THE STAR OF THE CHRISTMAS TABLE
The Christmas ham is definitely the star on most Swedish Christmas tables. Julskinkan is what distinguishes the smorgasbord from other holidays. At Christmas, Midsummer and Easter herring, salmon, meatballs, sausages and potatoes are served. At Easter the eggs are in focus, at Midsummer strawberry cake plays a big role but at Christmas it is the Christmas ham that gets to be the center of attention. But how did the Christmas ham come to be the star it is today?
Back in the day it was tradition to take part in Lent and to fast from the 13th of December, Lucia Day, until Christmas Eve. So when Lent ended people celebrated by eating a mighty feast on Christmas Eve itself. During Lent, no meat was eaten but you could eat fish, which is why lutfisk (stockfish) became popular.
In the 1700’s, it was the ribs that were considered the festive part of the pig, and they were common to eat as a celebration after Lent, for Christmas. Salted pork was eaten all year round so it was not considered as festive as ribs. The ribs still have a place on the Christmas table, but they have had to hand over the crown to the Christmas ham who has become the real star of the Christmas table. This happened because in the 1800’s when Christmas decorations became more popular people started to realise how easy and practical it was to decorate the ham and with time, people took to the taste and gave the Christmas ham the place of honor on the Christmas table.
Pigs were now fattened up during the summer already to prepare for Christmas, and the best and fattest pig was always saved to be the Christmas ham for the family of the farm itself. All parts of the pig were used and in addition to the Christmas ham itself, sausages, jam, meatballs and blood pudding were made as well. The pig's head that was left over was very often put at the center of the table, decorated with a red apple in its mouth.