Hoping to recover an old family recipe or the history of your favorite Christmas dish?Let us know!
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Historic Christmas menusNew Year foods
Buche de Noel is one of many traditional cakes baked at Christmas. As the name suggests, it is of French origin. The name of this recipe literally translates as Christmas log, referring to the traditional Yule log burned centuries past. The ingedients suggest the cake is most likely a 19th century creation. Thats when thinly rolledsponge cakesfilled with jam or cream and covered withbuttercream icingbegin to show up in European cook books.Marzipanandmeringue, typically employed for decorative purposes, date to the Medieval Ages and the 17th century respectively. We find no person/place/company credited for having *invented* this particular confection.
[In France] where the buche de Noel, a roll of light sponge cake, is covered in chocolate or coffee buttercream textured to resemble bark. The conceit is carried further by mounding the cream over small pieces of cake stuck to the main roll, to represent trimmed branches. The ends of the roll and the cut faces of the branches are finished with vanilla cream, imitating pale newly cut wood, and the whole is decorated with leaves made from icing, or meringue mushrooms.
—Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson, [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999 (p. 184)
Buche de Noel.–Gateau symbolique qu lon prepare chez tous les patissieres de France, a loccasion de la fete de Noel. Cette buche se fait generalement avec des abaisses de genoise fine, qu lon fourre avec des cremes diverses (le plus souvent, une dreme au beurre), qu lon faconne en forme de buche, et que lon decore a la poches munie dune couille cannellee, avec une creme au beurre aux chocolate ou au moka qui cimule lenorce de al buche. Nota: Pour le Noel, on fait aussi un autre gateau symbolique auquel on donne laspect dun sabot. Ce gateau, qu lon fait ordinarement en nougat, se garnit de petits fours divers.
—Larousse Gastronomique, Prospere Montagne [Librarie Larousse:Paris] 1938 (p. 528)
Cuire des marrons, trois minutes; extraire leur chair de leur cosse. Bien les nettoyer. Les faire cuire, vingt minutes, a leau bouillant. Les ecraser et les melanges a chaud avec: 125 grammes de beurre fondu, 125 gr. de sucre en poudre, 125 gr. de chocolate. Rouler le tout dans un papier beurre, en forme de cylindre. Laisser refroidir, six heures. Oter le papier. Tracer les stries de la buche avec une fourchette.
—Le Livre de La Patisserie: Recettes Practiques, editions du cep [E. Pigelet, Paris Depot:Paris] 1941 (p. 141-2)
The yule log cake is served at the midnight feast that follows Mass on Christmas Eve. Although it does not take the place of our flaming Christmas pudding, it makes a nice dessert to serve at any time during the Christmas season.
Rinse the mixing bowl with hot water and wrap a hot wet towel around the base. Combine the egg yolks and sugar and beat for 5 minutes or until the mixture has doubled in volume. Fold in the flour and then the butter, which should be cooled. Fold in the beaten egg whites gently but thoroughly.
Butter a small, rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan (10X14) and dust it with flour. Pour the batter into the pan and smooth it evenly with a knife. Bake 10 minutes. Spread a damp towel on a marble slab or table. Run a knife around the edge of the baked cake and turn the pan upside down on the towel, leaving the pan on top of the cake until it is cool. Make the butter cream, using 5 egg yolks, and add to it the dissolved instant coffee. Spread the cake with the butter cream and roll it up lenghthwise like a jelly roll. Place seam side down on a long serving tray and cut off both ends diagonally. Put the remaining butter cream in a pastry bag fitted with a flat cannellated tip. Force the cream lengthwise over the surface of the cake to give the appearance of bark. Place a knot here and there. Decorate the cake with almonds and a sprig of holly made with strips of angelica and little rounds of candied cherries. Sprinkle very lightly with green sugar.
—The Complete Tante Maries French Kitchen, Translated and adapted by Charlotte Turgeon [Oxford University Press:New York] 1962 (p. 127-8)
Why are some candies associated with Christmas? Hundreds of years agosugarwas very expensive. It was a food of the wealthy. For other people, it was a special treat saved for holidays (Christmas, Easter) and other special occasions (weddings, christenings). Many of these traditions remain today. About, Christianity TodayUrban Legends: candy canesHow to make candy canes? This is from a professional text:Candy canes for Christmas
Run out a batch of any flavor stick candy, usually peppermint and lemon are the best sellers, spin these sticks any size you wish and in cutting these cut off at angles. Now have your helper roll them so as to keep them round an when they begin to get cold crook the angle, then set them to one side to harden. Your helpers rolling them until they become cold keeps them from getting flat on one side which affects the sale of them greatly. It is best when spinning these out to make one end of the stick smaller than the other, then place the crook on the large end and have the small end ofr the end of the cane. Candy canes can be made in any flavor or color, or any size desired.
