Advent Calendar: Day 14 – Fruitcake – It’s in the Genes

Holiday Lament (The Fruitcake Song)

On some level, I think even fruitcake knows how awful it is.


Dislike of fruitcake supposedly dates back to the American Revolutionary War.

Legend has it that Commander-in-chief George Washington approached Benjamin Franklin one day to ask for barricade ideas to stop advancing British forces. Franklin suggested using his mother-in-law’s fruitcake; apparently his uncle had broken a tooth on one the previous year. It is doubtful that Washington took Franklin’s dubious advice.

Another legend proposes that George Washington, upon hearing from one of his men that they were out of ammunition, suggested that they fire fruitcakes at the British. Apparently many British soldiers were killed or maimed that day.

Finally, there was the story published in the New York Times in 1983, which tells of Russell Baker, the man who inherited a family fruitcake that had been baked in 1794 as a Christmas gift for George Washington. Washington apparently sent it back with a note of thanks, explaining that “he thought it unseemly for Presidents to accept gifts weighing more than 80 pounds, even though they were only eight inches in diameter.”

Mr. Baker coined the phrase, “Fruitcake is forever.”


I can only guess that my Colonial ancestors also had an aversion to fruitcake, since I have such a supreme distaste for it, myself.

If fruitcake is forever, then dislike of it must be in the genes.

This post is part of the “Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories” series. To learn more, or to join in the fun, please visit Geneabloggers.


Funny song from the original holiday musical revue, “That Time of the Year.” See

Fruitcake is Forever,” Russell Baker, New York Times, December 25, 1983, Section 6, p. 10, column 3 (subscription required to view the article).

Copyright © by Elizabeth O’Neal

Elizabeth is a genealogy and family history researcher, writer, and consultant. Adores good grammar and spelling, and believes the Oxford Comma is just misunderstood. Thrives on large quantities of coffee. One daughter, two rescued hounds, and a plethora of missing ancestors keep her on her toes.


  1. I am rolling on the flooring in laughter. I shared the video with my daughter is she is now stuck with the song in her head. This just priceless and such relatable history.
    Thank you for such a wonderful post. ; )

  2. So glad you enjoyed it, hummer! It cracked me up, too – and yes, the tune is also stuck in my head, but anything to get the Veggie Tales OUT is an improvement!

    Happy holidays to you!


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