In essence, hygge is about the intentional creation of warmth and comfort in the home. During this holiday time, we take special care with the cultivation of our home environments — the decorations we put up, the songs we sing, the people we invite into our homes, and of course, the foods that we eat. While there’s no specific connection to food and the traditional definition of hygge, there’s no doubt that certain foods make us feel cozy and comfortable inside — Mac n’ cheese, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, or apple pie, anyone?
Christmas time comes with its own rich food history, and there’s no doubt that sharing food brings us together. The Christmas cookies we bake, the turkeys we roast, the potatoes we mash — they all serve to bring us and our families and friends together, under one roof and around one table. Food gets us all there. Certain foods have become especially associated with Christmas.
The Buche de Nöel (literally, the log of Christmas), for instance, is a delicate chocolate sponge cake, rolled to look like a log, and filled with buttercream frosting. The outside is decorated with fondant “mushrooms” and “moss” to make it look as much like an actual log as possible. Like many of the hyggelig family traditions we’ve seen this season, the Buche de Nöel comes from pre-Christian peoples. Each year, on the Winter Solstice, the Gauls and the Romans in Western Europe would burn massive logs cured with spices and fragrant greens. These massive bonfires were seen as cleansing, purging the old year’s misfortunes and opening a fresh opportunity for the New Year.
The new traditions brought by the Christianizing missionaries eventually caused the massive log-burnings to fall out of style and common practice. But the smaller hearths people had in their individual homes were perfect for baking a small cake reminiscent of that spiritual practice, and the Buche de Nöel came to be popularized in bakeries in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The candy cane is another tradition wrapped up in the practice of Christmas, hence its special appearance in stores during November and December. In the times of Queen Victoria, when it first became popular to have a Christmas tree in the home, many of the trees were decorated with cookies and candies, the Christmas ornament having not been invented yet. Some say that the candy cane was first seen in the nativity pageant at the cathedral in Cologne, Germany. Supposedly, the choirmaster there had the candies created to keep the choirboys quiet. The candies’ shape has many possible meanings, some saying it’s meant to look like a shepherd’s crook, and others that it’s meant to be a letter “J” for Jesus.
Whatever foods make your holidays special, enjoy them in the company of your loved ones. For in company, we can always find hygge. Also, as your family returns home to start the New Year, maybe send some of that comfort food home with them!
--Claire Kosewic, Staff Bulletin Writer
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