—Rigbys Reliable Candy Teacher, W.O. Rigby, Nineteenth edition [1919?] (p. 213)
Cakes of all shapes and sizes (including smaller items such as cookies) have been part of festive holiday rituals long before Christmas. Ancient cooks prepared sweet baked goods to mark significant occasions. Many of these recipes and ingredients (cinnamon,ginger, black pepper, almonds, dried fruits etc.) were introduced to Europe in the Middle Ages. They were highly prized and quickly incorporated into European baked goods. Christmas cookies, as we know them today, trace their roots to these Medieval European recipes. Dutch and German settlers introduced cookie cutters, decorative molds, and festive holiday decorations to America. DutchNew Years cookieswere also sometimes molded into fancy shapes. German lebkuchen (gingerbread) was probably the first cake/cookie traditionally associated with Christmas.Sugar cookietype recipes descended from English traditions. Did you knowAnimal crackersbegan as edible ornaments?
By the 1500s, Christmas cookies had caught on all over Europe. German families baked up pans of Lebkuchen and buttery Spritz cookies. Papparkakor (spicy ginger and black-pepper delights) were favorites in Sweden; the Norwegians made krumkake (thin lemon and cardamom-scented wafers). The earliest Christmas cookies in America came ashore with the Dutch in the early 1600s.
—Americas Best Holiday Cookies,McCalls[magazine], December 1994 (p. 85)
The flood of cheap imported wares form Germany between 1871 and 1906 when the import laws were changed, inundated our Christmas markets with cooking utensils okie cutters…Unlike homemade counterparts, or local tinsmiths wares, these tools depicted highly stylized images, often frawn from secular themes or…with subjects designed specifically to hang on the Christmas tree. Likewise, recipes appeared in popular cookbooks to better match the demands of such a sense, with the advent of inexpensive tin cutters, new emphasis was placed on shape, where in the past, many homemade cookies simply had been square or round. Bells, Christmas trees, camels, crimped wares (cutters with zigzag edges), lilies, Sant Clauses, turkeys, all of these elaborate shapes tended to deemphasize texture and flavor.
—The Christmas Cook: Three Centuries of American Yuletide Sweets, William Woys Weaver [Harper Perennial:New York] 1990 (p. 106)
Christmas cookies around the world
The International Cookie Jar Cookbook/Anita BorgheseThe Cookie Jar: Cookies From Around the World/Culinary Arts InstituteTraditional Christmas cookies by country(recipes only)
A sampler of Christmas cookie recipes from American cookbooks
To three pound of flour, sprinkle a tea cup of fine powdered coriander seed, rub in one pound of butter, and one and a half pound sugar, dissolve one tea spoonful of pearlash [a rising agent] in a tea cup of milk, kneed all together well, roll three quarters of an inch thick, and cut or stamp into shape and slice you please, bake slowly fifteen or twenty minutes; tho hard and dry at first, if put in an earthen pot, and dry cellar, or damp room, they will be finer, softer and better when six months old.
—American Cookery, Amelia Simmons, 2nd edition [Albany:1796] (p. 46)
[NOTE: this book is considered by most food historians to be the first American cook book.]
Take one pound and a half of flour, three quarters of a pound of sugar, half a pound of butter, half a cup of milk, and two spoonfuls of caraway seeds; melt the butter before you put it in. It is rather difficult to knead, but it can be done. Roll it out and cut it in hearts and diamonds, and bake it on buttered tins.
—New England Economical Housekeeper and Family Receipt Book, Mrs. E. A. Howland [E.P. Walton:Montpelier] 1845 (p. 29)
Yolks of 2 hard-cooked eggs, 1/3 cup butter or butter substitutes, 1/3 cup sugar, yolk of 1 egg, 1 tablespoon milk, flour to stiffen for rolling, 3 tablespoons finely chopped blanched almonds.
Put the hard-cooked yolks of eggs through a ricer or sieve and cream with the butter or butter substitute. Add the sugar, cream, again, then stir in the uncooked egg-yolk, the milk, and sifted flour. The dough should be stiff enough to roll. Cut into small round shapes with cooky-cutters, brush these with beatn egg-white and sprinkle with finely chopped almonds. Bake in a slow oven (300 degrees F.).
