1 December 2015

1 December: The social nature of the Christmas dinner

Christmas cuisine

On this first day of the advent, our eyes turn to Lotte Holm, a professor of sociology at the Department of Food and Resource Economics whose research addresses relationships between people and food. She presents us with her take on the social significance of the Christmas dinner.

Lotte Holm’s research addresses the relationships between people and food at numerous levels: in day-to-day life, in systems of production and in the political system, where food eventually becomes regulated. She also presents us with her take on the social significance of the Christmas dinner.

Christmas: A ritualised togetherness

In contrast to the popular belief that families spend less time together now than ever before, family remains central to Christmas. According to Lotte Holm:

"Mealtime is often associated with togetherness. At Christmas, this connection between meal, family and relatives is of exceptional importance. It is a ritualised togetherness where the extended family is united, and where the family is squarely at the centre of activity. I see this as a key aspect of Christmas."

A broad field

Lotte Holm enjoys her field because of the exciting nature of the knowledge to be acquired, a field that she chanced upon.

"It’s about the intimate – with family, body and identity – while also about broader socioeconomic and political forces. Therefore, a food sociologist can work with EU food and agricultural policies, while also addressing relationships between mothers and children, or how the body is managed in daily life. I really enjoy this ability to delve deeply into such a broad variety of issues."

Being a food sociologist provides access to key aspects of human life. Food is about identity and the relationship with body, family and other important people.

"When looking at food as a sociologist, one gets the chance to talk to people about the important things in their lives. And for me, this is incredibly interesting."

Important knowledge

Lotte Holm is in regular contact with the public and private sectors, as well as the media, all of whom are interested in her research.

"To know about people’s lives and their understanding of things, what people are interested in, worried and happy for, and how the every day lives of people are organised, is a foundation for the policies and regulation of foodstuffs. Furthermore, grasping the thoughts of consumers is incredibly relevant if a company wants to develop new products, or if an entire industry is going to develop a new initiative."

Shortly after completing her education as a sociologist, Lotte Holm was hired as a civil servant at the Danish Veterinary and Food Association. Without intending to, she had become involved in the field of food. She soon realised that she wanted to extend her knowledge in the field and returned to work in the university environment to conduct research.