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A Delicious Journey Through Time: Exploring Christmas Dinners from the Renaissance to Now

lets explore the food first.
Christmas through the ages

Ho, ho, ho! It's that time of the year again, when the air is filled with the sweet aroma of holiday treats, and the sound of joyful carols warms our hearts. As we prepare to gather around the Christmas table, let's take a mouthwatering journey through time and explore the evolution of traditional Christmas dinners from the Renaissance period, the Tudor era, the Edwardian era, the Elizabethan period, up to the present day.

The Renaissance Period: Feast Fit for a King

In the Renaissance period (14th to 17th century), Christmas was a grand celebration known for its extravagant feasts. These feasts, often hosted by the nobility, featured an abundance of exotic spices, meats, and sweets. Venison, boar, and peacock were popular centerpieces, and elaborate dishes like marchpane (marzipan) and gingerbread were crafted into intricate shapes to dazzle guests.

The Tudor Period: Enter the Turkey

During the Tudor era (16th century), the turkey began making its debut on the Christmas table. King Henry VIII is believed to have been one of the first English monarchs to serve turkey for Christmas. Alongside turkey, roasted goose and the famous Tudor "Christmas pie," a meat pie filled with a variety of game meats, were cherished holiday staples.

The Elizabethan Period: Spices and Sweets Galore

The Elizabethan era (late 16th century) saw a continued love for spiced meats and sweets. Sugar was becoming more accessible, leading to the creation of sweet treats like sugared almonds and marzipan fruits. Spiced wine, known as wassail, was also a favorite holiday drink. Queen Elizabeth I herself enjoyed indulging in marzipan creations shaped like animals.

The Edwardian Period: A Return to Roasts

The Edwardian period (early 20th century) marked a return to traditional roasts as the centerpiece of Christmas dinners. Roast beef, turkey, and ham became popular choices, often accompanied by Brussels sprouts, roast potatoes, and stuffing. Christmas puddings, drenched in brandy and set on fire, added a spectacular finish to the meal.

Midnight Mass and the Roman Catholic Tradition

Before we move on to the present day, let's touch on the significance of midnight Mass and the Roman Catholic tradition of abstaining from meat until then. Midnight Mass commemorates the birth of Jesus and is a deeply spiritual experience for Catholics around the world. The tradition of fasting from meat until after Mass symbolizes waiting in anticipation for the Christ child's arrival. After Mass, families would return home to feast and celebrate.

Mary and Joseph's Journey to Bethlehem

Now, as we ponder what Mary and Joseph might have eaten during their journey to Bethlehem, it's important to consider the humble nature of their circumstances. Traveling in ancient times would have meant simple, portable provisions like bread, cheese, dates, and olives. They would have relied on the generosity of others for warm meals along the way.

Today's Christmas Dinners: A Blend of Tradition and Innovation

In the modern era, Christmas dinners have become a delightful fusion of old and new traditions. Families continue to gather around the table to enjoy roast turkey, ham, or even vegetarian dishes like nut roast. Sides like mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and green beans remain classics, while desserts range from traditional Christmas puddings to decadent chocolate yule logs.

As we celebrate Christmas today, let's cherish the rich history of festive feasting and the traditions that have been passed down through generations. Whether you're savoring a slice of turkey or a vegan roast, the spirit of togetherness and gratitude that defines the holiday season remains as timeless as ever. So, raise your glass, toast to the past, and savor every bite of your Christmas dinner, knowing that you're part of a culinary journey that spans centuries. Merry Christmas and bon appétit! 🎄🍽️

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