—New Butterick Cook Book, Flora Rose [Butterick:New York] 1924
Mix shortening, sugar, egg, honey, and flavoring thoroughly. Measure flour by dipping method or by sifting. Stir together flour, soda, salt; blen in. Chill dough. Heat oven to 375 degrees F. (quick mod.). Roll dough out 1/4 thick. Cut into desired shapes (right). Place 1 apart on lightly greased baking sheet. bake 8 to 10 min., or until no imprint remains when touched lightly. When cool, ice and decorate if desired. makes about 5 doz. 2 1/2 cookies.
—Betty Crodkers Cooky Book, General Mills, facsimile 1963 edition [Hungry Minds:New York] 2002 (p. 30)
Other Christmas cookies listed in this source are: Merry Christmas Molasses Cookies, Pointsettia and Holly Cookies, Christmas Bells, Christmas Balls, Wonderland Cookies, Magic Rings, Christmas Tree Balls, Mobile Stars, Merry Maker Cookies, Candy Cane Cookies, Christmas Holli-Doodles (Snickerdoodle variation), Cream Filbert Candy Cookies, Cooky-Candies, Toffee Squares, Butterscotch Toffee Squares, Snowflakes, Christmas Stockings, Cranberry Drops, Cream Wafers, Sation-Galzed Date Drops, Frozen Fruit Cookies, White Fruit Bars, Christmas Jewels, Cherry-Coconut Bars, Zimtstern, Nurnberger, Honey-Filled Biscuits, Cinnamon Stars, Sandbakelser, Greek Sesame Seed Cookies, Light Pfeffernusse, Dark Pfeffernusse, Berlinerkranser, Zucker Hutchen, Fattigmands Bakkels, Drumkake, Marzipan Cookies, Rosettes, Buttery Nut Rounds, Lebkuchen, Springlerle, Kringla, & German Spice Cakes. Tips for planning holiday baking, decorating, and gift containers are all still very useful today. This book was recently reprinted and easy to get. Your local public librarian will be happy to help you obtain a copy. See above for citation information.]
What about the Christmas cookie exchange?
The Wellesley Cookie Exchange made this practice of swapping home made cookies among participants famous, but they didnt invent the idea. Our survey of historic USA newspapers confirms cookie exchanges (cookie swaps, cookie trades, cooky exhanges) first surface during WWI. They were not necessarily connected with Christmas. Some early print references suggest they might have been fund raising bake sales rather than cookie-for-cookie exchanges. This is an excellent example of how some words & phrases mean different things in different times. Newspapers confirm cookie swaps, as we know them today, were recognized as a rising trend in the early 1960s.
The Tri Kappas will have a bread, pie and cookie exchange at Montgomery Market Saturday at eleven oclock.
—Fowler Benton Review[IN], October 11, 1917
The cookie exchange which was held by the Golden Bay Sunday School ted the class something over $5.00.
—Burlington Hawk Eye[IA], April 25, 1920 (p. 12)
Cookie Exchange will be feature of Erwin Group.
—Syracuse Herald[NY], January 20, 1936 (p. 4)
Farm Bureau to Meet…Christmas holiday. A pot luck luncheon will be served and there will be a cookie swap party..
—Naugatuck Daily News[CT], December 8, 1952 (p. 6)
The Southwest Suburban Zeta Tau Alpha alumnae group will hold its annual Christmas party at 8 p.m. Tuesday in the home of MRs. W.J. Storm, Tinley Park. The program will include a cookie exchange and grab bag. Members will bring gifts of patients of Oak Forest.
—Zeta Tau Alpha Unit Plans Christmas Party,Chicago Daily Tribune, December 19, 1954 (p. SW8)
Our Food Editor spots a rising trend. From coast to coast, cooks are trading cookies and recipes to make gift boxes for Christmas. Heres a sample from a swap party. Put salt on the tail of a new idea; plan a Christmas cookie swap. A round of applause to the woman who gave the first swap party. It provides a glamorous array of cookies for gifting, plus a hatful of leisure hours to enjoy in the last mad holiday rush. This year club groups, neighbors, or again, just a few friends are trading cookies and recipes and gift-pack ideas. Mrs. Robert Blanch of Minneapolis has held a cookie trade party for her bridge club three years in a row. The November meeting, she writes, is given to the planning. Swap day is held late in December. Each member bakes one kind of cookie, one dozen for each of the eight members participating…Thats one way to do it. Each group has its own plan…[A] swap meeting started six years ago, Mrs. Scharers idea. Ten friends were invited to her house and the plan discussed. it was decided then to make the Christmas Cookie Swap and annual event…Los Angeles Times, November 27, 1960 (p. TW22)
A popular once-a-year party is the Christmas cooky swap party. Friends and neighbors gather, each bringing one dozen of her holiday specialty for each woman at the party. Cookies are set out to sample and admire and coffee is served. Afterward each one takes home a wonderful variety of festive cookies.
