The scent of citrus, the love-hate debate around Brussels sprouts, and the ageless glee of finding coins in your pudding: festive food is an integral part of the celebrations but how often do you stop to think about why we eat it? Here, we reveal five things you (probably) didnít know about your favourite Christmas foods:
1. Why do we put pennies in our Christmas puddings? Christmas pudding used to be a savoury sort of stew in the 14th century, but slowly the meat was replaced with breadcrumbs and egg making it more of a cake. Putting a silver coin in the pudding is a custom that is said to bring luck to the person that finds it. In the UK, the coin traditionally used was a silver sixpence, but these days people add all sorts of tender including pound coins. The tradition seems to date back to the early 1300s and the court of King Edward II, when a Twelfth Night Cake was eaten during the festivities on what is considered the last night of Christmas. Originally a dried pea was baked in the cake and whoever ended up with it on their plate became King or Queen for the night.
2. What is the history of the mince pie? Much like the Christmas Pudding, these used to be savoury dishes in the Medieval period, stuffed with meats and spices. Mince pies have been known by so many different names over the years, including Crib Cakes, which refers to the rectangle shape of the pastry and its similarity to that of baby Jesusís crib. By the 17th century the pies were so synonymous with Christmas that they were condemned by Puritans. Over the years the recipe became sweeter, doing away with meat altogether.
3. Why Brussels Sprouts? Brussels Sprouts are, unsurprisingly, originally from Belgium. They are traditionally the Christmas vegetable of choice thanks to them being incredibly tough little blighters, able to withstand the freezing cold weather conditions found in any given British winter.
4. Why do we eat turkey at Christmas? Itís commonly said that King Henry VIII was the first person in Britain to eat turkey at Christmas, after William Strickland brought the birds back from the New World in the mid-1500s. However, while the portly king loved turkey, it was actually King Edward VII who made it popular as a festive meal. Turkey was popular in large Victorian families as the meat went further. However, they really were a total luxury until the 1950s when families started getting refrigerators in their kitchens.
5. Why are oranges put in Christmas stockings? Time was, citrus fruits were extremely expensive and being given one was a really special treat. People continue to gift satsumas, tangerines and clementines at Christmas to remind one another not to take things for granted.