What People Around the World Eat for Christmas:
Around the world there are many traditions surrounding this time of year. There tends to be one commonality, and that is eating.
Even in Japan, where Christmas is not celebrated, due to a wildly successful marketing campaign in the 70’s, eating KFC is synonymous with yuletide cheer. In my family we would usually do a roast or some kind of stuffed bird, but nothing was ever set in stone. I began asking around and doing some research to see what other people did for their Christmas celebration. It turns out there is quite a lot of variety out there. My best friend (whose family is Italian), does the feast of the seven fishes. Which is an incredibly fancy affair by my family’s standards on Christmas Eve, where her father cooks seven to nine fish dishes. While the number “seven” is up for debate, some say it is the seven hills surrounding Rome, others say the seven sacraments of the holy church. Regardless, this sounds like a tradition that I would like to be part of.
Cultures around the world vary pretty heavily on what is consumed around Christmastime, so I have rounded up a few of my favorites:
England: Traditionally, what is eaten in England looks pretty much like what most American families are used to. A few of the most commonly served dishes are roast, turkey, gravy, brussell sprouts, pigs in a blanket, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. A few differences… blood pudding for one, and also people are given these little wrapped packages call Christmas crackers that you pull apart at each end. When they open, there is usually a little trinket or joke inside and a silly paper hat.
South Africa: It is sunny here this time of year, and they typically eat a roast (or duck), suckling pig, yellow rice, raisins and vegetables, and a traditional pudding called Malva. Often the meal is eaten in the sun, and due to the history of UK colonialism, Christmas crackers are the norm, as well as the celebrating Boxing Day.
Bangladesh: Typically after church services, people gather for “Preeti-bhoj” or “Prem-bhoj”, which translates as “love feast” to have a dinner of curries, rice, vegetables, and sweet cakes called “pitha”. Christmas is a national holiday in Bangladesh, even though less than one percent of the population are Christians, (around 85% of the population is Muslim). Trees and fake snow as decorations have also become increasingly popular.
Germany: Typically goose or carp are served, along with a traditional bread called Stollen, which is basically like rum bread with fruit. On another note, advent is a pretty big deal here, so most homes will feature a big advent calendar. Their Christmas markets are huge, and they usually sell traditional Christmas food and decorations.
Serbia: Often families gather together to eat cabbage stuffed with rice and ground beef, as well as roast pork. They celebrate St Nichols Day (December 19th), and while under communist control, the government did not approve of St Nicholas/Santa, so instead they decided to created their own version called Grandfather Frost.
The Philippines: Christmas is huge in the Philippines, with music, decorations and celebrations beginning in September. On Christmas Eve, everyone stays awake until the Noche Buena, which is a big feast consisting of rice cakes, roast pig, fruit salad, and tons of drinks.
Greece: You will find a lot of Christmas trees in Greece, as well as decorative ships. Some of the favorite things to serve around Christmas are roast lamb (usually over a spit), spinach and cheese pie, baklava (filo dough pastry dripping in honey), and other sweet goods.
Regardless of how you celebrate this season, this is a time for family, friends, and most importantly, food. What are some of your favorite foods to have over the holidays?
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