The History of Carrots at Christmas

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The Carrot at Christmas Time

The carrot has long been associated with the Christmas festivities. Carrot Museum Christmas page here.

Some Christmas recipes to try:  Carrot Cake - Carrot Pudding - Carrot Log Roll - WW2 Xmas Pudding - WW2 Xmas Cake -  Christmassy carrots recipe from the BBC and more! Commentary on WW2 Xmas fare. Below the Museum's Carrotmas Tree.

carrot museum christmas display

Some traditions around the world

Christmas time is filled with traditions that are passed down from generation to generation. But some of these traditions are unique to certain cultures. It has long been a tradition in several countries to leave carrots out for Santa's reindeer, and no one definitely knows the origin. This usually takes palce on Christmas Eve.

In the UK Santa gets a mince pie and a tot of sherry to keep him warm while he’s delivering gifts in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland; there’s nothing like some alcohol to keep you warm. Rudolph gets a carrot.

France - Santa can expect a biscuit from French children, and more carrots for his reindeer. They leave these presents in their shoes and in return, Santa fills them with toys and sweets.

Netherlands - The thoughtful children in this country worry about Santa’s horse (yes, horse) so leave them hay, carrots and water to keep them going through the night. In return, they’re left hot chocolate, oranges, marzipan and chocolate coins.

USA - Cookies and milk await Santa as he makes his way across the pond. From chocolate chip to gingerbread, he can expect to encounter many different cookie varieties. Carrots and oats are left out for his trusty reindeer.

In Eastern Europe and in the US, people hang glass carrot baubles on their trees. Carrots have long held a special place in German legend. The glass carrot ornament is truly a decoration that can bring a tear to an old woman's eye. Long ago the glass carrot was very popular in Germany as a traditional gift for brides bringing them good luck in the kitchen! After being lost for many years, the antique mould has resurfaced and German artisans are again creating this treasure for a bride's first Christmas tree.

December 6th marks the beginning of the holiday season in many families of Dutch, German and Eastern European heritage.

Dutch children eagerly anticipate the arrival of St Nicholas by stuffing their shoes with hay and carrots for Sinterklaas' horse. By morning, if the children have been good, the snacks have been replaced with gifts.

In the 1820's German glassmakers developed a process to make brightly coloured, hollow glass spheres which they called "kugels".....they were hung from ceilings and windows as protection against evil spirits.

On Christmas Eve English children leave out mince pies, brandy or some similar warming beverage for Father Christmas, and a carrot for the reindeer.

In Holland, children fill their shoes with hay and a carrot for the Saint's white horse. In the night, Sintirklaas slides down the chimney, gathers the hay for the horse and puts a little present in each child s shoe.

In Italy, youngsters set out their shoes for La Befana, the good witch.

Christmas traditions around the world. here; Read the "Reveal" article here

SPOILER ALERT - Reindeers don’t like carrots and struggle to eat them. Carrots aren’t part of their natural diet and reindeer struggle to digest carrots because they don’t have any incisor teeth on their upper jaw – we’ve never seen any of the reindeers we look after eat one. 

Oats, apples and even parsnips were among the most likely Christmas snacks to be brought back to the sleigh for Dasher, Dancer and the rest of Santa’s reindeer to eat.(source)

Make a Christmas Card! - using items available from any craft store:

Buy a stack of blank cards, blue card stock paper, white, black and orange paint and a roll of double-sided tape. Paint three sizes of furniture pads with white paint and press them onto cut-out pieces of card stock to create snowman bodies. Cut out hat and carrot shapes from cardboard and paint them black and orange, respectively. Tape the hat and carrot to the piece of card stock and glue the whole thing to the front of a blank card. Use a black felt tip marker to draw eyes, arms and buttons on each snowman. Include a computer printout of a holiday update inside the card and write a short greeting such as "Merry Christmas!" or "Happy Holidays!" on the inside of the card.

Make a felted snowman here.

Tulleys Farm in West Sussex (UK) has a nativity scene made vegetables with baby Jesus made from a carrot!  Click here for details.


Here is a sample of the fine glass wares:

Christmas tree ornament 5

Christmas tree ornament 3

Christmas tree ornament 2

Christmas Nativity Set - and yes! Baby Jesus is a carrot. Bugs also gets in on the act!


