced flavour notes in every bite. We also make sure we use absolutely nothing artificial in our recipes.
So, why not take a look at our complete chocolate hamper collection and get ready for the season of goodwill?