When you sit down for your Christmas day lunch, do you congratulate yourself on how well you have retained the Christmas traditions handed down by your forefathers and mothers? Do you always go for the turkey or beef because that is what your family has always done? Well, if you do, you may be surprised to learn that Christmas dishes have been, and probably always will be changing.
All over the world, groups of family and friends sit down together, just as you will this year, to celebrate Christmas. The best Christmas tablecloth is ceremoniously removed from the cupboard, freshly pressed and then a feast fit for emperors is laid out on the table.
If you are looking for inspiration to make your Christmas extra special this year there are so many different styles of Christmas tablecloths, Christmas napkins, table runners and table toppers to choose from. For a traditional look, the Biltmore table cloth come in many rich colors and you can top it with a pretty white Glisten table topper or Holly Glow. For something a little more family oriented, the Snowman Tablecloth has an adorable snowman family design that will bring cheer to all who see it. The decor on the table not only brightens the room and brings holiday cheer, it also makes the food (which we worked hard to prepare) that much more appetizing and appealing.
Certain menus are rolled out year in and year out, and for as long as you may remember you have tucked into turkey and all the trimmings – but turkey is actually not traditional in a historical sense because what we consume for Christmas dinner has changed over the centuries.
Turkey has been a Christmas staple for many years, research however suggests that it first started to gain popularity in the United Kingdom in 1527, and even then it would only have been one dish among many at an enormous feast. For the wealthy, peacock and swan roasts were a particular preference for the main meat dish and the feast would last for days.
Celebrating Christmas over just one or two days is in fact a fairly new-fangled idea. During Medieval times in Europe, the well-off held a twelve day feast to celebrate Christmas, the most popular dish of which was a Christmas Pie where three birds were deboned and roasted inside each other. This dish is now making a comeback to the Christmas table. That was all well and good for the wealthy of course; poor people had to make do with bread and ale.
Mine pies containing meat and suet were introduced to Christmas in the fourteenth century and at this time a boar’s head was also a very popular meat feast dish, as was gingerbread made from breadcrumbs rather than flour. By the sixteenth century, there was a more widespread use of sugar, marzipan and molded foods such as jelly and blancmanges. In the 1570s there is mention of plum porridge (also known as pottage) which went on to develop into the Christmas pudding we know and love today.
Throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, game birds and geese were popular for the Christmas table, but by the nineteenth and early twentieth century turkey was finally becoming more popular as the Christmas dish of choice. This was thanks in no small part to the writer Charles Dickens, who had toured the USA to give readings of his books, popularizing the dish in A Christmas Carol. Remember this delightful scene?
‘It’s Christmas Day!’ said Scrooge to himself. ‘I haven’t missed it. The Spirits have done it all in one night. They can do anything they like. Of course they can. Of course they can. Hallo, my fine fellow!’
‘Hallo!’ returned the boy.
‘Do you know the Poulterer’s, in the next street but one, at the corner?’ Scrooge inquired.
‘I should hope I did,’ replied the lad.
‘An intelligent boy!’ said Scrooge. ‘A remarkable boy! Do you know whether they’ve sold the prize Turkey that was hanging up there? — Not the little prize Turkey: the big one?’
‘What, the one as big as me?’ returned the boy.
‘What a delightful boy!’ said Scrooge. ‘It’s a pleasure to talk to him. Yes, my buck!’ ‘It’s hanging there now,’ replied the boy. ‘Is it?’ said Scrooge. ‘Go and buy it.’
So it was down to the Victorians that Christmas tradition was standardized in the way that we now recognize it. We can also thank the Victorians for Christmas cards, mince pies made with fruit, trees and Christmas carols. The Victorians reused old words but created new tunes and the first noteworthy collection of carols was published in 1833 for everyone to appreciate.
Make your Christmas table is a memorable one whatever Holiday food you choose to prepare. Happy Christmas from us all!