Christmas is different from any other holiday for its fantastic legends and distinctive traditions, jam-packed with things to do and people to visit there is always a delicious selection of foods that comes around with the festive season. A time when we often over-indulge in both food and drink – there are numerous traditional meals and fares that we look forward to eating each year.
Christmas cake is one item carefully prepared months in advance in order to allow the flavours plenty of time to soak in nicely, a type of fruitcake it’s enjoyed all over the world and can be light or dark, sticky-wet, crumbly and moist, light or heavy, leavened or unleavened, available in every shape and size and decorated with marzipan, icing, and glazing, dusted with icing sugar, or simply left plain. If there’s icing on the top of the cake it’s often adorned with a greeting or decorated with images of fir trees or Santa. Sometimes sixpences are hidden inside, with Christmas puddings too, as a good luck charm to whoever finds it in their slice.
Gingerbread is another delicious favourite at this time and popular all over the world, made in thousands of homes in the UK alone it’s often fashioned into gingerbread men, houses and cookies to be devoured by all the family. Gingerbread is made from sugars and spices that were introduced to Europe by soldiers returning from the Middle East after the Crusades and became popular as a treat in the 19th century, an indulgence enjoyed for its sweetness and distinct ginger taste.
Eggnog is an interesting mix of ingredients and an old holiday tradition literally meaning ‘eggs inside a small cup’. A drink with a long history it’s been enjoyed as a festive beverage in England for hundreds of years, although its structure has altered considerably from the original recipe. Typical grog ingredients include milk, sugar, cream and eggs and a spirit, but recipes differ depending on the country you are in, and modern recipes of eggnog can incorporate really unexpected ingredients such as ice cream.
Mince pies are an essential part of the season consumed by kids and adults alike. They’re made from minced fruit, not meat, and a mixture of nuts and mixed spices, normally nutmeg and cinnamon, including raisins, sultanas, candied citrus peel, apricots, apples and glace cherries. A well-known favourite food of Santa’s, its traditional to leave a few pies out for him on Christmas Eve night to say thanks for the gifts and set him on his way refreshed. Eaten specifically at this time of year since the 16th century it’s said to be lucky to eat one mince pie a day for the 12 days and with the first one a wish should always be made.
Christmas pudding started off as a type of porridge in the14th century and was originally made with beef and mutton, adding raisins, currants, prunes, wines and spices, later it was thickened up with eggs, breadcrumbs and dried fruit before evolving into what we know and love today. It’s a particularly superstitious pudding as it’s said there should be 13 ingredients included as a representation of Jesus and His Disciples, and each family member has to take turns to stir it from east to west using a wooden spoon in remembrance of the Wise Men.
Everyone is familiar with the red and white striped candy sticks generally given as treats to kids in their stocking, or hanging on the Christmas tree as ornaments to be eaten if they’re good. The shape is said to either be the letter J to represent the loved name of Jesus, or a shepherd’s staff used to rescue fallen lambs who have wandered off the beaten track.