There was a piece in The Daily Telegraph on that great holiday tradition, the Christmas hamper. Here is an excerpt:
"For a great many people, a Fortnum’s hamper represents the very epitome of a traditional Christmas, or at least as dreamt up by Dickens – himself a loyal Fortnum’s customer.
And in truth, could there be anything more thrillingly festive than the first sighting of a distinctive F&M logo’ed wicker basket sitting plumply on a doorstep (hopefully your own)? Nestling inside is the flavoursome promise of gastronomic fare fit for a king, or a caliph.
With the coming of the Romantic Movement, the vogue for eating outdoors and enjoying the countryside led to the popularity of Fortnum’s hampers. As The Season became established, the well-to-do were sustained at the Eton-Harrow cricket match at Lord’s, Henley Royal Regatta, Ascot and so forth by jugged hare and truffles.
Hampers, or rather tea chests, were also dispatched to officers fighting the Naopleonic Wars, and in the 1850s, Queen Victoria ordered the store to send Florence Nightingale an enormous consignment of concentrated beef tea for the wounded in the Crimea.
“Earl Haig requested bespoke hampers, designed like panniers, to straddle a camel and, of course, Fortnum’s obliged,” says Tanner. “There was a dedicated officers’ supply department, set up in 1914 to provide food parcels for the Western Front, Gallipoli, Russia and North Africa. Winston Churchill complained bitterly by letter when his wife Clemmie sent him upmarket provisions because what he really desperately wanted was a hot-water bottle.”
It was after the Great War that Christmas hampers really took off as fewer people were inclined to make their own Christmas cakes and puddings."