The Historical Roots of Holiday Treats


The Wassail Bowl, 1860. From The Illustrated London News, December 22, 1860. Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images

Tasty treats associated with winter holidays - candy canes, wassail and gingerbread - have some slightly hazy origins, because the evidence of their histories was eaten. What do we actually know about these foods and their place in the holiday menu?

Holly's Research:

  • Fiegl, Amanda. “A Brief History of Gingerbread.” Smithsonian. Dec. 24, 2008. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/a-brief-history-of-gingerbread-50050265/
  • Rolek, Barabara. “The History of Gingerbread.” The Spruce. Oct. 5, 2017. https://www.thespruce.com/the-history-of-gingerbread-1135954
  • Reuters. “21-foot high gingerbread house in Texas sets world record.” CBS News. Dec. 7, 2013. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/21-foot-high-gingerbread-house-in-texas-sets-world-record/
  • Guinness World Records. “Largest gingerbread house.” http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/largest-gingerbread-house
  • Avey, Tori. “The History of Gingerbread.” The History Kitchen. PBS. Dec. 20, 2013. http://www.pbs.org/food/the-history-kitchen/history-gingerbread/
  • Eveleth, Rose. “We Don’t Know the Origins of the Candy Cane, But They Almost Certainly Were Not Christian.” Smithsonian. Dec. 11, 2012. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/we-dont-know-the-origins-of-the-candy-cane-but-they-almost-certainly-were-not-christian-157380385/#C3dPj87Kb8lm7qDj.99
  • Parkinson, Eleanor. “The Complete Confectioner, Pastry-cook, and Baker.” Lea and Blanchard. 1844. Accessed online: https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=8TIEAAAAYAAJ&rdid=book-8TIEAAAAYAAJ&rdot=1
  • CBS News. “The History of Candy Canes.” December 21, 2014. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-history-of-candy-canes/
  • “Keller Machine.” New Georgia Encyclopedia. http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/file/4721
  • Doares, Robert. “Wassailing through History.” Colonial Williamburg Journal. Holiday 2006. Reprinted online: http://www.history.org/almanack/life/christmas/hist_wassail.cfm
  • McKibben, Beth. “The Centuries-Old History of Wassail.” Tales of the Cocktail. Nov. 30, 2015. https://talesofthecocktail.com/history/history-wassail-punch
  • Castelow, Ellen. “Wassailing.” Historic U.K. http://www.historic-uk.com/CultureUK/Wassailing/p

Topics in this Podcast: Christmas, culinary history, European history, U.S. history