There are a variety of foods that I automatically associate with Christmas. Either I receive them each year as a gift or someone in my family makes a familiar dish. When my husband and I got married, I was surprised to learn that the foods I associate with Christmas aren’t the same ones he does!

Christmas Foods Around the World

There are a lot of Christmas foods around the world that we enjoy each holiday. There are special dishes that we eat for Christmas dinner and cookies that we always leave out for Santa Claus on Christmas eve. I was surprised to learn the history surrounding many of the special foods we eat.

  • Fruitcake – The earliest reference to fruitcake is when Roman soldiers carried cakes that contained honey, spices and preserved fruits while they traveled long distances away from home.
  • Candy canes – Candy canes have an interesting history. Legends suggest that they were handed out because the wintergreen or peppermint oils were helpful in warding off colds. One story says that a choirmaster in the 1600s passed them out to the children in the choir to keep them quiet during services.
  • Gingerbread – Gingerbread or ginger cookies date back at least to early America when they were a popular choice because the dough stood up so well to brick oven cooking. The tradition of baking them in the shapes of boys and girls can be traced to Bonfire Night in Britain. The Gingerbread House became popular after the Brothers Grimm published the story Hansel and Gretel.
  • Mincemeat – This is always part of Christmas in my family. Mincemeat and mincemeat pie date back to medieval times when they actually contained “minced meat” rather than just the spices and dried fruits of today. Mincemeat was used as a way to stretch the meat further into another meal.
  • Panettone – My cousins have always incorporated Italian Christmas traditions into their celebrations and Panettone is something I enjoyed at their homes. Panettone is an egg-enriched bread that is traditionally given at Christmas. This bread keeps very well and traditionally, a quarter of the loaf was saved until February for the feast of San Biagio.
  • Plum Pudding – Plum pudding dates back to medieval times where traditionally, charms would be baked into the pudding for good luck in the new year.  Plum puddings date back to the 1400s.

Do you celebrate Christmas with any of these Christmas foods? Which one is your favorite?