Christmas - a time for relaxing and spending time with family and friends and enjoying delicious food.
It’s also a time for tradition and these two parts go hand-in-hand. Over the centuries, Christmas food and traditions have changed and merged to create the flavours and ideals that are recognised today.
One of the most traditional foodstuffs of the festive season is the classic Christmas cake. It has changed significantly over the centuries, from a plum porridge designed to break the fast and line the stomach, to the rich and decadent cake we now enjoy.
In the 16th Century, porridge underwent a makeover, swapping out oats for flour, eggs and spice to turn it into a recognisable treat. Soon, higher societies were wrapping their cakes in marzipan and icing to show their wealth.
Many of the traditions that we follow now have stemmed from the Victorian period. The Victorians not only introduced us to crackers – originally known as Bangs of Expectation – but also to the concept of mince pies. As the name “mincemeat” suggests, mince pies originally contained meat, often lamb or beef, alongside sweet fruit and spices in an oval shape to represent the manger. Today we’ve moved away from the meaty fillings and now enjoy a delicious mix of currants, sultanas and spices!
Like mince pies, Christmas puddings have had a reinvention with its ingredients. They also used to contain meat and were eaten as a soup rather than as a decadent end to a celebratory meal. This was slowly changed with the addition of fruits, spirits and eggs to form a plum pudding. It was again the Victorians who created a pudding much more similar to that which we enjoy today.
The idea of putting a silver coin in the pudding dates back to when Twelfth Night was celebrated with a cake. It appears to stem back to the 1300s, but again it was the Victorians who popularised the idea by placing a silver farthing in their puddings to bring luck to the person who found it. It wasn’t just coins which were added to puddings, there were several other favours which could be found, each with their own special meanings:
- A button: If a single man found it, they would stay single for the following year.
- A thimble: If a single woman found it, they would stay single for the following year.
- A ring: If a single person found this, it meant they would get married in the following year and receive great riches.
What are your Christmas traditions? Whether it’s a homemade cake from a family recipe or an alternative dessert, we wish you a very peaceful Christmas and a Happy New Year.