Since the earliest times the people of Europe have gathered together, either as families or as whole communities, to celebrate their traditional festivals - their high days and holidays, their harvests, their births, weddings and funerals. At Christmas and New Year and Easter, and at the pagan festivals that preceded them, people ate the dishes sanctified by custom for those occasions. The best local produce was served at these feasts but often with the extra savor of the unfamiliar: exotic spices in cold northern countries, fish from icy Atlantic waters in the sunny south. Ritual and ceremony, some of it very ancient, accompanied the food. From all over Europe from Scotland to the Mediterranean, from Hungary to Cornwall, Elisabeth Luard has collected descriptions of these traditional feasts and festivals, many of which she has experienced first hand, and hundreds of recipes for the dishes appropriate to them. As well as being a unique and wonderfully readable cookery book, "European Festival Food" is written with the scrupulous attention to detail and authenticity that is the hallmark of Elisabeth Luard's cookery writing, the recipes are peppered with hundreds of fascinating anecdotes and little known facts about local history and folklore. Starting with December the book is organized according to the months of the year and so it importantly also reminds us of the cycle of seasonality that is now once again regarded as the natural and much more enjoyable way to shop and eat.