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Harrods reveal their Best Christmas hampers past and present

Nicola McCafferty
Yahoo Lifestyle
1 November 2012

They're the perfect, stress-free gift for the festive season.

The luxury Christmas hamper has long come up trumps on the list of Christmas gift ideas, with a huge variety of beautiful baskets packed with indulgent treats for all budgets on the shelves.

And it seems the popular tradition of spreading festive cheer with a hamper bursting with treats is steeped in British history too, going back over 150 years.

[Related: Top 50 Christmas party dresses to ensure you dazzle this festive season]

According to top London department store Harrods - whose offerings are a Christmas bestseller every year - the indulgent hamper of 2012 has come a long way from its humble beginnings in the 1800s.

While today's hampers feature champagne-filled truffles, scented candles, melt-in-your-mouth shortbread, prosecco and such like, their first baskets catered for a traditional British Christmas.

Some of Harrods' earliest recorded Christmas hampers date back to 1894 and included a choice of turkey, goose or ham, tea, a bottle of port, a 1lb of Brittany Butter and 1lb of Best Tobacco - with prices ranging from half guinea to two guineas (53p to £2.10 in today's money).

Newspaper adverts, such as that in the Kensington Society, listed order forms to purchase one and by 1930 the hampers had become so popular, they stocked more than 37 varieties.

Hampers were not only for Christmas either; the store's catalogues in the years before World War 1 saw the emergence of a wide range of bespoke hampers, catering for boating, racing, coaching fans - evoking a golden Edwardian age of leisure.

[Related: 10 best children's toys for Christmas 2012]

They even offered a 'Tuck Box' hamper, designed for families who wanted to spoil their children at boarding school. Boxes containing cake, sausage, potted meat, marmalade, sweets, mince pies, oranges and nuts soon became a must-have for boarding-school pupils for decades.

Even during the war years Harrods offered hampers, with a range available for men on active service and prisoners of war. Archives revealed the boxes contained food and home comforts - even concealing maps intended to help would-be escapers.

In fact by 1984, Harrods was sending over 3000 Christmas hampers to customers overseas. 

Nowadays Harrods offer over 70 Christmas boxes to suit all the family, with prices ranging from £24.95 to their limited-edition 'Opulence' hamper filled with caviar and champagne - and priced at £10,000.

And like decades gone by, they're anticipating this year's editions to be some of their best sellers.

Spokeswoman Pooja Sharma revealed: "For 2012 Harrods have launched up to 70 lines which includes both gift boxes and Christmas hampers.

"We are synonymous with luxury and quality and any recipient of our hamper gifts gets the chance to discover Christmas in a box, a treat for all foodies.

"Ten new lines have been added to the range this year including an exclusive hamper created with Food Writer Rose Prince, a traditional range with a twist with the use of ingredients like wild sloes and rose hips.

"[With] prices from £25 up to £10,000, there really is something for everyone in terms of price points and content - which is why they continue to be immensely popular year after year."

So to celebrate the age-old tradition of the hamper, here's our pick of Harrods best Christmas hampers for 2012:

1. For Her: The Pamper Hamper
Harrods says: It’s all about the ultimate indulgence – Champagne – in The Pamper Hamper. In addition to a bottle of Harrods Rosé Champagne are Champagne-filled truffles, and a Ladurée candle and room spray.

2. For Him: The Daylesford Christmas hamper
Harrods says: Designed with the connoisseur in mind, The Daylesford Gentleman’s hamper makes an ideal gift for a valued colleague or a generous host. Included are shortbread, caramelised nuts, chocolate-dipped orange slices, savoury biscuits, chutney and a pair of lambskin gloves. There are also party essentials: a bottle each of red and white wine and medium dry cider.

3. The Foodie: Lauduree hat box
Harrods says: The legendary Ladurée pastry shop – which began in Paris – has expanded to 28 cafés, including one at Harrods. This gift box full of favourites contains Champagne, tea and signature sweets that are perfect for toasting the new year.

4. For Kids: Cirque de sweet
Harrods says: This “circus of sweets” is the latest addition to our children’s hamper collection. The milk chocolate clown, marshmallow noses, fruity lollipops, dipped donuts and sweets make this a delightful gift for children – or grown-ups who are children at heart.

5. Sheer luxury: The Ultimate Hamper
Harrods says: With enough indulgences to last all 12 days of Christmas, The Ultimate is a gourmet celebration of seasonal specialities – and a favourite of connoisseurs. This exclusive hamper includes Beluga caviar, 5J Iberian ham, goose foie gras with truffle, Cheddar cheese, a Rose Prince Collection Christmas pudding, Champagne and luxury crackers. The leather-style trunk will double up as a picnic hamper when summer rolls around.

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