A Short History of the Christmas Punch Bowl

A Short History of the Christmas Punch Bowl

It turns out that punch, that ubiquitous large bowl full of a variety of liquids and seen in most Christmastime gatherings, got its name originally from India.

There are various attributions to the name but the name for the drink that seems to make the most sense derived from the Hindi word, panch, for "five" – and in India the concoction was traditionally made with five ingredients.

Sailors and others from the British East India Company imported the concept of punch back to the mother country in the early-1600s. Prior to then people were drinking wassail – a cider-based drink. But punch really caught on with the introduction of high-potency rum from Jamaica.

Today – well, mainly in the middle of the last century and on to the ‘90s – punch became the rage and no bride was complete without at least one glass punch bowl and silver punch ladles. Recipes were either traded or guarded jealously and it was possible for a family to be “made” socially based on the quality, quantity and alcoholic content of the punch they served at their Christmas gatherings.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of punch recipes available now, ranging from gentile ones that could be – and often are – served at church functions to the kind that will have you wishing the next day that you had used better judgment your beverage consumption.

Written by Dianne Weller

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