Ultimate Holiday Feasts – America

Customs and Traditional Christmas Dinners in the United States

In the early days of Christianity, believers attended church, then celebrated in a drunken, carnival-like atmosphere. The poor would go to the houses of the wealthy, demanding their best food and drink. If the wealthy refused, they were often terrorized by the poor with pranks and tricks. At that time, Christmas the wealthy would entertain the less fortunate considering it a way repay what they perceived as their debt to society. It was like a modern-day Mardi Gras.

In the early 17th century, religious reform changed the way Christmas was celebrated in Europe. When the Puritans took over England in 1645, their main goal was to rid England of it’s decadence. Including canceling the Christmas holidays, which were later restored by Charles II (around 1660). In 1620, when the Pilgrims came to America the way Christmas was celebrated was “outlawed” until around 1681. Some colonies, like that in Jamestown, celebrated Christmas, but it was not recognized as a national holiday until June 26, 1870.

In the 19th century Americans began to embrace Christmas making it a family-centered day of peace and nostalgia. In 1819, Washington Irving wrote a series of stories about the traditions of Christmas describing the holiday as a peaceful, loving celebration that brought people together across lines of wealth or social status. In fact, historians say that the Christmas traditions Irving wrote about were figments of his imagination. Many of those “imagined” traditions still live today.

During this period in American history, Charles Dickens wrote the classic holiday tale, “A Christmas Carol”. The message was one of kindness, giving back and goodwill towards all of mankind which resonated with Americans and English alike. It was a time to pay attention to family and give one another gifts. Americans started adopting old-world traditions such as decorating trees and kissing under the mistletoe. Americans actually re-invented the holiday to meet the social needs of a growing nation.

The traditional Christmas dinner in United States often includes turkey or ham, potatoes, green bean casserole and fruit cake. The first menu includes a Smoked Ham, Country Mashed Potatoes, Easybake Biscuits and a variation on the typical sauce-laden green bean casserole often served at Thanksgiving. And if you are like me, you often wonder what to do with all that fruit cake you receive. Wonder no more! There is also a recipe for Fruit Cake Bread Pudding sure to please everyone!

Ultimate Holiday Feasts – America (cont.)

Smoked Christmas Ham Submitted by Heidi Richards Mooney
Serves 8-10
· 1 butt end smoked ham, about 7 pounds
· 1/2 cup Dijon mustard
· 1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
· 1/2 cup orange marmalade
· 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

Place the ham in a roasting pan and lightly score it with a sharp knife all around. Put whole cloves in the places you cut (one about one every 2 inches apart). Stir the mustard, marmalade and black pepper together in a small mixing bowl with a spoon. Baste the mustard mixture all over the outside of the ham, rubbing it into the scored meat. Bake the ham for 40 minutes (or follow directions on package) then remove it from the oven. Slice and serve with the following:

Country Mashed potatoes
Serves 8-10
5 pound(s) (about 12) russet (Idaho) potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
2 teaspoon(s) salt
1 cup(s) half-and-half
1/2 cup(s) milk
1 stick unsalted butter
fresh-ground pepper
1/4 cup chopped chives

Bring the potatoes, 1 teaspoon salt, and enough water to cover to a boil in a large saucepan. Cook the potatoes until just tender about 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes, return them to the saucepan, and use a potato masher to mash them slightly. Stir in the half-and-half, milk, butter, remaining salt, and pepper and whip with electric beater until smooth. Stir in chives. Serve immediately.


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