As we celebrate the various special days of the season there is one that many over look. Some through oversight, others claim they did not know the occasion existed. It is a fairly safe bet that companies will not be observing the day by giving their employees the day off. So what does December 27th celebrate every year? National Fruitcake Day!
This much maligned food has a rich history. The earliest cakes date back to the Romans who combined pomegranate seed, pine nuts and raisins in barley mash. Honey, spices and preserved fruits were added in the middle ages. As fruitcake spread around the world, there became as many variations as there were countries that served it. The Bahamas added rum. Canada calls it Christmas Cake and consumes most of it during the holiday season. Ireland’s version is called barmbrack and is eaten at Halloween. If you are in England, there is a chance you will see frosted fruitcake served at a wedding.
In the United States, the fruitcake has become a bit of a joke. Johnny Carson began the comedic abuse of the fruitcake by joking on his show that there is really only one fruitcake in the world. It just keeps being passed from family to family. In reality, fruitcake jokes have dated back to televisions shows such as The Donna Reed Show.
There are many things you can do with a fruitcake. You could try to beat the record of 1,420 feet set by a group of Boeing engineers in the Great Fruitcake Toss held in Manitou Springs, CO each January. If that is beyond your technical ability you could see how long you can keep your fruitcake. Just to give you a goal to work toward, in 2003 Jay Leno tasted a fruitcake that had been kept by a family since 1878. The trick appears to be the amount of alcohol you put in your cake as a preservative.
I don’t happen to be a fan of fruitcake but it does have a long tradition. So maybe I should give it another chance this season. Then again, maybe the family and I will just skip the taste testing and try the fruitcake tossing instead. Either way, let me be the first (and possibly the only person) to wish you Happy National Fruitcake Day!