The origins of Christmas are found in festivities with an abundance of meals. In the earlier years, as soon as the weather got cold, pigs, calves and poultry were carved up into different cuts of meat. Fillets, cutlets, hams and pigs’ knuckles and trotters, together with cheeses, were buried in the snow or stored in the root cellar, a sort of cold room. Some meats were pickled in stoneware jars, some were smoked. This was not only for winter, this was early preparation for the Christmas festivities.
One of the oldest Christmas dishes known is mince pie, which originated in the Middle Ages. The original recipe contained a mixture of finely chopped poultry, pheasant, partridge and rabbit. Later, sugar, apples, raisins and candied oranges and lemons were added. Over time, the meats were eliminated leaving only the sweet ingredients, introducing the “traditional” Christmas pudding.
The traditional Christmas plum pudding
Fruit cake, stollen and log cake are part of the Christmas tradition, served on Christmas eve or offered as gifts.
The famous, typically English Christmas pudding was called a “hackin” from its many ingredients. By the 17th Century, when more sweets were added, it became the plum pudding, often prepared on Christmas morning, and sprinkled with brandy and flamed when served.
The traditional Christmas fruit cake is a derivative of the Christmas pudding. It includes raisins, dates, nuts and candied fruit, also forgetting the generous helping of brandy or rum.
Traditional Christmas cake, with nuts, raisins, dates and candied fruit,
and not forgetting a generous dose of brandy or rum.
In some countries, families gather around Christmas lunches, in other countries, around Christmas dinners. Traditional Christmas meals usually consist of a variety of cooked meats and vegetables. Father Christmas (Santa Claus) enjoys a glass of milk and cookies the night before.
Milk and cookies for Santa
The Christmas candy cane, shaped as a shepherds’ crook, represents the humble shepherds who were first to worship the new-born Christ.
Legend has it that the candy cane was invented in 1670 by a choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral who handed out the bent sugar sticks among children to keep them quiet during the long Living Crèche ceremony.