Meat-free Christmas Eve and statutory beer brewing – here are the Christmas traditions that have changed

ChristmasChristmas.Photo: Pixabay

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Christmas is traditional, and everything should be as before. But many Christmas traditions have changed throughout history, such as statutory beer brewing and meatless Christmas Eve.

Traditions are something that are preserved and passed on through generations, but they often change over time.

“A good example of this is the Christmas beer. Christmas beer is the oldest element we still have in today’s Christmas celebration. In pagan times we marked Yule, which meant “to drink Yule,” that is to drink in honor of Odin and Tor,” says researcher Eva Narten Høberg at the Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomics (NIBIO) to NTB.

At the time, it was actually a requirement that everyone should make beer from the grain, and this was enshrined in the law, explains Høberg. If you did not brew beer, you were fined.

“This tradition continued even though Norway became Christian. Gods were exchanged, and instead toasts were in honor of Jesus and the Virgin Mary. It is a good example of how traditions are continued, but they change and are influenced by new cultures and political and religious impulses,” says Høberg.

Meat-free Christmas Eve
For hundreds of years, December was completely meatless until Christmas Day. In the pre-Christmas time we ate fish, porridge and cereal.

“It was part of the fasting tradition in the Catholic era in Norway before the Reformation. We did not eat meat before Christmas Day, but then we ate a lot of meat,” she says.

Høberg points out that the Christmas celebration in the past was also considerably shorter than it is today.

“Now we have started celebrating Christmas much earlier. Then we used to not eat meat until Christmas Day, we now have a Christmas dinner season from November,” she says.

Pork ribs entrance
In today’s Christmas celebration pork ribs are served in most Norwegian homes on Christmas Eve. Around half of Norway’s population ate pork ribs as a main course on Christmas Eve last year, according to Matprat.

However, pork ribs are a more modern feature of the Norwegian Christmas tradition and were not introduced until some time in the 1900s.

Pork ribs are prepared from fresh, possibly after freezing and modern vacuum packing. Stick meat (pinnekjøtt) is based on old preservation methods such as drying, salting, spiking and smoking. This is one of the reasons why the pork ribs characterized the Christmas menu to a greater extent only when the freezer became common in Norway, explains Høberg.

© NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today

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