Why Do We Have a Christmas Feast?
Once you get over the hump with Halloween and Thanksgiving, you probably are bracing yourself for the Christmas feast with both dread and confusion. Didn’t you already eat vast quantities of food already? Why are these holidays so close together? Why is it tradition to even have a Christmas feast? Where did this all come from and what is this figgy pudding that carolers are demanding? We will cover why feasting on Christmas is a common tradition around the world, and why it is on top of the other Holidays.
The Merging of Yule and the Birth of Christ
For starters, the answer to why we have a Christmas feast is the same answer why we celebrate the birth of Christ on December the 25th. It begins when Rome adopts Christianity as the official state religion in 380 CE. It would spread to Western Europe thanks to the Roman Empire expanding its territory for the next three hundred years. When it started to conquer parts of England, Germany, and the Norwegian areas.
The people of those areas celebrated various solstice holidays and, along with the Roman Empire with a feast. According to History.com “The end of December was a perfect time for celebration in most areas of Europe. At that time of year, most cattle were slaughtered so they would not have to be fed during the winter. For many, it was the only time of year when they had a supply of fresh meat. In addition, most wine and beer made during the year were finally fermented and ready for drinking.”
This was usually to honor the shortest day of the calendar year and enjoy winter. While the Catholic church was trying to convert the recently conquered areas to Christianity, they borrowed the Roman Empire’s habit of adopting new traditions to transition to the Christian Religion much easier.
So, when Pope Julius I declared Christ’s birthday to be on the same time as the Solstice feasts, it became the Christmas holiday that most people around the world know today. That’s why we stuff ourselves at Christmas to this day.
But what do we serve at the feast? How about Figgy Pudding.
What is Figgy Pudding?
There is a mystery traditional food that is also part of the Christmas feast that appears on our yearly carol repertoire. What is Figgy pudding and why is it important enough to hold someone in their house hostage with off-key singing?
While most people who have never heard of it most likely envision a blob of gelatinous fig liquid, that isn’t what the song is talking about. That is a translation error of an old song. Pudding, as Americans know it, is a sweet goop mostly made flavored with chocolate or butterscotch.
Figgy pudding, at least in the way it was defined in ’14th-’16th centuries, England was a far cry of what we think about pudding today.
A Preservation Method for the Christmas Feast
In the 14th century, preserving the food for the winter was a life and death sort of matter. If food can’t go through preservation, it had to be eaten on the spot to prevent spoiling over the winter. Figgy pudding was a ” soup-like dish, that served as a fasting meal in preparation for the Christmas feast. “It was a combination of beef and mutton were mixed with raisins and prunes, wines, spices, and occasionally grain.”
In the 16th century, it morphed into a sweeter dessert. This is thanks to the increased availability of fruit, including plums occasionally.
Figgy Pudding Today
These days the definition of pudding has changed in the UK and the surrounding area. It’s less of a specific definition of a cooking technique, and more of a term for “any dessert .”
So, based on that definition, there is a series of a wide variety of things that can make up figgy pudding. These days, figgy pudding is less of a physical pudding and more of a bundt cake-like dessert.
According to Taste of Home “, Now the Christmas figgy pudding typically includes breadcrumbs, eggs, brown sugar, suet, raisins, currants, candied orange peel, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, and alcohol. Figs are not an official ingredient, but they are occasionally a feature from time to time, inspiring the well-known name along the way.”
So, if you wanted to know why we have the double whammy of the Christmas feast on top of Thanksgiving. If you want to know how to mitigate the worst of its effects, feel free to read about how to pace yourself.