What is Boxing day? - In most English speaking countries (except the US!), the day following Christmas day is called Boxing Day. This phrase comes from the custom which started in the Middle Ages around 800 years ago. Churches would open their "alms boxe" (boxes in which people placed gifts of money) and distribute the contents to poor people in the neighbourhood on the day after Christmas. The tradition continues today - small gifts are often given to delivery workers such as postal staff and children who deliver newspapers.

  Christmas Carrot Cake

350 gram young carrots, peeled and grated; The fine grated rind of half an orange; 225 gram butter;  225 gram soft brown sugar;  20ml lemon juice;   175 gram self raising flour;    5ml baking powder;  50 gram ground almonds;  125 gram chopped walnuts;  325 gram cream cheese;   10ml clear honey;   4 eggs - separated.

Grease and line a deep 8 inch cake tin. Mix the cream, butter and sugar together, beat in the egg yolks, stir in orange rind and 3 tsp of lemon juice. Sift in the flour and baking powder, then stir in the almonds and 100 gram of walnuts. Whist the egg whites until stiff, then fold into the cake mix with the carrots. Pour into the tin and hollow the centre slightly.
Bake at 180c (350f) - Gas Number 4 for 90 minutes. Cover top with foil after one hour if it starts to brown. Leave to cool for 20 minutes, then turn onto wire cake rack
To make topping, beat cheese, honey and lemon juice, then spread over cake, decorate with the remaining walnut pieces.
Voila !!!! The perfect Christmas Carrot Cake.


Christmas Carrot Pudding


1 cup grated raw carrot; 1 cup grated raw potato;1 cup flour; 1 cup sugar; 3/4 cup raisins;1/2 cup currants;1/2 cup mixed fruit; 1/2 cup butter; 1/2 tsp. each cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon; 1 tsp. baking soda.
Grate vegetables and set aside. Cream butter, add sugar, and blend well. Add carrot and half the potato and mix well. Sprinkle the fruit with flour and add to first mixture. Add remaining flour and spices mixed together. Dissolve the soda in remaining potato and add it last. Put it in a buttered bowl and cover with foil. Steam for three hours.


Carrot Roll

Cake: 3 eggs+1 yolk 2/3 cup sugar 1 tsp vanilla 1 cup cake flour 2 tbsp cornstarch 2 tsp baking powder 1/4 tsp salt 1 tsp cinnamon 1 cup carrot, grated 1/4 cup canola oil

Filling and frosting: 1 cup cream-cheese, at room temperature 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature 100 g white chocolate, melted 1 tsp vanilla 3/4 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped.


1. Preheat oven to 350F and line 10"x 15" jelly roll pan with parchment paper.

2. Beat eggs, yolk and sugar over boiling water in double boiler on medium speed for 10 min until it's thick and pale. Add vanilla.

3. Sift flour, cornstarch, baking powder, cinnamon and salt over egg mixture and fold it in gently.

4. Fold in carrot and oil.

5. Turn batter into prepared pan, spread evenly. Bake for 15-20 min until springs back when touched.

6. Let stand on a cooling rack for a couple minutes and roll it up tightly.

7. Meanwhile beat cream cheese with butter until smooth, add white chocolate and vanilla.

8. Unroll the cake and spread 1/2 of filling over cake evenly. Sprinkle with 1/3 of nuts and roll up again.

9. Spread remaining filling over the top and sprinkle with nuts.

10.Chill until ready to serve.

A lovely Christmas recipe

Marmalade roasted carrots and parsnips 20 mins to prepare and 30 mins to cook

Sweet and sticky, and the perfect side for your Christmas turkey dinner. Can be cooked and frozen for up to a month, helping you get ahead on the day.

Ingredients: 500g (1lb) carrots, cut lengthways;500g (1lb) parsnips, cut lengthways; 2 tbsp olive oil;6 thyme sprigs, leaves picked;2 tbsp fine cut marmalade;2 tbsp clear honey

Method: Preheat the oven to gas 6, 200°C, fan 180°C. Put the veg in a roasting tin. Drizzle with the oil and scatter over most of the thyme; season. Roast for 30-40 minutes or until softened.

