The real reason we eat mince pies at Christmas

Publish Date
Wednesday, 7 December 2016, 3:33PM
Photo: Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images

Mince pies are a festive tradition - it simply wouldn't be Christmas without them. But why do we eat them, and only during the holiday season?

The answer lies in the history books, and as far back as the middle ages.

And it's all to do with showing off - as well as an old belief that they can bring you luck at this time of the year.

Mince pies may have been around for centuries, but they changed beyond recognition since their first mention in records dating back to the 14th century.

They were much bigger, oval-shaped and originally filled with meat, in addition to the ingredients that today we now fill our mince pies with: dried fruit, nuts and spices.

One 14th century recipe for a "Tart of Flesh" contains minced pork, raisins, figs, wine, lard, pine kernels, cheese, spices and honey, according to English Heritage.

Another recipe from 1615 swaps mutton for pork.

The combination of very sweet ingredients with savoury was very common in medieval times - especially if you were rich.

Ingredients such as honey and dried fruits were not widely available and were very expensive. Using them in meals showed to the world just how wealthy you were.

It wasn't just the filling that has changed over the years. The pies were originally oval-shaped, to mimic the shape of the manger baby Jesus was described as sleeping inside in the Bible.

They were even topped with effigies of the holy child in dough form.

But by the end of the 17th century, they were made round amid a Puritannical climate where depictions of religious figures was frowned upon. It is however a myth that Oliver Cromwell banned the pies during his short-lived Republican rule.

Mince pies also used to be much larger, as they were designed to feed a large medieval crowd.

Over the years, the meat was eliminated and they became the small sweet pies we know and love today.

But why do we eat them just around Christmas time?

The first mention of mince pies being seasonal was in 1557, according to Zester Daily, and it is thought that the custom of eating them at Christmas began around then, if not earlier.

According to reports, medieval people believed that if you ate a mince pie every day between Christmas and Twelfth Night, you'd be brimming with luck and happiness for the next 12 months.

While there may not be any truth in the old myth, the tradition of eating mince pies every Christmas has certainly stuck.

Daily Mail

Take your Radio, Podcasts and Music with you