Letters from the Loire: European Christmas traditions

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Teresa Dolan takes a look at the many varieties in Christmas food, flavours and traditions across Europe, and the increased multiculturalism of Christmas celebrations.

As Europe increasingly becomes more integrated, it is perhaps not surprising that over the past couple of years more and more of our French neighbours have been commissioning us to make traditional English mince pies and puddings for their Christmas parties. In fact, Christmas puddings were deemed to be so good for one’s health that back in 1956 NHS doctors in the UK could prescribe a Christmas pudding to their patients. Even today, it is still possible for a doctor in the UK to prescribe a gluten free Christmas pudding to a patient.

However, I am surprised that in those modest sections in European supermarkets that are dedicated to English products, such as baked beans, mint sauce and English custard, that they do not stock a few more English Christmas products. However, the other day I did notice a couple of jars of luxury mincemeat in the world food rayon in our local French supermarket – so perhaps changes are afoot.

In our experience of living and running our business in France, Chez Teresa, we can see very clearly that the French are more willing to try English treats. Medicinal or not, we now have more French people coming in to buy puddings than our English compatriots, and Christmas crackers are also becoming a popular fascinating. As an expat I find this particularly interesting. Additionally, a French family is just as likely to exchange their cadeaux on Christmas Day as they are on the night of the Epiphany as was the tradition of yesteryear. In this age of commerce and globalisation, might local Christmas traditions be changing?

European Christmas: A multicultural feast?

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