Christmas ham

A Christmas ham or Yule ham is a ham often served for Christmas dinner or during Yule in Northern Europe and the Anglosphere.[1] The style of preparation varies widely by place and time.

A traditional Swedish Christmas ham

Despite the common claim that the tradition of eating ham is related to the Germanic pagan ritual of sacrificing a wild boar known as a sonargöltr to the Norse god Freyr during harvest festivals,[2][3][4] this is highly dubious. In fact, in the United States, ham only became popular as a Christmas food in the 20th century.[5]

The Romans were known to have eaten various foods during the Saturnalia, of which one was a roast piglet. Pope Sixtus III insisted in 435 that Christians should eat pork on Christmas to make a difference to the Jews, for which pork is forbidden.[6]

Swedish traditions

The centerpiece of the cold cuts section of a traditional Swedish Christmas smörgåsbord (at Christmas called "julbord") is a large Christmas ham (a cured ham which has been boiled or baked, then coated with a mixture of egg, breadcrumbs and mustard, browned in the oven).[7]

American traditions

As of 2019, Americans purchase about as much ham as turkey around the holiday season.[8][9] Ham began being mentioned as a Christmas dish in around 1900, and started growing in popularity in about 1960. The holiday ham began being promoted by Armour & Company in 1916 as part of its marketing efforts for its novel industrially quick-cured and less salty hams. The baked Christmas ham with a clove-studded, diamond-hatched sugar glaze which became popular in the 20th century was introduced in the 1930s. Glazed hams had long been popular long before that, but until the 1880s, they were usually glazed with stock, not sugar, and were not associated with Christmas.[5]

The sugar-glazed ham has become identified with Southern cooking.[10][11]

There are also various regional recipes. Stuffed ham is popular in southern Maryland, and particularly St. Mary's County, where it is traditional to stuff a corned ham with greens such as kale and cabbage. This tradition has been around in the area for at least 200 years. Similar stuffed hams are also sometimes prepared in Kentucky.[12][13]

Australian traditions

A Finnish Christmas ham

Ham is a traditional Australian dish that features on most tables on Christmas Day. It is cooked and served in various ways throughout Australia, with many families adding special ingredients, making it an important aspect of a Christmas meal.[14]

As Christmas in Australia comes at the beginning of summer, many people no longer serve a traditional hot roast dinner, serving cold turkey and ham, seafood and salads instead.[15][14] Christmas ham leftovers are often frozen to make soup and other dishes when the summer is over.[16]

Filipino traditions

In the Philippines and among diaspora groups such as Filipino-Americans, a ham is prepared for Christmas celebrations. The ham is referred to as a hamón, from the Spanish word for "ham", jamón. The hamón is sometimes soaked in kumquat and lime juice.[17][18] It is similar to, but not to be confused for, hamonado, which is another Filipino dish that can include pork and is also served around the Christmas season.

See also


  1. Tidholm, P., & Lija, A. (2014). "Culture-Tradition: Christmas: A Family Affair".{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  2. Simek, Rudolf (1998). Die Wikinger. Verlag C.H.BECK oHG. doi:10.17104/9783406616242. ISBN 978-3-406-61624-2. S2CID 243557691.
  3. Martineau, Chantal (22 December 2011). "In Defense Of Christmas Ham". Food Republic. Retrieved 20 February 2020.
  4. "The history of the Christmas ham". WFLA. 17 December 2016. Retrieved 17 December 2020.
  5. Stavros Macrakis, "How Old is American Christmas Ham?", Repast (Culinary Historians of Ann Arbor) 37:1:6 (Winter 2021) full text
  6. "Hyödynnä joulukinkun jämät BBQ-spagettikastikkeessa".
  7. Tidholm, P & Lija, A. (2014)
  8. "Should You Eat Turkey or Ham This Christmas? An Analysis". Time. Retrieved 16 December 2020.
  9. Myers, Ginger (4 October 2019). "Why Do We Eat Ham at Christmas?". Evermore Farm. Retrieved 16 December 2020.
  10. "Southern Holiday Dishes Everyone Should Know How to Make". Southern Living. Retrieved 14 December 2020.
  11. Menyes, Carolyn (6 October 2020). "Classic Southern Christmas Recipes". Archived from the original on 5 July 2021. Retrieved 14 December 2020.
  12. Severson, Kim (19 March 2018). "In This Corner of Maryland, Holidays Mean a Stuffed Ham". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 14 December 2020.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  13. Spinner, Jackie (11 December 1996). "TRADITIONS". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 16 December 2020.
  14. "Australian Average Spend On Groceries at Christmas". Gift of the Month Clubs. Australia. Archived from the original on 31 March 2016. Retrieved 17 May 2016.
  15. "Christmas Season Celebration in Australia". 2009. Archived from the original on 2 April 2016. Retrieved 17 May 2016.
  16. "Ham hints". Retrieved 24 March 2019.
  17. "Hamón - Filipino Food". About Filipino Food. 12 December 2019. Retrieved 14 December 2020.
  18. "How Fil-Ams carry on Filipino Christmas traditions —". Asian Journal News. 20 December 2017. Retrieved 14 December 2020.


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