—Betty Crockers Cooky Book, facsimile reprint of 1963 edition [Hungry Minds:New York] 2002 (p. 37)
The Wellesley Cookie Exchange, arguably the most famous of American exchanges, began in 1971. According to this article, it was inspired by an ariticle in a womens magazine:
Snowflake Cheese Tarts. Butter Horns. Pecan Tartlets. Melting Moments. Lemon Snowballs. These are some of the cookies that document the history of the Wellesley Cookie Exchange. Each has been presented at least once in the 25 years the group has met to trade home-baked holiday goodies. This years exchange, scheduled to take place today, will once again bring an assortment of sugar-dusted confections to Mary Bevilacquas living room. This tradition, started by Bevilacqua and her friend, Laurel Gabel (who has since moved away), has become a beloved part of the holiday season for the 25 women who participate. Though many churches and informal groups hold cookie exchanges each year, the Wellesley group is one of the few that has inspired a cookbook. Susan Mahnke Peery of Yankee magazine collected 200 of their recipes and added her own to The Wellesley Cookie Exchange Cookbook (Dodd, Mead & Co., 1986). Readers from around the country still write to Bevilacqua about the book and one of the Wellesley Cookie Exchange recipes was published in Family Circle in December 1995. Much of the groups longevity comes from the old-fashioned fun of swapping holiday treats. But the cookie exchange also anchors the holiday season for participants who like the continuity of this once-a-year event.
We look forward to it, said Leah Rourke, who has been participating for almost 20 years. Today, people dont bother with things a lot. Everyones in a hurry. Its nice to keep a tradition. Bevilacqua helps set the festive tone by decorating her home with Christmas table runners, placemats and china. She also serves a buffet lunch or dinner before the official exchanging begins. Each member arrives with three dozen cookies to share and an empty container. Bevilacqua calls the crowd to order by ringing a bell. Then each person passes her cookies around for all to sample. By the end of the exchange, each participant has assembled a container full of assorted cookies – and heard plenty of humorous stories. Everyone gets a chance to tell about her cookies. We hear who left out what, or how the name of the cookies was changed because they were supposed to be fingers and they looked like blobs, said Bevilacqua. She always bakes an extra batch in case someone has a disaster that prevents her from bringing cookies. Though some people make the same cookies each year – traditional favorites such as gingerbread men or candy-cane twists always turn up – others try a different recipe each year. Ill be on the beach reading recipes in the summer and start thinking about what to make for the exchange, said Lynne Casale, who has been participating for 16 years. Laughing, she remembered the year her husband and stepchildren ate up all the cookies she had baked for the group, leaving her scrambling for a replacement. Though many women go all out and try recipes that would challenge a professional pastry chef, the atmosphere is more friendly than competitive. Bevilacqua said, Brownies are fine. Not everybody makes fancy things.
Kathleen Miller, who has known Bevilacqua since both were in college, said, You get a wonderful assortment to take home. I always go home and sample one, and then another Starting a longstanding tradition was the furthest thing from Bevilacquas mind when she and Gabel began the exchange in 1971. I had read a magazine article about a cookie exchange as a way to de-stress the holidays, she said. As a mother of four young children, she thought it was a good idea. Since the cookbook was published, Bevilacqua has compiled enough recipes for another book. The cookie exchange tradition has also come full circle in her family. Her two daughters participate each year, and one has started her own exchange.
—Food Folk: Cookie Exchange shares the wealth – for 25 years, Clara SilversteinBoston Herald, December 15, 1996 (p. 57)
Holiday cheese logs & balls
Food historians confirm the practice of giving/sharing food with loved ones on special occasions is as old as human-kind. Food means life. Giving food symbolizes the sharing of life. Ancient cultures typically shared cakes, meat, sweets, bread, and wine during feast times. Some of these foods also became symbolic in religious ceremonies. Hard cheeses have long been valued and shared. In pre-industrial times, any food able to withstand the tests of temperature and time was indeed precious. Softer cheeses did not stand this test, and were therefore valued even more (especially when encrusted with expensive nuts) for their cost and care.
