The Origins Of Traditional Christmas Foods
From delicious sweets, to a hearty Christmas lunch shared with family and friends, Christmas is known for having the best food traditions. But why is it that we all love to buy candy canes, feast on a turkey or countdown to the big day with an advent calendar?
We’ve answered all these questions below with some fun facts on our favourite Christmas foods to get you excited for the festive season.
Eaten and shared with families around the globe, a turkey has been a Christmas favourite for many years although that wasn’t always the case! Originally people ate goose on Christmas Day as they didn’t want to waste the precious meat of cows who produced milk, or chickens who laid eggs. As geese only lay eggs occasionally, it quickly became a staple in many households.
Christmas stories have suggested that Henry VIII was the first person to eat a turkey on Christmas Day however it wasn’t until Victorian times that it became more acceptable as people needed a larger bird to share with family and friends.
A traditional desert on Christmas Day is Christmas cake, which is a combination of plum porridge and twelfth night cake that dates back to the 16th century. Traditionally there are two types of Christmascakes; the classic fruitcake that here in Australia we know and love and the Scottish Dundee cake that is made with whisky.
Christmas cake sees a mouth-watering blend of spices, almonds and dried fruit which is symbolic of the gifts the three wise men brought with them to see baby Jesus. As time progressed, almonds were swapped for marzipan and in the Victorian era it became fashionable to decorate the cake with a white snow-like icing covered top that can be seen on many Christmas cakes today.
The candy cane has long been part of the festive season and is a delicious sweet that is loved by both adults and children.
Although nothing has been confirmed, a popular story about the origins of the candy cane date back to 1670, where it is said that a German choirmaster handed the treats to young singers to keep them quiet during a Church service. Many believe that the shape is representative of a shepherd’s crook or “J” for Jesus.
The Advent calendar originated from the 19th century in Germany and was created to heighten the anticipation of Christmas for children. The children were encouraged to count down to Christmas Day by eating a candy or sweet hidden behind the door of each day. Now advent calendars come in all shapes and sizes, with traditional Christmas colours and images or mainstream commercial variations created to do the same thing!
Mince pies have perhaps changed the most over the last few centuries, swapping traditional meat, spice and fruit fillings to meatless spicy fruit mixtures. The pies used to be larger and at times could feed up to twenty people, however cooks quickly realised if they made the pies smaller and without the meat they would last longer. The sweet mince pies we all know and love now were developed in the 20th century after the meat mixture was removed for good.
Do you have any Christmas food traditions? Comment and share them with us below!