Monday, December 15, 2014

Seasonal holidays and feasts


"At no time of the year did one eat so abundantly and so traditionally as at Christmas. If one had to lead a simple and spartan life for the rest of the year, one would gorge oneself at Christmas, when there was a plentiful supply of fresh food, which kept well, thanks to the cold weather. The customs were rather similar within the county, but for economic reasons the number of dishes on the Christmas table naturally varied."

This was written by Rut Wallensteen-Jaeger in her book "Food for Workdays and Feasts", which describes the food traditions in the province of Östergötland at the beginning of the century.

The Christmas food has been, and still is, very important to most people. Then, more than ever, one wants to have the dishes one knows from one's childhood. In many young families food traditions from both parental homes are mixed and developed into new traditions.

It is no longer very profitable to make sausages, brawn and pâté at home, but there is a very valuable feeling of togetherness when the whole family, maybe several generations, works together preparing the Christmas food. The flavor of homemade food cannot be calculated in money either.

The other festivals do not show such a rich variety of traditional dishes. Easter has only a few. The salmon pudding on Good Friday is not so common nowadays as the boiled eggs on Holy Saturday. Midsummer means new potatoes, herring and chives, and often a cake, decorated with the first Swedish strawberries. The crayfish has many enthusiasts, and so has the November goose. The succession of seasonal dishes may contribute to an enhanced awareness of time and may lead us to collect good food memories year by year.

Christmas preparations start early in Sweden. There is a lot to do: gifts and decorations are bought or made, plenty of food is prepared. The preparations take on a festive air. Even the most anti-traditional people observe a few Christmas traditions.