The coronation of Charlemagne on Christmas of 800 helped promote the popularity of the holiday.
Other customs developed as part of Christian belief. For example, Mince Pies (so called because they contained shredded or minced meat) were baked in oblong casings to represent Jesus’ crib, and it was important to add three spices (cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg) for the three gifts given to the Christ child by the Magi.
The pies were not very large, and it was thought lucky to eat one mince pie on each of the twelve days of Christmas (ending with Epiphany, the 6th of January).
The ever-present threat of hunger was triumphantly overcome with a feast, and in addition to the significant fare mentioned above, all manner of food would be served at Christmas.
Humble (or ‘umble) pie was made from the “humbles” of a deer — the heart, liver, brains and so forth. While the lords and ladies ate the choice cuts, the servants baked the humbles into a pie (which of course made them go further as a source of food). This appears to be the origin of the phrase, “to eat humble pie.” By the seventeenth century, Humble Pie had become a trademark Christmas food, as evidenced when it was outlawed along with other Christmas traditions by Oliver Cromwell and the Puritan government.
The Christmas pudding of Victorian and modern times evolved from the medieval dish of frumenty — a spicy, wheat-based dessert. Many other desserts were made as welcome treats for children and adults alike.
A special Christmas family meal is traditionally an important part of the holiday’s celebration, and the food that is served varies greatly from country to country. Some regions, such as Sicily, have special meals for Christmas Eve, when 12 kinds of fish are served. In the United Kingdom and countries influenced by its traditions, a standard Christmas meal includes turkey, goose or other large bird, gravy, potatoes, vegetables, sometimes bread and cider. Special desserts are also prepared, such as Christmas pudding, mince pies, fruit cake and Yule log cake.
In Poland and other parts of eastern Europe and Scandinavia, fish often is used for the traditional main course, but richer meat such as lamb is increasingly served. In Sweden it is common with a special variety of smörgåsbord, where ham, meatballs and herring play a prominent role. In Germany, France, and Austria, goose and pork are favored. Beef, ham, and chicken in various recipes are popular throughout the world. The Maltese traditionally serve Imbuljuta tal-Qastan, a chocolate and chestnuts beverage, after Midnight Mass and throughout the Christmas season. Slovaks prepare the traditional Christmas bread potica, bûche de Noël in France, panettone in Italy, and elaborate tarts and cakes. The eating of sweets and chocolates has become popular worldwide, and sweeter Christmas delicacies include the German stollen, marzipan cake or candy, and Jamaican rum fruit cake. As one of the few fruits traditionally available to northern countries in winter, oranges have been long associated with special Christmas foods. Eggnog is a sweetened dairy-based beverage traditionally made with milk, cream, sugar, and whipped eggs (which gives it a frothy texture). Spirits such as brandy, rum or bourbon are often added. The finished serving is often garnished with a sprinkling of ground cinnamon or nutmeg.
Figgy pudding dates back to 16th century England. Its possible ancestors include savoury puddings, such as crustades, fygeye or figge (a potage of mashed figs thickened with bread), creme boiled (a kind of stirred custard), and sippets (croutons). In any case, its methods and ingredients appear in diverse older recipes, for instance in Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management.
Today, the term figgy pudding is popularised mainly by the Christmas carol “We Wish You A Merry Christmas,” which includes the line, “Now bring us some figgy pudding”. A variety of nineteenth-century sources state that, in the West Country of England (from which the carol comes), “figgy pudding” referred to a raisin or plum pudding, not necessarily one containing figs.
Christmas pudding is a type of pudding traditionally served as part of the Christmas dinner in the UK, Ireland and in other countries where it has been brought by British emigrants. It has its origins in medieval England, and is sometimes known as plum pudding or just “pud”, though this can also refer to other kinds of boiled pudding involving dried fruit. Despite the name “plum pudding,” the pudding contains no actual plums due to the pre-Victorian use of the word “plums” as a term for raisins. The pudding is composed of many dried fruits held together by egg and suet, sometimes moistened by treacle or molasses and flavoured with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and other spices. The pudding is usually aged for a month or more, or even a year; the high alcohol content of the pudding prevents it from spoiling during this time.
Byrek me kungull dhe arre – This is a traditional Albanian pumpkin and walnut pie cooked usually on Christmas Eve, especially in Catholic families. The ingredients are wheat flour, pumpkin, walnuts, vegetable oil (if fasting is considered) or butter, a pinch of salt and black pepper. Sometimes oregano is added. The pastry layers are traditionally homemade, filled with baked pumpkin mixture, which contains butter, salt and pepper. On top of the mixture, chopped walnuts are sprinkled. Layers are then folded up, put on a flat baking dish in a circular shape and baked. It makes a very delicious and light side dish for Christmas or any other occasion.
The traditional meal (served as dinner on Christmas Eve) consists of either fish soup, mushroom soup, cabbage soup, lentil soup, pea soup and fried fish (traditionally carp) served with potato salad. Cabbage soup almost always contains mushrooms and may contain smoked meat or sausage. The recipe for potato salad differs slightly among every Czech or Slovak family. The main ingredients are: potato cooked with jacket, canned peas, onions, cooked carrots, parsley and celery, pickled gherkins, cooked eggs and mayonnaise. Some families may add grated apples or salami. The best potato salad is prepared a day before Christmas Eve so that all the ingredients can “mellow” for a day. The Christmas dinner should be the first food consumed that day. Those who do not break the Christmas shrove are believed to be able to see a golden pig.
Before the Christmas holidays, many kinds of sweet biscuits are prepared. The Christmas cookies are then served during the whole Christmas period and exchanged among friends and neighbours. Very popular is also a preparation of small ginger breads garnished by sugar icing.
- Thirteen desserts (Provence): The thirteen desserts are the traditional Christmas dessert in the French region of Provence. The Christmas supper ends with 13 dessert items, representing Jesus Christ and the 12 apostles. The desserts are traditionally set out Christmas Eve and remain on the table three days until December 27.