Cooking into Christmas

By: Alex Durante

What is your favorite food associated with Christmas?  From treats, candy, drinks, all the way to main courses, there is a variety of traditional Christmas foods that are used to celebrate the holiday.      

Cookies are probably the most popular food eaten treat at Christmas time. Many families have traditions of making and eating cookies during the Christmas season, regardless of the type. Little kids traditionally leave Christmas cookies out for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. This did not become a tradition until the 1930’s during the Great Depression. Many believe that this was because parents encouraged their children to be generous in the time of economic problems, and many kids still put out cookies for Santa today.

Next up is ham. Usually families consume ham for lunch or dinner on Christmas day. Eating ham on Christmas most likely started in England and Scandinavia, where people started eating ham on December 26, to pay tribute to Freyr, a mythological god.

Most likely, you have heard of fruitcake, but few have actually tried it. In 1913, fruitcakes started as mail–order products here in America. They have a long shelf life, and they are mass–produced. The one–time Tonight Show host Johnny Carson started a trend of mocking fruitcake when he said that really only one fruitcake exists, and it is passed down from family to family. This year, the Antarctic Heritage Trust discovered a 106-year-old fruitcake, which is said to be in great condition.

Candy canes are one of the most popular Christmas treats, and one of the oldest. It is believed that in 1870, a German choirmaster asked a candy maker for “sugar sticks,” to give to children to keep them quiet during church on Christmas Eve. He asked the candy maker to bend the top of the sticks to remind children of the shepherds that visited baby Jesus, and candy canes remain loved and eaten by children and adults all around the world.

Eggnog is drank by many people on Christmas, and is usually made with eggs, sugar, cream, nutmeg, and alcohol. It started as a drink for British aristocracy, and only the wealthy had enough money to buy liquors that kept the drink from spoiling. It is called eggnog, because rum was once called grog and was served in mugs called noggins. It first was called egg – n – grog, and now it is called eggnog.

Gingerbread houses are something that many kids build around Christmastime, and in 2013, a world record was set for the world’s largest gingerbread house, which was 2,520-square-feet. It was built by a group in Bryan, TX, and had over 35 million calories. John Lovitch, a New York chef once broke the record for the world’s largest gingerbread village, which included gingerbread vehicles and over 100 gingerbread buildings.

This holiday season, consider trying some of these traditional Christmas foods now that you have learned more about their history.  Many people have Christmas traditions set around food, and if you and your family don’t have any, maybe now is a good time to start. Your new tradition doesn’t necessarily have to be anything typical for the season.  For example, in A Christmas Story, the Parker family eats Chinese food for their Christmas dinner. You can start your own tradition – even if it is unique and different.


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