Origin and History of Mince Pies at Christmas – Xmas Recipes

It is quite likely that if you are from a family of European descent,  mincemeat pies are a standard staple for your holiday gathering.

You may not have ever wondered why these delightful pastries are a regular occurrence during the holidays, but we hope to shed some light on their origins in this article.

The History of Meat Pies

The tradition of mincemeat pies dates back centuries.

Some of the first evidence of spices and meat making their way into a traditional pastry goes back to a recipe dated 1390 in an English cookbook.


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A Form of Cury highlighted a recipe called “Tartes of Flesh” made with hard-boiled eggs, cheese, ground-up pork, sugar, and saffron.

The modern mincemeat pie first appears in a recipe published in 1650. The recipe was first created in the English Huswife by Gervase Markham.

It included a full mutton leg, salt, sewage, currants, prunes, dates, orange peel, cloves, and mace.

The Move From Meats to Sweets

Mince pies first made the changeover from a hearty meat pie to a suite treat in 1747. Hannah Glass detailed in her recipe to start utilizing orange peels, lemon, red wine, currents, apples, sugar, and suet.

This recipe even suggested that the whole part could be filled with only sweet ingredients if no meat was available (just like Xmas pudding).

When sugar started to become easier to acquire from plantations in the West Indies, sweet pies became the most popular choice.

Most Victorian-era mince pie recipes were the sweet variety only.

The Connection to Christmas

The first connection of mincemeat pies and Christmas occurs in the early 17th century. People during the time were using mince pies for large gatherings and parties.

Mincemeat pies were considered to be a status symbol for the holidays. Only the very rich were able to produce ornate pastries because they often required the most expensive pastry chefs.

Mincemeat Pies and christmas

A status symbol such as a piecrust that contained elaborate shapes like hearts, flowers, crescents or stars was a symbol of real wealth during a holiday party. 

The tradition continued further with customs throughout the middle ages. Mince pies were used almost like an advent calendar — eating a mince pie from Christmas until the 12th night would bring a full year of happiness.

Christmas Eve in the UK would also become time mince pies with Brandy were served for Father Christmas with a carrot on the side for the reindeer.

The Popularity of Mincemeat Pies

Mince pies got their connection to Christmas during a time in which the Puritans reigned over England.

Oliver Cromwell believed that worship should take place every day of the year and even drafted a bill to abolish days like Christmas.

Popularity of Mincemeat Pies

Although the law never went into place, many citizens felt as though they had a duty to follow these ideals.

There was a stigma associated with the idea of partaking in decadent treats over the holiday season. 

Thoughts of boycotting the pie were tough on some as it was considered to be a tradition for many families.

There was certain romanticism about the idea of eating a pie while practicing light political disobedience.

Even though the laws never went into place, the misconception that a pie could be a political statement made it a popular choice.

Further evidence of politics increasing the popularity of mincemeat pies also occurred during prohibition.

In the Chicago area alone, the alcohol levels of premixed mince pie filling spiked to 14%, causing a significant US market to adopt the pie as a tradition.


From its humble origins as a meat pie to a sweet pie to a holiday tradition, mince pies are bound to be a favorite for generations to come.

Word Cloud for History of Mince Pies

The following is a collection of the most used terms in this article on the History of Mince Pies. This should help in recalling related terms as used in this article at a later stage for you.

History of Mince Pies


  1. https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20171208-the-strange-and-twisted-history-of-mince-pies
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mince_pie
  3. https://home.bt.com/lifestyle/food/food-latest/why-are-mince-pies-called-mince-pies-and-why-is-there-no-meat-in-mincemeat-11364234485193
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