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The history of Mince Pies

History, Myths and Traditions of Mince Pies

Christmas is that time of the year when we all indulge in traditional and amazing Christmas treats that insist on spoiling our diets, and Mince Pies are no exception.

But how is it that this medieval treat has managed to remain on our Christmas shopping lists throughout the centuries, and have they changed at all over the years? The answers might surprise you…

So, before you take another bite of that deep filled Mr. Kipling - let’s take a deep dive into the history of the humble Mince Pie.


Once upon a time...

Mince Pies story and facts

Mince pies have been consumed in Britain for centuries, but definitely not in the same way we actually know them today. First, as a mix of minced meat with spices, Mince Pies were served at times as the main meal. Nowadays, with dried fruit replacing meat, Mince Pies are served as a sweet treat at Christmas time.


12th Century

- Crusades, returning from the Middle East, first brought these “spicy meat pies” to Britain’s shores, while bringing back spices from the Middle East.

- The pie was a mix of minced meat (such as lamb, pork, rabbit, mutton…) with spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.


13th Century

- Mince Pies had become a Christmas indulgence for most Brits.


17th Century

- This was when big changes to the filling were made with the inclusion of a dried fruit mix of currants, raisins and various spices like cinnamon and nutmeg.

- At this time, original meat-filled Mince Pies were still being enjoyed all over Britain.


18th Century

- Despite many Mince Pies becoming gradually smaller and more sugary, still many enjoyed them with spicy meat as the main ingredient.


19th Century

- Meat disappears from the original recipe, and Mince Pies become as we know them today!


Myths and Traditions

Myths, facts and traditions of Mince Pies


  1. Originally British?

    No, Mince Pies were not a British creation. Despite being adopted as a British tradition, the idea actually began in the 13th Century, with European Crusades (albeit some of them British) returning to their homelands from the Middle East. However, the fruit-based Mince Pie we all think of today, is considered by many as of British origin.

  2. Symbolism

    Cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg: these ingredients represent the gifts given to Jesus by the three Eastern Kings

  3. Bad Luck

    English tradition dictates that when making Mince Pies, it should only be stirred clockwise! Stirring anti-clockwise was thought to bring bad luck and poor fortune for the next 12 months!

  4. Good Luck

    Eating a Mince Pie every day for the Twelve Days of Christmas (from Christmas Eve till evening of the 5th January) was thought to ensure happiness and good health in the months ahead!

  5. Oval Shape?

    In the beginning, Mince Pies used to be Oval shaped, instead of circular, representing Baby Jesus’ manger. The top represented his swaddling clothes.

  6. Mince… what?

    Mincemeat pies, Shred pies, Christmas pies, Wayfarer’s pies and Mutton pies are just some of the names that Mince Pies had throughout the years.

  7. Lucky Santa!

    As a tradition on Christmas Eve, in some Western countries including Britain and North America, children and their parents leave out Mince Pies with brandy, as a gift for Santa. Cheers Santa!

Do you have your Office Christmas treats sorted out? Don't forget to stock up on extra mince pies for Santa! 😉

Filipe Ferrao

Filipe Ferrao

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