What are the origins of Christmas recipes according to Catholic tradition?

What are the origins of Christmas recipes according to Catholic tradition?

Publié le : 2022-11-23 12:27:41
Catégories : Religious News

  • Why do we have a Christmas meal?
  • Christmas in the Catholic Bible
  • What are the customs at Christmas dinner?
  • The extra place for the dead
  • The orange
  • The straw under the Christmas table
  • Midnight Mass
  • Christmas grace
  • What is a traditional Christmas meal in France made of? 
  • Christmas starters
  • Christmas dishes
  • Christmas desserts
  • What are the regional traditions for Christmas dinner in France?
  • Where does the Yule log come from?
  • The Yule log in the fireplace
  • The wooden Yule log
  • The Yule log in the form of a cake
  • How is Christmas celebrated in other countries?
  • Christmas in Portugal 
  • Christmas in Spain
  • Christmas in Italy
  • Christmas in Germany
  • Christmas in the United Kingdom
  • Christmas in the West Indies
  • Christmas in Central and Northern Europe

Christmas is a time of conviviality and a great opportunity to get together with family and friends to share a festive meal in a joyful atmosphere. But where does this tradition come from, which brings together young and old?

Why do we have a Christmas meal?

In the past, to celebrate the coming of Christ, the period before Christmas was marked by a period of lean days, during which no meat was eaten. On Christmas Eve, before going to midnight mass, it was customary to eat only a little bread, fish or vegetable broth and a glass of water. On returning from church, to celebrate Christmas, a more substantial meal was then served in a convivial atmosphere.

The Christmas meal gives way to an atmosphere of brotherhood, happiness, joy and sometimes reconciliation.

Christmas in the Catholic Bible

For Christians, Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. The accounts of these events in Jesus' life are found in the Gospels.

To celebrate the birth of Jesus, called the Nativity, the Church has traditionally chosen December 25, not knowing exactly when Jesus was born. This date corresponds to the moment when the days begin to lengthen, which symbolically allows Jesus to be highlighted in the light.

"Today in the city of David a saviour has been born to you, who is the Christ, the Lord. And this is the sign that is given to you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger," says the angel to the shepherds in Luke's Gospel (Luke 2:11-12).

"I am the living bread that came down from heaven: if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. The bread that I will give is my flesh, given for the life of the world" (John 6:51). (John 6:51).

What are the customs of the Christmas meal?

In addition to the traditional Christmas meal menu of each country, there is a difference in the customs of the Christmas meal between northern and Latin countries: in the north there are many more symbolic rites surrounding the dinner than in Latin countries.

The extra place for the dead

In Scandinavian countries, an empty place was left at the table for the souls of the deceased members of the family, and at the end of the dinner there was dancing and singing around the tree.

The orange

We often hear about giving an orange at Christmas. Harvested in winter and needing warmth to ripen, the orange is a fruit that only grows in southern Europe, in Italy or Spain, unless it is grown in a greenhouse. Until the middle of the 20th century, the orange was therefore a rare and expensive fruit! A rare commodity, the orange was a luxury gift par excellence, especially for children from modest backgrounds, who were not used to eating them. 

The straw under the Christmas table

In Poland and Lithuania, on 24 December, straw was placed under the tablecloth to remind people that Jesus was born in a stable. Before dinner, unleavened bread was shared, marked with scenes from the Nativity.

Midnight Mass

Midnight Mass is celebrated on the evening of 24 December, and is a celebration that takes place like any other: entrance songs, readings from the Bible, homily (explanation of the texts) by the priest, Eucharist... Midnight Mass also begins with the procession and the placing of the baby Jesus in the Christmas cot, whether it is a statue or, in the case of a living cot, a real newborn child. The songs are traditional carols, and the emphasis is on the good news of Jesus' arrival. 

Christmas grace

Grace is a Christian prayer of blessing and thanksgiving said before the meal. It is said around the table, hand in hand, before the meal is shared.

What does a traditional Christmas meal in France consist of? 

In France, the traditional Christmas dinner menu consists of stuffed goose or turkey and it is customary to eat a Yule log for dessert.

Christmas starters

The same products are usually found on most Christmas tables, namely foie gras, smoked salmon, oysters and snails.

Christmas dishes

Christmas dishes include turkey, duck or stuffed capon, usually with chestnuts. Fish dishes are also sometimes served.

Christmas desserts

Desserts often include cheese platters, followed by ice cream or pastry logs.

What are the regional traditions for Christmas dinner in France?

In Orléans, pork is mainly eaten in the form of boudins or crépinettes. In the Angers region, it is rilleaux (a kind of rillettes). In Aveyron, salted pork or sausage, as well as plums and hot apples are appreciated. In Gascony, daube and chestnuts. In Corsica, polenta with chestnuts and corn and pork. In Provence, the traditional 13 Christmas desserts (referring to the 12 apostles and Jesus) including beggars, dried and candied fruit. 

Where does the Yule log come from?

The Yule log, often known as a log-shaped cake served as a dessert on tables at the end of the Christmas meal, has its origins in several traditions.

The Yule log in the fireplace

The origin of the Yule log, which is burnt in the fireplace, goes back to the 12th century. At that time, a large log was burnt in the fireplace on the evening of 24 December at the wake. The origin of the Yule log most probably goes back to one of the pagan rites linked to the celebration of the winter solstice.

The wooden Yule log

In the days leading up to the festival, a huge log was fetched. On the eve of the feast, it was lit in the fireplace after having been sprinkled with salt, oil and cooked wine. It was put on the fire while prayers were recited. It was to burn for 12 hours or until the New Year. The ashes were to be treasured, protecting against storms, curing diseases and fertilising the earth. It was kept until the following year to protect the house.

The Yule log as a cake

The Yule log, a rolled cake (usually chocolate) is the traditional dessert in France. In French-speaking countries, the Christmas meal ends with a Yule log.

How is Christmas celebrated in other countries?

Each country has its own customs and traditions regarding Christmas dinner.

Christmas in Portugal 

Christmas dinner consists mainly of bacalhau cozido, a dish made with cod, potatoes and cabbage. There are also fried doughnuts (sonhos and filhozes) and bolo rei (a cake with dried and candied fruit).

Christmas in Spain

After the dish, there are many desserts: turron (honey and almond nougat), polvorones (almond and cinnamon biscuits), marzipan (almond paste), sugared almonds, dates, etc.

Christmas in Italy

Depending on the region, Christmas is a time for antipasti, pasta and/or bollito misto (a kind of stew). The meal ends with panettone (a brioche filled with raisins and candied fruit) in the north, panforte (almonds, candied fruit and honey) in the centre or doughnuts in the south.

Christmas in Germany

Goose is the star of the show. Grilled, it is accompanied by red cabbage and apples (Weihnachtsgans). The meal ends with the Stollen, a bread with dried and candied fruits, filled with marzipan.

Christmas in the UK

There is the famous roast turkey with cranberry sauce. For dessert, Christmas pudding is made (also found in Ireland). It is a cake made of dried fruit, fat (originally kidney) and molasses, spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger, and mince pies (small pies filled with dried fruit and spices).

Christmas in the West Indies

Christmas ham and Creole black pudding are very popular at Christmas.

Christmas in Central and Northern Europe

In many Central and Northern European countries (Poland, Lithuania, etc.), the custom is the "twelve-course dinner". These are twelve dishes without meat or dairy representing the twelve months of the year.


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