Evolving traditions: the transformation of Christmas dinner over time

The agri-food sector is tirelessly working throughout the year to craft a specialized and traditional selection for holiday season.

As time progresses, even the long-standing traditions of Christmas dinner are evolving. In the past, it was typical for generations of women in families to engage intensely in preparing dinner, selecting labor-intensive traditional dishes and consulting cookbooks by Spanish culinary legends like Emilia Pardo Bazán and the Marquise de Parabere, or relying on recipes passed down through family notebooks.

The ritual included visiting food markets to purchase ingredients, often involving additional home preparation like plucking poultry and gutting fish. These were marathon efforts aimed at creating a splendid dinner, which would quickly be consumed, leaving only leftovers to contribute to a survival recipe book essential to many less fortunate households.

However, today’s landscape is vastly different. The agri-food industry operates nearly year-round to provide a tailored selection for the festive season. Markets, supermarkets, and even local butchers and fishmongers now offer products ready for easy preparation, such as oven-ready dishes or items suitable for heating in a bain-marie. The restaurant industry, too, has adapted, offering an array of dishes reflecting both the traditional and the new, as noted by a Santa Cruz restaurateur who enjoys the ease of this modern approach.

Globalisation has expanded the holiday menu far beyond traditional items like stuffed turkeys and baked sea bream to include international dishes such as sushi, ceviche, ramen, and various vegetarian and gluten-free options, catering to diverse tastes and budgets.

Evolving traditions: the transformation of Christmas dinner over time

Similarly, traditional Christmas desserts like trout with sweet fillings and puff pastries, once homemade, are now more commonly purchased from stores, along with nougat, marzipan, and other festive sweets.

Despite these culinary transformations, the essence of gathering with loved ones for a shared meal remains unchanged. With the convenience of modern food preparation, gatherings are now more relaxed, reflecting Emilia Pardo Bazán’s insight that the foods we eat not only reflect our era but also the very soul of our society, perhaps even more so than our physical needs.

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