Toss the veg in the marmalade, honey and remaining thyme until coated. Roast for a further 10-15 minutes or until golden.

Orange and Thyme glazed carrots (serves 4, 5 minutes prep time)

A great sticky and fragrant trimming for Christmas dinner.

400g of baby or small pieces of carrots.

2 tsp of cumin seeds

2 tblsp of thin marmalade

1 tsp soya sauce

3 or 4 stalks of thyme, leaves picked off

Salt and pepper.

Method: Boil or steam the carrots until tender.Heat a frying pan and dry fry the cumin seeds for a moment or two until they become fragrant. Stir in the thin cut orange marmalade, soy sauce and 1 tablespoon of water until the marmalade has melted into a glaze. Drain the carrots and toss them in the glaze until they look glossy. Sprinkle over the thyme leaves and season. Continue to toss until everything is well coated, then pour into a serving dish.

Carrots glazed in butter and parsley (serves 6; prep time 15 mins)

1kg (2 1/3lb) carrots 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped 50g (2oz) butter 1tbsp caster sugar Small handful fresh parsley, roughly chopped

1. Peel the carrots and cut off the ends and slice into batons. Put carrots into a large pan of salted water over medium heat. Bring to a boil and bubble for further 5 minutes. Drain.

2. Using the same pan, melt the butter over a low heat and fry the garlic for 2 min stirring occasionally, add the sugar and parsley, and continue stirring for a further 2 min. Add the carrots back into the pan and heat through, season to taste. Keep warm until needed.

Carrots and Tarragon (serves 6; prep time 15 minutes, depends on boil time)


600g carrots; a knob of butter;1 clove garlic, finely chopped;1 tsp caster sugar

3 sprigs tarragon, leaves picked and chopped


Peel and chop the carrots, into either batons or pennies. Boil in salted water until just tender. Drain well. Melt the butter in the pan until bubbling, on a lowish heat.

Stir in the garlic and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the sugar and cook for a further 2 minutes.

Pop the carrots back into the pan with the tarragon. Cook gently until the water from the carrots evaporates and they have a lovely, buttery shine. Season with a little salt and give the pan a good shake so that everything is coated with the garlicky butter.

Honeyed baby carrots (serves 4; cook time 35 minutes)

This easy honey glaze gives roast baby carrots and beetroot a delicious caramelised flavour.

Ingredients: 2 tbs balsamic vinegar;1 tbs olive oil; 2 cloves garlic, crushed; 3-4 sprigs thyme 1 tsp salt 1 tbs honey 1 bunch baby carrots 1 bunch baby beetroot 1 tbs parsley, chopped.


1. Preheat oven to 220°C. In a small bowl, combine all ingredients except vegetables and parsley and mix well.

2. Trim tops from vegetables, leaving a little of the green stalk attached and wash well to remove dirt.

3. Toss carrots and beetroot separately with dressing and place beetroots only in a large ovenproof dish. Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes.

4. Remove from oven, add carrots and toss well. Bake for another 15-20 minutes until vegetables are tender. Stir through parsley to serve.

Spice Roasted Carrots (serves 8; total time 1 hour,15 mins)

Ingredients: 8 large (3 pounds) carrots, peeled; 3 tblsp olive oil; 2 tblsp packed fresh oregano leaves, chopped; 1 tsp smoked paprika; 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg; 2 tblsp butter, melted; 1 tblsp red wine vinegar; 1/3 cup roasted salted pistachios, shelled and finely chopped.

Method: Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. 2.In roasting pan, toss carrots with oil, oregano, paprika, nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Roast 1 hour or until tender but not falling apart. Transfer to serving platter. Drizzle with butter and vinegar and garnish with pistachios.

War Time Carrot Xmas pudding (for 2 persons)

You will need - 1lb scraped carrots, 2 oz margarine, Breadcrumbs as required, 1 beaten egg, 1 tablespoon minced onion, salt and pepper.Carrot Pudding

Method - Rinse the carrots, then place them in a saucepan of boiling salted water to cover. Bring to a simmer. Cover and cook slowly till soft. Rub through a sieve. Measure and place puree in a basin. Add half as much breadcrumbs as carrot puree, then add onion and the margarine, melted till creamy. Season to taste, then add enough beaten egg to bind the mixture. Place in a greased pudding basin.

