Besides exchanging gifts and getting together with the people we love, Christmas is also that time of year when special recipes are made. There are certain foods that have a ‘Christmas feel’ about them, often creating lots of holiday nostalgia. Christmas festivities have been carried down for centuries but where did it all begin exactly?
A fun Christmas food is the much-loved gingerbread house. Kids adore it and decorating the gingerbread house is a Christmas tradition shared in many households. Gingerbread men were highly popular in Elizabethan England, as women prepared the dessert to depict their husbands, as a sign of appreciation. They were made with flour, butter, ginger, baking soda, ground cloves and cinnamon for flavor, with the addition of sugar and molasses for sweetness. But, it was the German bakers that created the gingerbread house for the first time for Christmas celebrations and is believed to appear in approximately the same period as Martin Luther started the tradition of having candlelit Christmas trees. After the Brothers Grimm released their famous Hansel and Gretel story in 1812, the tradition of making gingerbread houses exploded around the globe.
Candy canes are another type of sweet food that is closely connected to the celebration of Christmas. It is said that this custom came from Germany around 1970 when the children in a local church choir received white candy in the shape of a shepherd’s crook in order to keep them quiet during the service. In the beginning of the 20th century, a candy manufacturer in Indiana thought about adding peppermint flavor to candy canes and using red stripes to make them more attractive. These sweets are still highly popular during Christmas, being used as a treat, for decorating gingerbread houses, or even for decorating the Christmas tree.
Buche de Noel or the Christmas Log, as many know it, is a special type of cake that is baked for Christmas in particular. It is believed that the tradition of making this cake is closely connected to the burning of the Yule log, which took place centuries ago, although no one knows for sure when the preparation of this type of cake started. If we take a look at the ingredients, it is very likely that the Christmas Log began to appear somewhere in the 19th century. The cake’s recipe includes eggs, sugar, flour, melted butter, chocolate butter cream, instant coffee, and hot water. It can be decorated with candied cherries, green sugar, and various candies.
Eggnog is still one of the most popular traditional Christmas beverages, also being among the oldest. How old is eggnog? Some believe that the first recipe for eggnog appeared in the 16th century, but under names like “posset” or “Syllabub”. The first written recordings of eggnog appeared only in the 18th century, making reference to the ‘milk punch’ that was prepared two centuries back, a sign that the beverage started to be appreciated on a larger scale. Eggnog is made out of eggs, brandy, rum, milk, and white sugar. Of course, the recipe can vary according to each person’s personal preferences.
These hearty foods are testament to the cold environment from which they originate. In Australia, with long hot summers, the Christmas Day cooking has developed into an outdoor barbecue, often with salads and cold beverages. Either way, Christmas food is all about sharing with family and celebrating!