Christ­mas foods have a his­tory

Some culi­nary tra­di­tions pre-date the yule­tide cel­e­bra­tion

Style Magazine - - Fashion -

A MA­JOR el­e­ment of Christ­mas is festive over-indulgence in ex­cess of food, drink and cel­e­bra­tion.

Along with be­ing a time of over-eat­ing and en­joy­ing rich food there are many culi­nary tra­di­tions which, while as­so­ci­ated with the festive sea­son, in some cases even pre-date the cel­e­bra­tion of Christ­mas.

An ex­am­ple of tra­di­tional Christ­mas foods that have a long his­tory is the Buche de Noel or Yule Log, a French tra­di­tional dish that has be­come pop­u­lar through­out the world.

Over time, the Yule Log has been adapted and ad­justed to dif­fer­ent per­sonal and na­tional tastes but the orig­i­nal tra­di­tion of the log has re­mained in the form the cake takes to­day.

The ori­gin of the Yule Log is to sym­bol­ise an ac­tual log which should burn con­tin­u­ously on the fire­place dur­ing Christ­mas night. If it goes out, it means bad luck in the com­ing year. The next morn­ing, the ashes from the log are scooped up and kept as a good luck charm to heal sickness, bring on needed rain, and guar­an­tee suc­cess in busi­ness.

Mince pies are some­thing many peo­ple will no­tice ap­pear­ing in the shops as De­cem­ber ap­proaches but, while to­day they are filled with mixed fruit pre­serves that have a sweet taste and sug­ared ap­peal, fewer may know that mince pies are so named be­cause they used to con­tain meat.

Minced pies were a del­i­cacy that grew in pop­u­lar­ity in the 13th cen­tury as Euro­pean cru­saders, who had been quest­ing for re­li­gious en­light­en­ment in the mid­dle-east­ern holy lands re­turned home with var­i­ous spices and recipes for spiced meats.

The spiced meats, sea­soned with the likes of cin­na­mon and mixed with an ar­ray of fruits, both lo­cal and ex­otic, cre­ated a sweet meat pie.

The pie as it was known then was far larger than to­day’s mince pies and was banned on a num­ber of oc­ca­sions by var­i­ous re­li­gious groups for its deca­dence.

It was this lux­ury as­so­ci­a­tion which led to a resur­gence in the pie’s pop­u­lar­ity in the 1700s as hav­ing lav­ish minced pies be­came a sta­tus sym­bol.

A less-ap­petis­ing Christ­mas din­ing ap­peal is pro­vided by the fact that, prior to beef, tur­key, chicken and ham, of­ten the most de­sired meat to play cen­tre­piece on the din­ing ta­ble was a boar’s head or lamb’s brains.

These were seen as del­i­ca­cies that for many were only served dur­ing the festive sea­son due to their ex­pense and scarcity.

The east­ern Euro­pean re­gion of the Ukraine is one of many sources of culi­nary Christ­mas tra­di­tion, some of which have car­ried over into pop­u­lar be­lief around the world while others have re­mained cul­tur­ally unique to the re­gion. In the Ukraine there are 12 cour­ses to the tra­di­tional Christ­mas Eve sup­per.

The meal does not be­gin un­til the fam­ily’s youngest mem­ber, watch­ing at the win­dow, spots the evening star.

The ta­ble on which the feast is eaten has two table­cloths, one for the din­ers and one for the an­ces­tors of the fam­ily.

There is also a tra­di­tion of hav­ing an ar­ti­fi­cial spider in the Christ­mas tree as this is said to sym­bol­ise good luck.

This is some­thing which is seen as a tra­di­tion in­ter­na­tion­ally where find­ing a spider in the tree is sup­posed to bring good for­tune for the com­ing year.

In Aus­tralia the chances are there will be a blend of tra­di­tions from all around the world, as our mul­ti­cul­tural make-up as a na­tion brings to­gether ev­ery­thing from prawns and steaks on the bar­be­cue to tur­key and glazed ham with gravy and pota­toes.

Whether on the beach or at a well-dressed din­ing ta­ble, the same sen­ti­ment and in­tent will be car­ried through all festive feasts as eat­ing and in­dulging to ex­cess leave all con­cerned happy and con­tent.

In Aus­tralia there will be a blend of tra­di­tions from all around the world, as our mul­ti­cul­tural make-up as a na­tion brings to­gether ev­ery­thing

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