Cover with greased paper. Steam for 45 minutes. Turn out onto a hot dish. Serve with cheese or caper sauce or left over gravy. 

Wartime carrot cake

During the Second World War, when sugar was rationed to 8oz (230g) per week, carrots where used to naturally sweeten cakes and biscuits. The sweetness of the carrots replaced some of the sugar used in the original recipes.

(20 minutes (prep. time) Cooking time40-45 minutes (cooking time) Serves 6)


230g self-raising flour, 85g margarine or cooking fat, 85g sugar, 115g finely grated carrot

55g sultanas, A little milk or water and 1 reconstituted dried egg or 1 fresh egg


Preheat oven to 220˚C / 200˚C (fan) / gas mark 7.

Sift the flour into a mixing bowl. Rub in the margarine or cooking fat. Add sugar, carrot, sultanas and egg. Mix well and then add sufficient milk or water to make sticky.

Pour mixture into a lined baking tin and cook in the oven for 40 – 45 or until golden in colour.

Read more about carrots in war time here.

How to Eat Like a King for Christmas in 1660. Here

A commentary on how UK citizens fed themselves in WW2 at Christmas time

Carrots and potatoes and even gravy browning were key ingredients in wartime recipes for Christmas pudding. When people couldn't get turkey, they had "murkey" instead.

The shortages and rationing during World War II, which persisted for years afterwards, meant that households had to be imaginative and resourceful in the kitchen. For today's families, there's the choice of luxury supermarket puddings or home-made versions which can be packed full of dried fruit and nuts, with plenty of sugar, treacle, eggs and sweet spices. Sadly due to blockades of shipping, in wartime most of these ingredients were in short supply.

Canny cooks preparing for Christmas would start early, saving dried fruit from their rations throughout the year. But sometimes there just was not enough and the wartime spirit of "make do and mend" found its way into the kitchen.

Christmas pudding had less fruit, no eggs and could sometimes contain potatoes and gravy browning. They did their best to make it special, even in 1943 and 1944, when shortages made life particularly grim.

Christmas cake was made without eggs and with less flour, less fruit and less fat than its modern equivalent. The marzipan was a mix of semolina, sugar, water and flavouring.

Carrots and potatoes were added to Christmas pudding, mainly to add moisture, but they also added sweetness and texture. Wartime food shortages forced people to adopt new eating patterns. Sweet root vegetables added to Christmas cake could include beetroot, parsnips and turnips.

Turkey was often very difficult to get, so housewives were advised to cook "murkey", which was stuffed mutton. The stuffing was largely made of breadcrumbs. No one threw away a stale loaf in those days. The word murkey was coined by cockney comedians Elsie and Doris Waters, whose alter egos, Gert and Daisy, were stars of the BBC radio programme The Kitchen Front. (read more about carrots in WW2 here)

The programme came on every weekday after the 8am news and was full of household tips and suggestions of how to make food go further.

The Ministry of Food used the radio extensively to push out the messages they wanted to get across. There was a glut of carrots so they invented Dr Carrot, and featured it in broadcasts, almost weekly. An earlier attempt to popularise mutton was a bacon substitute called 'macon' which appeared in 1940 just as rationing came into force.

For most people today, including gravy browning in a cake would be a step too far - but there were plenty of less extreme examples. The 1940s cook prepared everything from scratch and made more use of seasonal food. For example they might use raw in-season vegetables like beetroot, carrots, cabbage and even parsnips and turnips in salads if there were no conventional salad vegetables available.

The diet was actually healthy as well as being economical as food shortages forced people to adopt new eating patterns. Most people ate less meat, fat, eggs and sugar than they had eaten before, but also, people who had previously consumed a poor diet were able to increase their intake of protein and vitamins because they received the same ration as everyone else.

Many people ate a better diet during rationing than before the war years and this had a marked effect on the health of the population - infant mortality declined and life expectancy increased.

Modern households have much to learn from the frugality and creativity of the 1940s cook. 

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