Our survey of cheese ball recipes in USA cookbooks and newspapers returned a wide variety of recipes and applications. Much to our surprise, cheese ball can be deep fried, baked, or refrigerated. They can be served hot or cold. They can accompany salads, be served as appetizers or pop up as desserts. Festive holiday nut-encrusted cheese presentations are also proffered commercially. If you are looking for specific recipes from particular cookbooks/chefs letus know. Happy to help you track them down!
USA holiday cheese logs (& balls) recipe sampler
Cheese balls served hot with salads, are made of a cup of grated cheese, half a cup of fine bread crumbs, five drops of Worcestershire sauce, and one egg well beaten. Mix together, roll into balls, and place in a wire frying basket and just before time to serve plunge the basket into boiling fat and allow them to remain until a delicate brown.
—For the Housekeeper,New York Times, June 18 1899 (p. 20)
Take one cake of cream cheese, one-quarter of a pound of chopped figs, one-quarter of a pound of chopped walnuts, roll into balls and serve on lettuce leaves. Cheese Balls, No. 2 Mix one cake Neufchatel cheese, a piece of butter the size of the cheese, one tablespoon of cream, one-quarter teaspoon of salt and six dashes of Tabasco Sauce and form one large ball or several small ones and roll in chopped pecan nuts.
—Jewish Cook Book, Florence Kreisler Greenbaum [Bloch Publishing:New York] 1918 (p. 202)
Cheese Balls…are made by taking one square of cream cheese, mashing it into a paste, and adding enough cream to make it of a consistency to roll into small balls, chopped pecans are a nice addition to this and they are served as a garnish for the salad.
—Page for Food Shoppers,Los Angeles Times, April 25, 1930 (p. A7)
Cheese balls are a delightful appetizer with most drinks. Mix the ingredients and make the balls with a pair of butter paddles which have been soaking in ice water for several hours before you use them. After balls are made and garnished, give them an hour or two to harden in the refrigerator. Serve them on a bed of parsley or lettuce leaves and refill the plates often, not only from popular demand, but to keep the balls cold and firm as long as possible….Roquefort Cheese Balls. Mix together equal quanties of Roquefort cheese and butter; I should say four ounces of each would be a satisfactory amount. Add to this one-half teaspoonful of dry mustard and blend it well. Form into balss the size of a marble and roll them in a mixture of finely chopped parsley and chives. I suggest a mixture of two parts chives to one part parsley.
—Hors DOeuvre and Canapes, James Beard [M. Barrows and Company:New York] 1940 (p. 42-44)
[NOTE: This book also offers recipes for Chive Balls, Olive Cheese Balls, Curried Cheese Balls, Swiss Cheese Balls and Mexican Cheese Balls.]
Mrs. Rockwell showed us the cheese balls chiling in the refrigerator for last-minute baking. The recipe calls for one-eighth pound of butter or margarine brought to room temperature, blended with a six-ounce crock of neutral sharp Cheddar spread, or you could use the bacon-Cheddar spread which is around in the markets. Into the cheeese add butter, work in three-fourths cup of all-purpose flour, form the mixture into balls to refrigerate several hours. Just before serving, into a hot oven for 10 minutes baking. Serve piping hot. Crusty on the outside, melting soft within.
—Come Over for Bridge, Clementine Paddleford,Los Angeles Times, May 14, 1950 (p. C35)
2. Combine the crumbs, cheese, egg yolks and seasonings to taste. Gently fold in stiffly beaten egg whites.
3. Form the mixture into small balls and roll thoroughly in dry bread crumbs.
4. Place, about five at a time, in a wire basket and cook in the hot fat until a deep golden brown, about two minutes. Serve immediately. Yield: About twenty balls.
