I have been hearing (and sometime listening to) the origins of many Christmas traditions, and this year became interested in what I consider the most unusual of Christmas traditions – the giving and (reluctantly) receiving of fruitcake. I found a brief history (here) and thought it might interest you. If not… go eat a fruitcake.
Like many Christmas traditions, the idea of giving fruitcakes as gifts is thought to have originated in ancient times. No one ever recorded who took the first cake and added fruit, honey, nuts, and alcohol to make an edible gift for their family, but records indicate that this tradition was occurring in Rome prior to the birth of Jesus (B.C.).
One of the main reasons fruitcakes were given as gifts in early times is that the ingredients combined in such a way as to greatly reduce the spoiling of this food. This was a huge advantage when the average family had very little control over their food supply, and allowed people to travel longer distances since they could carry a food supply with them that would not spoil.
The fruitcake as we know it today evolved from plum cake recipes in England. It became a natural food to have for holiday celebrations, since it could be made in advance (sometimes many months in advance) and then families could be prepared to give their visitors a treat.
After trying to eat a piece of fruitcake, I have joined the list of people who believe that fruitcakes are never consumed, just created and given as gifts to others. One day, our planet will be overwhelmed with fruitcakes and they will all need to be dumped into an ocean, possibly creating the new continent of ‘fruitcakia’. Or, maybe they will just be used as bricks in the building of skyscrapers.