You may be surprised how many Christmas traditions involve smashing things. In Oaxaca, the festivities include breaking ceramic plates near the cathedral to signify the end of the year. In England, shops sell slabs of toffee with tiny hammers for all your whacking needs. And in Saratoga Springs, New York, locals visit Saratoga Sweets to buy a small peppermint pig to smash for good luck.
On the Eleventh Day of Imported Christmas, we ordered our own peppermint pig to add a little more smashing to our holiday lineup.
Tradition has it the peppermint pig was invented in the 1880s by Jim Mangay, who was encouraged by European chefs to make something like the marzipan pigs they had back home. Mangay didn’t have marzipan, but he did have peppermint oil, and the hard candy minty pig was born. The pig remained popular until the sugar rationing of WWII, when it faded into obscurity.
In 1988, Saratoga candy maker Mike Fitzgerald brought them back, even using one of the original pig molds, to the delight of older and younger residents alike.
The pig ceremony is thought to bring good luck to everyone who participates. Each pig comes with a cloth bag and a tiny aluminum hammer. Everyone around the table takes turns hitting the pig in the bag to break a piece off, then shares something fortunate that happened that year.
We ordered two pigs, one the original plain peppermint, and one that had been wallowing in a chocolate mud puddle. They did require a firm hand with the hammer to break initially, but we soon had delicious pieces to share. Overall, we highly recommend this tradition and are particularly fond of the chocolate covered pig for both deliciousness and adorability.
Interested in learning about more international Christmas traditions? Follow our 12 Days of Imported Christmas:
Twelve Days of Imported Christmas
- The First Day: Chichilaki—Georgia’s Shaved Christmas Tree
- The Second Day: Lotería de Navidad—Spain’s Communal Christmas Lottery
- The Third Day: Stargazy Pie—Cornwall’s Town-Saving Fish Dish
- The Fourth Day: Rellenong Manok—The Phillipines’ Elaborately Stuffed Christmas Chicken
- The Fifth Day: Himmeli—Finland’s Geometric Straw Ornaments
- The Sixth Day: Figgy Pudding—England’s Fiery Festive Centerpiece
- The Seventh Day: Glückspilz—Germany’s Lucky Mushroom
- The Eighth Day: Pumpple Cake—Philadelphia’s Quadruple Dessert
- The Ninth Day: Porchetta—Italy’s Decadent Pork Centerpiece
- The Tenth Day: Julkalender—Sweden’s Serialized TV Christmas Countdown
- The Eleventh Day: Peppermint Pig—Saratoga’s Shattered Sow
- The Twelfth Day: Ursul—Romania’s Bear Dance Festival