Christmas traditions come home

Every year, on Christmas Eve, my family has pork pie for dinner. The tradition has been passed down from my mum’s family where they had pork pie for dinner on Christmas Eve because my gran would be too busy plucking and preparing the turkey to cook. (Yeah, yeah, grandpa could have been doing the cooking – let’s just say times were different!) I’ve never met anyone else who eats pork pie on Christmas Eve though mum was recently told it’s a Midlands tradition which makes sense as her family is from around Birmingham. Anyway, this tradition means I’ve eaten many pork pies in my lifetime. Mostly these have come from supermarkets. Marks and Spencers and Waitrose both sell reasonable pork pies, however, in 2010, I bought the Christmas pork pie right here in Brixton.

In early December I found out that Ian, at Cornercopia in Brixton Village, was making pork pies to order in a variety of sizes. These pies were handmade from start to finish, pastry, meat filling and apple jelly. I went for the 10-person pie, judging the size from baking tins Ian showed me. It was the largest pork pie I’ve ever seen (yet not the largest I could have had..). I put in my order and on 23 December I went to pick up my pie. It looked magnificent. A pie worthy of Christmas Eve dinner (and Christmas Day supper and Boxing Day lunch as it turned out!). I carried the pie to my parent’s house near Cardiff. My mum cut the pie. The meat filling looked like, well, meat. “That looks different” everyone said, then “That’s good!” when they tasted it. The pork pie of 2010 has set a standard all other Christmas pork pies will have to live up to. I’m just hoping that Ian will be making them again next year..

But the fact that the pie tasted good is only one reason (albeit a pretty good one!) why the pie was so special. I loved contributing the pie to my family’s Christmas and more than that, I loved that it came from the place I live, and that I knew the person who made it. Telling my family the story behind the pie was as much a contribution to Christmas Eve dinner as the pie itself. And with this I understood even more clearly how Makerhood can work. Buying a pork pie from Waitrose fulfills the need to have a pie for Christmas Eve dinner. But I never felt like I was involved with the pie. Buying my pork pie from Cornercopia felt very different. I was contributing to the success of an independent business in my local area and contributing to my family dinner at the same time. I met the people who work at Cornercopia, they make great pies and I want them to be successful – not least so I can get my pork pie there again next year. In return, they provided me with the best pork pie I’ve ever eaten and a personal, friendly shopping experience that gave me insight into someone else’s life in Brixton. If Makerhood can make experiences like this happen I’ll be more than happy!


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12 Responses to Christmas traditions come home

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  2. Roger Keight says:

    My maternal family are also from the Birmingham area and for as long as I can remember my grandparents, then my parents, and then my wife and I, had pork pie for breakfast on Christmas Day morning. Sadly as our children grew up we let the tradition lapse, but I think we’ll start it up again this year.
    I too have been intrigued by this tradition and eventually contacted Carl Chinn (Professor of Social History in Birmingham). He said that he has come across this tradition a lot and told me that it was much written about in the Birmingham Mail a few years ago. Sadly he has never been able to find out how it started or why. If anyone should discover why the tradition started I’d love to hear from them.

  3. karen says:

    Wow, pork pie for breakfast! I’m very happy you can confirm it’s a Birmingham tradition, it did seem to make sense as mum’s family had lived there for generations, but it’s very curious that no-one knows how it started. Perhaps there was a generous employer who used to hand out pork pies to all of his staff on Christmas Eve..? If you ever find out more I hope you’ll let me know.

  4. Jim Boys says:

    The tradition of Pork Pie for Christmas breakfast occurs in both my paternal family who came from Northamptonshire and my maternal family who came from Shropshire. As a child (I am now 74) I can clearly remember the pie with pickles being eaten after the celebration of Holy Communion in our local church, in those days one fasted before Communion and the pie was eagerly anticipated. Years ago my uncle wrote to the Daily Telegraph asking if he was the only one who still ate Pork Pie on Christmas morning. I was able to assure him he wasn’t as I continue the tradition and so do cousins of mine in Yorkshire.

  5. Jon says:

    Hello… I just found this page after having eaten the traditional Christmas Eve tea of pork pie and salad and wondering, “does anyone else do this?”

    Its nice to see we’re not alone!! The tradition for us comes from my Dad’s side, which is Manchester based (though there may be a Birmingham link further back, which could match up with previous comments). My sister and I are now continuing the tradition in both Bolton and Glasgow… so its certainly getting around the country a bit, and having read your page, I might just have a go at making one myself next year, too 🙂

  6. Vicky says:

    My family are from East London/Essex and we have a tradition of eating pork pie and toast on Christmas morning. My aunt and uncle used to live in Leicester and when they came for Christmas would bring a very large Melton Mowbray pork pie. I thought it was a Midlands tradition?

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  8. Nick Grant says:

    I was born and raised in New Hampshire USA and had pork pies for Christmas Eve dinner for as long as I remember. According to my dad it was his grandmother that started it in our family. I is one of those memories that I will always cherish and will continue for many many more years.

  9. beverly says:

    my family love to eat pork pie and ham and toast for christmas breakfast – it is more special to me than Christmas dinner!As to where the tradition began- my maternal family were farmers from Cambridgeshire/Huntingdonshire in 1880’s and I know they were eating it then.They also ate pork pie,cold meat and pickles Christmas eve, after church.Until I found this site I had never found anyone else outside of my family who had ever heard of this tradition.

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