It's the week before Christmas and if you are anything like me you are frantically running around like a headless chook trying to get all the last minute shopping, present wrapping and bits & bobs finished before the big day arrives. I finally finished my own Christmas cake this week and it's bigger than average this year so there will be plenty to share with everyone. It's kind of a tradition in our house to have a brandy infused rich fruit cake which we all eat with a piece of cheese. That's if we can fit it in after we have wolfed down a massive Christmas lunch!
As I was finishing off the cake I got to thinking about the various Christmas traditions that we all seem to follow at this time of year and how they came about. If you have been following my blog you will probably know that I am fond of a bit of history and tradition, having mentioned here about the tradition of Stir Up Sunday, in this post about various traditions associated with Easter and this one about wedding traditions.
So if, like me, you are curious about why we do what we do at Christmas, here are some little snippets for you.
The lives of the ancient Druids revolved around the pastoral year. They celebrated the sun's rebirth after the winter solstice and began their festivities on the shortest day of the year. The wild Norsemen of Northern Europe had a candlelit festival which was timed to brighten the darkest days and the Romans indulged themselves with the orgies of Saturnalia. The early Christians incorporated all these festivals and ceremonies into the church calendar and now we celebrate Christ's Mass on the 25th day of December.
Food plays an important part in any celebration and Christmas is a time for feasting all over the world. Here are some favourite dishes - past and present - from different parts of the world.
Peacock was once served at rich tables in England. The skin and feathers were carefully pulled away and the bird was spit roasted then rearranged in all its glory. The beak was gilded before the bird was proudly borne to the table.
Boar's head used to be a table centrepiece. After being stuffed and cooked, the head was rubbed with lard and soot (yuk!) to give it a life-like colour. It was surrounded by a wreath of bay or rosemary.
Suckling pig, another favourite dish in England in the past, is served at Christmas in Cuba. It can be roasted on a spit or in the oven, basted frequently with butter and beer to make it crisp and brown.
Goose was served to Elizabeth I of England on 24th December as news came of the destruction of the Spanish Armada. She decreed that goose should be eaten at Christmas ever after. The custom spread to Germany where it is still a favourite, as it is in Denmark, where it is often cooked with a stuffing of prunes and apples.
Turkeys definitely don't come from Turkey, though some say they got their name from Turkish merchants who first imported the birds. The Spanish Conquistadores first discovered the birds in South America and introduced them to Europe. Henry VIII ate turkey on Christmas day but the USA has made turkey real celebration fare, eating it on Thanksgiving Day as well as Christmas. Lovely with cranberry sauce 😋
Christmas Pie, made from chicken, pork and veal, is eaten in Canada.
Dried ling (fish) boiled up with wh