Chestnuts roasting on an open fire? Okay, we get that. But figgy pudding? A-wassailing? What's all that about?
CNN's blog Eatocracy has decoded some of the more obscure Christmas food items. Figgy pudding, it says, is like a moist fruitcake made of dried figs, spices, breadcrumbs, eggs and brandy or rum. Wassail, as in "Here We Come A-Wassailing," (also known as "Here we come A-caroling,") is actually a mulled cider or wine with cinnamon, cloves, sugar and apples.
The name wasail, incidentally, is believed to come from the salutation "Waes hail," or "to your health," a toast dating back to the Middle Ages, it says.
And, it says, sugarplum trees really do exist in hot climates like Australia. However, the sugar plums of Clement Clarke Moore's famous "Twas the Night Before Christmas" actually referred to sugar-coated confections of chopped dried fruits, nuts and spices.
A few other Christmas foods might need decoding as well. For instance, why do we eat Yule logs, and why are gingerbread cookies shaped like men?
According to TLC, the Yule log, or Bûche de Noël, is meant to symbolize the tradition of burning a large log continuously on Christmas night. If the log extinguishes, it portends bad luck in the new year.
As for gingerbread men, unmarried women in England used to eat gingerbread "husbands" in the hopes of meeting real ones, TLC says.