Why do we drink eggnog & eat gingerbread around the holidays?

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NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) - Eggnog, gingerbread, spices - Christmas time is definitely here!

'tis the season of giving and living it up, right? Many of us try to impress with expensive gifts and displays, lavish parties, over-the-top libations and refreshments, and that’s really been the case since the Middle Ages. But back then, they showed off by serving spiced wine and cider.

“Spices were expensive, they came from faraway lands, so if you added spices to anything, it was a way to show that you were prosperous," said Drink & Learn Historian Elizabeth Pearce.

That meant bringing out the heavy, rich drinks, she said.

“Cream, sugar, eggs, add nut meg – egg nog is like the cake and candy of drinks," Pearce noted.

And if they really wanted to outdo everybody, they’d display ornate sugary structures.

“Sugar was very expensive. It was a way to show off. They made these enormous structures, huge gingerbread houses," said Pearce.

And that showiness has become tradition, something we’ve embraced for centuries.

“Holidays preserve something we have been doing for hundreds and hundreds of years. Even if that flavor begins to fall out of favor a little bit, it still occupies this place of something from the past, something from another time," said Pearce.

But bars and restaurants have found ways to  spice up these old holiday drinks, giving them a modern twist.

Roosevelt Hotel Bartender Andy Popovic serves up a specialty called Santa's Candy Cane, which heavy cream, rumplemintz, white crème de cacao, hot praline rum from New Orleans, fresh butter, brown sugar - and all spice.

So, the next time you’re toasting, whether it’s with a traditional egg nog or the Roosevelt’s hot butter rum, remember our ancestors wanted you to have fun this holiday and indulge a little. Happy holidays!