With the season of all things sweet and savoury, just around the corner, here’s a little something about the numerous mouth-watering Christmas traditions followed around the world.
A true joy for all food lovers, Christmas in the various parts of the world comes with its unique surprises and delicacies.
Christmas in North America
The traditions of Christmas in the North Americas are those that have been glorified by popular culture for decades. The lush green Christmas tree dressed with colourful decorations is placed in the corner of every suburban house.The gift-wrapped presents block the view of the foundation of the Christmas tree, sit in awe of the fireplace that is lit to keep the house warm.
Such a setting is incomplete without some delicacies to keep the Christmas spirit alive. Here are some of the prevalent Christmas foods in North America:
- Deviled Eggs: These are prepared by removing the yolks from hard boiled eggs, following which the yolks are mixed with other ingredients such as mustard, mayonnaise, and spices. Because the birthday of God is incomplete without the Devil, right?
- Eggnog: At first, the thought of drinking something with eggs in it, is disgusting. But add a few spices blended in with some alcohol (of course), and you got yourself some pleased consumers of this Christmas drink. The first President of the United States, George Washington, had his own recipe for the same!
- COOKIES! : Now obviously, every Christmas has its fair share of sweetmeats. Canadian Christmas is incomplete without their cookie baking parties, where family members bake certain biscuits and bring them to Christmas gatherings, where they exchange their recipes with each other.
- Turkey: The Turkey is the staple of every Christmas dinner. Before the 1500s, chickens and cows were eaten for Christmas. But as cows were needed for milk and chickens for the eggs, eating a Turkey became a Christmas tradition throughout the Western Civilization.
Christmas in South America
Christmas is celebrated in numerous ways in South America. In Brazil, the main Christmas dinner is on the 24th of December. It showcases local foods such as fruits, vegetables, and Brazilian nuts. Just like us Indians, the Brazilians enjoy their staple, coloured rice, accompanied with platters of ham, and roast turkey.
In Peru, it is a similar story with the turkey and the rice, except that the people of Peru enjoy roast potatoes and hot chocolate in their Christmas dinner. The lesser enjoyed of the sweet dishes is Marzipan that is made with the Brazil nut. This is not as common as their loved dessert, the Panettone (sweet bread loaf), which is native to Italy. Step up your Christmas game, Peru!
In Colombia, similar to Brazil, the main Christmas dinner is actually on Christmas Eve, where the family gathers together for the meal which consists of Empanadas (a breaded delicacy), Sudado de Pollo (Chicken Stew), and various other dishes. Sadly, in modern days, kids demand Pizzas, Lasagna, and Hot Dogs.
All in all, it is safe to say that South Americans have heavy Christmas Eve dinners, and spend the Christmas holiday in the right manner. With full tummies and a a good day of sleep.
Christmas in Asia
Asia has always been known to be a competition for the rest of the world with regard to the culinary arts. In the Philippines, the Christmas feast starts after the clock strikes twelve on the dawn of Christmas. This feast includes the likes of the bibingka (a type of pudding), puto bungbong (a snack made of sticky rice), kare-kare (oxtail stew in peanut butter sauce), and a lot more.
The Japanese enjoy a more commercial form of Christmas, with a Christmas Cake being a sponge with whipped cream and some fruit as a topping. A 1970s Christmas commercial by KFC made celebrating Christmas dinner in a KFC as a weird custom that many in the island follow. As the Japanese are a close-knit set of people, presents are mostly exchanged between lovers or close friends.
In India, a variety of foods is cooked, with Biryani, chicken or mutton curry is commonly seen on the dining table, followed by a bowl of Kheer. Christian communities of old in India, such as the Goan Catholics have pork and beef dishes such as Pork Vindaloo and Sorpatel as part of their main course for the Christmas dinner. For dessert, the Bebinca is a favourite amongst all Goans and really widens the culinary spectrum of Christmas in Asia.
Christmas in Australia
Christmas, being celebrated in the Summer in the Southern Hemisphere, creates a unique experience in Australia different to the traditional celebrations in the other parts of the world. Along with a warm blend of European and American cuisines, Australians have also come up with their own Christmas-y variations. From the dessert ‘White Christmas’ especially popular among kids too as it is easy to make, to the historically acclaimed Eggnog, a rich and sweetened dairy-based beverage, the festive season rings merrily among everyone across the land. The Christmas dinner typically involves the delicious Christmas Ham, glazed with maple or apricot and accompanied by baked apple or cranberry sauce.
Christmas in Europe
Being the centre of all the festive humdrum, Christmas in Europe is by far the most widely celebrated and popular holiday amongst all. The finger-licking array of food items ranging from meats to desserts makes it a popular winter destination worldwide.
In the United Kingdom, what is now regarded as the traditional meal consists of roast turkey with cranberry sauce, served with roast potatoes and parsnips and other vegetables, followed by Christmas Yorkshire pudding, a heavy steamed pudding made with dried fruit, suet(raw fat of beef or mutton), and very little flour. Other roast meats may be served, and in the nineteenth century, the customary roast was the goose. The same carries over to Ireland with a few variations, like spiced beef and caraway seed cakes.
The French and the Germans have a sweet treat at Christmas time, with the Yule log, a rolled sponge cake filled with buttercream and iced with either chocolate buttercream or icing. Its name comes from the fact that it is said to resemble a log of wood.
In Germany, originating from Nuremberg, comes the sweet gingerbread, a delicacy for all with the sweet tooth. Gluhwine or Glogg, is a type of red wine that is spiced, sugared and ‘mulled’ and drunk warm in different parts of Europe, on cold winter nights
Roasted meats like pork, duck, and varieties of different birds, although the most popular food items on the table are nowhere to be seen on Christmas eve feasts in a few countries like Italy and Bulgaria. Often a light seafood meal is eaten, and then people go to the Midnight Mass service followed by Italian Christmas Cake called ‘Panettone’, which is like a dry fruity sponge cake and a cup of hot chocolate! In Bulgaria, it is tradition to eat a special ring-shaped caked called ‘kolaks’ on this day, along with a vegetarian meal and dried fruits.
In Poland, in the “Kolacja wigilijna” (Christmas Eve supper), there are 12 dishes – they are meant either to give you good luck for the next 12 months or in the symbolism of the 12 disciples of Jesus. The meal is traditionally meat-free, this is to remember the animals who took care of baby Jesus in the manger in Bethlehem. It is also obligatory to at least try the beetroot soup- Barszcz, eaten with mushroom dumplings- Uszka
Rice porridge and various Christmas cakes and biscuits are popular among the folk in and around the regions of Norway, where the main dish on Christmas Eve usually is pork or mutton ribs served with white or red cabbage.
All in all, Christmas around the world could in no way be more magical with all the different customs and traditions followed so passionately amongst the cultures, and the food comes a long way in showing the festive spirit.
Families coming together to enjoy a hot home made meal, and children holding candy canes and beautifully baked goodies are the true joy of the holiday season, a wonderful sight to behold
Sources: Morrisons Blog, Rio Times Online, NDTV, Kelloggs, Uvinum UK, foodandwine.com, The Hello Fresh Blog
Design Credits: Naman Jain and Mayank Kashyap
Anirudh Kamath and Josephine Jacinta Justin for MTTN