For the Tudors, before Christmas was a time of fasting. They would fast for Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas, and Christmas Eve was particularly strict. On Christmas Eve they were not permitted to eat meat, cheese or eggs. On Christmas day, after three masses were said, the genealogy of Christ was sung and all present would hold lighted tapers before departing for home and enjoying their Christmas Day feast.
Henry VIII was one of the first people to have turkey as part of his Christmas feast, after the bird was introduced into Britain in the 1520s. It soon became a popular meat, but was only enjoyed by those of high society. The famous Tudor Christmas Pie was a coffin shaped pie crust containing a turkey stuffed with a goose which was stuffed with a chicken which was stuffed with a partridge which was stuffed with a chicken. The pie was often served with hare, game birds and wild fowl. No vegetables for the Tudors!
Other than the Christmas Pie, there was a boar’s head, which would usually be the centrepiece of the meal. Boars were often hunted but their heads would usually be saved for a special occasion, like Christmas. It would be baked and garnished with rosemary and bay and ceremoniously carried in.
A Christmas treat that is enjoyed a lot nowadays is the mince pie, which was also around in Tudor times but different to ours today. Mince pies were enjoyed by all types of people from the lowliest peasants to the King and his court. They were made with thirteen ingredients to represent Christ and his apostles. The mince pie would be crib shaped, again different to our present day round ones and would include minced meat rather than containing just dried fruit and suet.
- Here is a link to a video by Historic Royal Palaces showing how to your own version of the Tudor mince pies: Click here
- Here is a link to the first part of the Tudor Monastery Farm Christmas Special on YouTube, I would strongly recommend it if you want to find out more about Tudor life at Christmas: Click here