Mince pies are an essential part of Christmas. They are made from minced fruit not meat. In the US, the filling is known by the more accurate name "fruitmince".
They are small pies, usually between 2 and 3 inches in diameter (5-7.5 centimetres), filled with mincemeat (fruitmince).
The filling is a mixture of raisins, sultanas, apricots, glace cherries, candied citrus peel, apples, various types of nuts and mixed spices typically nutmeg and cinnamon.
Mince pies should traditionally have a star on top, to represent the Christmas Star which some believe led the shepherds and Magi to the baby Jesus in Bethlehem.
Traditional Mince Pie
Mince pies are a favourite food of Father Christmas. Children leave one or two mince pies on a plate at the foot of the chimney (along with a small glass of brandy, sherry or milk, and a carrot for the reindeer) as a thank you for filling their stockings.
Mince pies became a regular part of Christmas celebrations as early as the 16th century (Tudor times), when mince pies were coffin or cradle shaped, rather than round as they are now. At that time, they contained quite a bit of shredded meat in addition to the usual melange of dried fruits.
The crusaders returned from the Holy Land with spices, and it was deemed appropriate to celebrate Christ’s birthday with a pie containing spices from his native land.
Important to add three spices!
It was important to add three spices (cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg) for the three gifts given to the Christ child by the Magi.
It was thought lucky to eat one mince pie on each of the twelve days of Christmas (ending with Epiphany, the 6th of January). Alternatively, to refuse one would lead to bad luck.
The mincemeat mixture should only be stirred in a clockwise direction. To stir it anticlockwise is to bring bad luck for the coming year.
A wish should be made whilst eating one's first mince pie of the festive season, and mince pies should always be eaten in silence.
It is considered very unlucky to cut a mince pie with a knife.
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