Celebrate ‘Christmas in July’ with the Launch of Madeline’s New Book

Dr Madeline Shanahan’s new book Christmas Food and Feasting, A History, is now available and will be launched at our ‘Christmas in July’ event on 31 July 2019, at GML Heritage. Join us for a glass of Wassail and Christmas treats, where Madeline will share some of her favourite stories behind the festive menu. If you would like to attend, please RSVP to heritage@gml.com.au.

The book explores the rich story of Christmas food and feasting, tracing the history of how the festive menu evolved and inherited elements of pagan ritual, medieval traditions, early modern innovations, Victorian romanticism, and contemporary commercialism. The stories of dishes such as plum pudding, gingerbread and mince pies are explored, including historic recipe samples and images.


An excerpt of the book is included below.

Book Excerpt: ‘Christmas Food and Feasting, A History’

“There is a moment that comes to so many of us in the late afternoon on Christmas Day, where we look at the postmeal dining table festooned with scrunched paper crowns, splattered with cranberry sauce and gravy, and graced with a half-eaten hacked-up plum pudding, and we are torn between cracking on with the inevitable tidy–up and retreating to the sofa for a double Baileys and a snooze. In this moment we vow that we “will never eat again,” and our resolve lasts for an hour or so, until a box of Cadbury Roses chocolates is passed around and we somehow find room. If excitement and anticipation are the feelings almost universally shared by children at 5:00 a.m. on Christmas morning, being stuffed and exhausted are the ones that unite their parents come 5:00 p.m.

This postmeal fatigue is brought about by the enormous quantity of food consumed, but also by the sheer amount of work involved in preparing the festive feast. A recent estimate suggested that an average of twenty-seven hours goes into making Christmas dinner, most of which is still done by women. And this is on top of the additional workload of the season: shopping, wrapping, writing cards, making costumes for Nativity plays, putting up lights, decorating trees, assembling toys, and posing as a benevolent supernatural being. The workload (not to mention expense) involved in the lead-up to 25 December, and the pressure to enjoy the day, have made more than one domestic cook crack in the early afternoon when the turkey is still not done. And yet, year on year, we still faithfully “keep Christmas.”

(Christmas Food and Feasting, a History)

Madeline shared some of the history behind why we eat this food on ABC TV and Radio last Christmas, prior to the publication of the book.

The book is published by Rowman and Littlefield, as part of the Meal Series, edited by Ken Albala. It can be purchased here.