When and how should we party now? That’s a question I often hear: when is it appropriate to celebrate Christmas, in the evening or on the day itself? New Year’s Eve, that’s pretty simple: you count down to midnight when the twelve strokes of the clock sound and the champagne comes out. But many cannot wait. I usually don’t either.
For Christmas, that’s a different matter. With the years of commerce, people have started blowing up Christmas Eve as if it were a new year too. It used to be different.
Back in time
In many Christian cultures – which have not yet been affected too much by the extortionate spending obligations of the supermarkets – Christmas Eve is not a celebration. The British, who are now also wondering when Christmas should actually be, remember that Christmas Eve served to put up the Christmas tree, with the children in bed. Then they would wake up in the morning with oh’s and ah’s and presents, and everyone happy. If you put up the tree on the day after Sinterklaas, that surprise effect is of course completely gone. If I remember the stories of my grandparents’ generation, it was true: Christmas was on Christmas Day and New Years was celebrated on New Years, not the night before. Everyone had to go to bed on time.
In France, the whole country has been maddened so much that it wouldn’t be Christmas if there weren’t oysters, lobster, champagne and foie gras on the table
Attention to food
In more southern Christian communities, Christmas Eve is a day of fasting, Christmas Eve. No meat! Italians (I’m not allowed to generalize, Italy is a very diverse country) ate something like eel or other river fish on Christmas Eve. This has led to the ‘feast of the seven fish’ among the Italian Americans (feast of the seven fishes). It had been that way since the days of early Christianity. The day before a party, people eat sparingly. And fish, the pre-eminent Christian symbol, is also the basis of the evening meal on our continent: in Poland and the Czech Republic it is pre-eminently carp. In France, the whole country has been maddened so much that it wouldn’t be Christmas if there weren’t oysters, lobster, champagne and foie gras on the table. That is one of the reasons why foie gras has become such a detested product. It used to be an exceptional delicacy for the rich, grown by the farmer herself. Today it is a supermarket product produced in industrial conditions. Because it has to be cheap.
At Christmas, the French all drink champagne, or at least Crémant d’Alsace, a popular alternative. But all things considered: oysters, lobster and caviar may not be a sign of fasting and penance, but for our ancestors they symbolized meatlessness. And foie gras comes from an aquatic animal, duck or goose, which used to be considered half a fish.
First Christmas Day
The next day: the real Christmas Day, starts with a breakfast of Christmas bread. The German Stollen, in the Netherlands a pigeon hangover, a fine white bread. The family feast, meanwhile, is associated with turkey almost everywhere. No idea how that came about, but probably through the Anglo-Saxons, stolen from Thanksgiving in America. Before Americanization, pork was eaten here, as it still is in Central Europe. In the Czech Republic it is said that touching a pig on New Year brings good luck. In England, pig’s head (brawn) a regional tradition.
But whatever you do, dear friends, let your celebrations be a prediction of a joyous 2022. From January, cut back on fast food and learn to cook for yourself again, as we did last year. Making food is giving love. Happy New Year and… Enjoy
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Out snout, the year ends – When do you drink the bubbly? – Food log