Day One – Snow – and ‘Why all that Dried Fruit?’

We’ve been waiting for the snow and then bing, bam, boom, it’s here – just in time for the beginning of December. It’s almost unheard of to have two school snow days in a row, especially this side of Christmas (well, in our short history in Canada), and that is what we’ve had. Well those in the family who are at school have while everyone else carries on almost as normal. Fresh snow is the best though as it’s a novelty, and it looks so pretty.

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Today, I wasn’t working so I joined the younger two hanging out at home. Any plans for some sneaky Christmas shopping were buried with the snow. As a consequence I got to get ahead with some seasonal baking. With the Christmas cake and pudding made a few weeks ago, today I cracked on with a first batch of mince pies. These morsels of delight kick off December in our house. In the past, little hands would help and we’d make a mince pie production line. There was no interest today from the teenagers until it was time to eat them.

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From comparing notes with Canadian friends, our Christmas baking seems to be packed with dried fruit. This is not to the majority of Canadians’ tastes I find – even in our house we have lovers and haters. I wondered why our traditional Christmas baking is so different to the North American one – so here’s a little-toe-dip-into-history gleaned and hyper-summarized from around the internet this afternoon.

It seems that dried fruit first started being used in Europe at the time of the Crusades. Middle Eastern fruit couldn’t be brought back fresh so it was dried or candied for transportation. The fruit was new, exotic, expensive and because it originated from the Holy Land it began to be used in cakes for the celebrations for Easter and Christmas. As time went on fruit cake was dropped from Easter baking and became more traditionally used for Christmas all over Europe.

In the mid-1600s the celebration of Christmas in England was banned by the Puritans who associated it with Catholicism, and excessive eating and drinking – no more fruit cake and mince pies. They wanted to replace the tradition of Christmas with days of fasting on Holy days. There wasn’t popular support or adherence to this ban (big surprise). In the end there were even pro-Christmas riots and eventually it was re-instated as a tradition.

In conclusion, the British really care about fruit cake at Christmas – or maybe it’s the ale. As for me I just like all that dried fruit baking.

I wonder, does the peanut butter ball have such a colourful history?

 

Ref: http://newhistories.group.shef.ac.uk/wordpress/wordpress/“no-more-cakes-and-ale”-attacks-on-christmas-in-the-british-civil-war-period/

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