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Victorian Manger Herbs



VICTORIAN MANGER HERBSHerbs were an integral part of life during the Victorian era. During the Christmas season, herbs were used in holiday foods and to scent the holiday atmosphere. They were displayed in manger scenes, which was a popular decoration of that time.  In the manger, special herbs were part of the legend surrounding the Christmas story. These herbs are called “manger herbs – herbs that Mary used to make Jesus’ bed in the cattle manger for the future king. In Victorian households, this little story was told on Christmas, and the legend is a meaningful one to pass on.

Lady’s Bedstraw: Mary used this to line the manger and lull Jesus to  sleep.

Chamomile.  Apple scented chamomile was a very popular herb during Victorian times. People dried the flowers and brewed them into a tisane, a tea to calm the nerves and reduce headaches. This tea was used to keep Baby Jesus calm.

Lavender.   Lavender was used to freshen linens just like we do today, and bedding and sick rooms.

Rosemary relates to the story of the Holy Family’s hurried flight from Herod. Legend has it that rosemary shrubs were silent as they journeyed through the Egyptian countryside while the other bushes crackled and snapped as they passed  through them. The rosemary bushes parted very quietly so they could pass through them, and then closed behind them so that the soldiers could not see where they had fled.

Mary was grateful to the rosemary bushes, so she hung her cloak on a rosemary bush and the formerly white flowers turned blue in her honor so, like lavender, rosemary was given special significance.

Pennyroyal, a type of mint, was also used as a manger herb.  Supposedly, the pennyroyal burst into bloom the minute Jesus was born, and ever since then, it has bloomed, and the flower is the color of royalty: purple.

Horehound, one of the bitter herbs, hinted of Jesus’ future sorrows.

Mary cried when she saw horehound in with the manger plants.  Joseph had brought it to her since it has very soft leaves. Horehound was believed to have healing powers (and it is a wonderful herb for sore throats) but the plant also foretold of the sorrows in Jesus’ future.

Thyme. Mary put this in the manger to guard against disease. Thyme is like a medicine chest in a plant.


Garlic was eaten as a vegetable during Bible times!
4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled & cut into 1-1/2” rounds
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dry
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 to1/2  teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (opt)
1 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 375-400. Toss potatoes with oil, thyme, garlic, red pepper and salt. Make a single layer on baking sheet.  Roast until tender and starting to brown 40-45 minutes uncovered. Garnish and serve.


Manger herbs, like thyme, rosemary and lavender are important to this gourmet blend.  It’s expensive to buy, but you can make it at home and give as gifts.(Good with lamb, grains, eggs, tomatoes, pork, beef and in seafood recipes)

Blend together and store in cool, dry place away from light:
1/4 cup dried thyme leaves, not powdered
2 tablespoons dried marjoram or 1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon dried rosemary, minced
1 tablespoon dried savory leaves, not powdered savory
2 teaspoons dried lavender flowers
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 dried bay leaf, crumbled


Another nice gift from the kitchen which is very expensive to buy.
This makes a delicious coating for pork and poultry. It also goes well with grains, potatoes and veggies. I like to rub pork tenderloins with olive oil, sprinkle on this blend and roast at 425 until temperature reaches about 150 or so, about 25-30 minutes. Yum!1 cup fine grain sea salt
3-4 tablespoons Herbes de Provence


Permanent link to this article: http://abouteating.com/victorian-manger-herbs/


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  1. debby di lollo

    TY, Rita!
    Hearing your Victorian Manger Herb Legend tale on Sacred Heart radio over the internet reminded me of my dear friend, Elaine, who passed away a few years ago. I still have a bit of her Herbs de Provence she made me before her passing from bone cancer at 56. We used to go to Herb Festivals once per year together and I have no one to do this with any longer! Thank you for this gentle touch this AM….please pray one HM for her soul and her children’s salvation.
    I love your website! Have bookmarked it!
    May our Lady help us welcome Him, sitting at His feet while serving! xo, debby di lollo. NJ

  2. Janice Zigich

    I would like to make Victorian Manger Herb gifts for this Christmas. Where would you recommend I purchase the ingredients? Also, is there a special bag or container you would recommend?
    Bless you.

    1. Rita Heikenfeld

      Hi, Janice,
      Where do you live?

      1. Janice Zigich

        I live in mid Michigan and have been searching for Victorian Manger Herbs to purchase. Do you know where I can look? Enjoyed listening to you again on the Sonrise Morning show yesterday.

  3. Rita Heikenfeld

    Most grocery stores have those little blister packs of herbs or, right now, potted rosemary shaped like little trees.
    My suggestion would be to go with thyme, rosemary, mint. As far as how to display them, you can either dry them and put them in a little cloth pouch (or just purchase the leaves already dried, or leave them fresh and scatter the leaves along the floor of the manger, or if the actual bed is large enough, line it with some sprigs. I like to make up little cheesecloth or silk pouches (available at craft stores) with a combo of the dried manger herbs as a Christmas “extra” gift, especially nice for those who are ill.

    One more thing, you can purchase chamomile and mint teas and just slit the bag open and empty the contents into your “mix” of manger herbs.

    Hope this helps.

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