The History of Mince Pies
Like Christmas Puddings, were originally filled with ground up or 'minced' meat, such as lamb, as well as dried fruit and spices, which where they got their name from. Over the years the meet went out of them, as sugar and dried fruit became more affordable. So although they're still called Mince Pies, and their filling is still called 'mincemeat', there's no longer meat in them!
During the Stuart and Georgian times, in the UK, mince pies were a status symbol at Christmas. Very rich people liked to show off at their Christmas parties by having pies made is different shapes (like stars, crescents, hearts, tears, & flowers); the fancy shaped pies could often fit together a bit like a jigsaw! They also had pies which looked like the 'knot gardens' that were popular during those periods. Having pies like this meant you were rich and could afford to employ the best, and most expensive, pastry cooks.
During the Victorian period, less and less meat was in 'mincemeat' and the pies became small and round pies as we still have them today.
Some Victorian 'historians' also said that the first mince pies were made in an oval shape to represent the manger that Jesus slept in as a baby, with the top representing his swaddling clothes; and that sometimes they even had a 'pastry baby Jesus' on the top! However, that's not how the earliest pies were described in historical sources. It might have been that some Victorians wanted mince pies to have a 'religious' history to fit in with Christmas.
Now mince pies are eaten hot or cold. I like mine hot with some ice cream!
A custom from the middle ages says that if you eat a mince pie on every day from Christmas to Twelfth Night (evening of the 5th January) you will have happiness for the next 12 months!
If you'd like to know more about Mince Pies and where to get the best ones, please visit the UK based Mince Pie Club (goes to another site).