—Food News: Cheese That Whets the Appetite, Nan Ickeringill,New York Times, January 31, 1962 (p. 34)
…popular among nibblers who approach pure cheese gingerly are items adorned with nuts–ball-shaped, cylindrical, or shapes so ornate that they are difficult to distinguish from ckaes made by a patissier. There is, for instance, a long-established Lorraine cheese to which pistachios are added. But this should not be confused with the prevailing enthusiasm for decorating wheels of flavored processed cheese with walnut halves or stuccoing fist-sized spheres with crushed nut meats–merchandising measures that are still gathering momentum. It is interesting that Herkimer County in New York, once famous as the home of one of the New Worlds best Cheddars, is now better known for neatly packaged ball that is a melange of Blue Cheese, Cheddar, nuts, and whey. Perhaps even more eyebrow-raising are the chocolate cheese creams made in Mayville, Wisconsin; they look like candies by have centers in which Wisconsin Edam is a principal ingredient. Black peppercorns provide an even more common means for embellishing cheese. Pepato is a traditional Roman variety produced in Sicily, southern Italy, and now in northern Michigan that has pepper arranged in layers and sometieme mixed into the curd.
—The World of Cheese, Evan Jones [Alfred A. Knopf:New York] 1976 (p. 89-90) [NOTE: No recipes in this book.]
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons almond flavored liqueur
1 cup granola cereal, coarsley crushed
Beat together cream cheese, Swiss cheese, liqueur, ginger and salt, mixing until well blended. Chill until firm. Shape to form ball. Chill. Just before serving roll ball in cereal, coating well. Serve with unsalted crackers or fresh fruit slices. Makes 12 to 16 servings.
—A Buffet Appetizer: Having a Ball, Cheesewise,Los Angeles Times, December 4, 1980 (p. L36) [NOTE: this article also offers recipes for Giant Cheese Ball, Party Mold, Red Devil Balls, Claros Cheddar Cheese Ball, Claros Blue Cheese Ball, Pecan Cheese Balls, & Crunchy Cheese Ball.]
Christmas birds: peacocks, swans, geese & turkeys
Food historians tell us the practice of serving large, stuffed fowl for Christmas, like many other Christian holiday food traditions, was borrowed from earlier cultural practices. Peacocks, swans, geese and turkeys all fit this bill. The larger the bird, the more festive the presence. New Worldturkeyswere introduced to Europe in the 16th century. For many years, these exotic turkey birds only graced the tables of the wealthy. Working-class English Victorian families, like the Cratchits in Charles DickensChristmas Carol, belonged to Goose Clubs. In America, turkey (wild and plentiful) was a natural choice for the Christmas feast. Our survey of historic newspapers reveals thegoosestill commanded a traditional place on the Christmas table through the 19th century. Some traditions have serious staying power.
Apart from the wild and tame fowl for everyday consumption, there were a few which were outstanding as celebratory birds for feasts and festivals. These were swans and peacocks among the rich, and herons and bustards for those less well off. The pacock made a fine show on a festive occassion…More usual than peacocks at feasts of the nobiltiy were swans. The Percy Family [Medieval England] at them on the principal festivals of the church at the rate of five for Christmas Day, four for Twelfth Night, three for New Years Day…The family consumed an enormous range of both moor and waterfowl during the year, but the swans were appointed for those special days. Swan was roasted like goose, and served with chawdron sauce…Those who were not in the swan-eating class had goose or chicken.
—Food & Drink in Britain: From the Stone Age to the 19th Century, C. Anne Wilson [Academy Chicago:Chicago] 1991 (p. 124-125)
The goose which the Celts had kept for pleasure were probably of the grey leg variety which has remained the principal domestic goose of Britian. (p. 114)…Goose was in season twice in its life, a young goose in early summer, and the fattened bird at Michaelmas. (p. 121)
—Food in Britain: From the Stone Age to the Nineteenth Century, C. Anne Wilson [Academy Chicago:Chicago] 1991
The Christmas bird provided by the familiar goose club may be compared with the German Martinmas goose. The more luxurious turkey must be relatively an innovation, for that bird seems not to have been introduced into England until the sixteenth century.
—Christmas: Customs and Traditions, Their History and Significance, Clement A. Miles [Dover Publications:New York] 1976 (p. 284)
The Martinmas or Michaelmas roast goose is actually the perpetuation of the ceremonies of Celtic Samhain or Halloween and Germanic Yule, originally the first day of the New Year, now our 1st November. Van Gennep, writing on French folklore, reminds us that it was a good occasion for feasting on tender geese that had must been fattened. Originally roast goose was a thank-offering for the harvest that had been gathered in, the Erntedankfest or harvest home, a sacrifice first to the spirit of vegetation, the to the gods of Odin and Thor. The goose, ritually eaten, magically ensured the regeneration in the months to come of nature as she went underground for the winter, precisely parallel to the Greek myth of the abduction of Persephone by the lord of the underworld…The great feasts of Samhain-All Saints and St. Martins Day on 11th November w