Happy Christmas! Many Christmas traditions in America (like hanging mistletoe) come from Great Britain, but the country still has unique differences.
Like children in the U.S., British children often write letters containing what they would like for Christmas. Some put the letters in the post, but traditionally they throw the letters into the fireplace to be carried up by the draft. Father Christmas receives these letters and leaves gifts in the stockings hung by the fireplace. The gifts aren't usually opened up until mid-day on Christmas because of church.
The day after Christmas is called Boxing Day; historically, the name comes from collecting money for the less fortunate in clay boxes, and then when they were full the collectors would break them open. Boxing Day today is known primarily as a shopping and sport day, though it still includes giving to those in need.
Christmas traditions in Great Britain continue until January 5, which is Twelfth Night. These twelve days between Christmas and January is where the "Twelve Days of Christmas" comes from.
"For Christmas lunch in England," says Anna Buttimore of Thundersley, England, "we always have roast turkey with all the trimmings - cranberry sauce, parsnips, Brussels sprouts, roast potatoes, chipolatas, and this Bread Sauce. Traditional Christmas desserts, such as Christmas pudding and Christmas cake, contain lots of dried fruit, which I don't like, and often contain copious quantities of alcohol. So I look forward to eating my chocolate Yule log instead as the children play with whatever Father Christmas left in their stockings and Hubby Dearest eats mince pies and watches the Queen's speech."
English Mincemeat Pies
- 1 1/4 pounds round steak, cut into small pieces
- 1 cup apple cider
- 4 tart apples (Granny Smith), peeled and chopped
- 1 1/3 cups sugar
- 2 1/2 cups dried currants
- 2 1/2 cups raisins
- 1/2 pound candied mixed fruit peel, chopped
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 16-ounce jar sour cherry preserves
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 (16-ounce) can pitted sour cherries, drained, liquid reserved
- 1 recipe pastry for a 9-inch double-crust pie
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
Growing up, mincemeat pies were part of our family Christmas tradition. Normally, they would be brought out as a sweet course at the end of our main meal; we would eye them lovingly, questioning whether there was room to eat anything else.
Romford England Stake
Thundersley, Benfleet Essex, England
Recipes and experiences excerpted from Worldwide Christmas Cookbook by Deanna Buxton. Copyright 2009, Covenant.