As I mentioned last week, I will be spending this upcoming holiday season with my husband’s family for the first time. One thing I was very eager to find out, what exactly do they eat during this time? This then got me wondering what others around the world, those who are fortunate enough to be having a holiday meal, would be eating. So I did a little bit of a research and discovered an amazing array of cultural and religious traditions spanning the globe. Above all, however, the research highlighted to me how lucky those of us currently in 'food preparation mode' are and also the immense importance of hunger relief services for those in need. That being said, I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season and please enjoy this rundown of some interesting meal traditions from around the world!
One of the most extravagant options that I came across was the Italian feast of the seven fishes. This Christmas Eve tradition is centered on “the Vigil”, which refers to the wait for Jesus’ birth at midnight. It consists of many fish and seafood courses, due to the Catholic tradition of avoiding meat and butter on the eve of holy days. The types of fish and preparation techniques vary depending on the region but popular dishes include Baccalà (salt cod) with pasta, stuffed calamari and octopus.
Here is a recipe guide for a full Italian feast.
This is the traditional dinner that I grew up eating and frankly one I highly recommend to anyone interested! Although there are some differences across the country, the basic premise of the meal is reasonably consistent. It begins with some kind of seafood starter, shrimp cocktail perhaps (personally my choice is smoked salmon). The main event consists of turkey and stuffing, crispy roasted potatoes, carrots, parsnips and of course, brussel sprouts. This is served with mini sausages wrapped in bacon, gravy, cranberry sauce and the most delicious item of all, bread sauce. Christmas pudding is the traditional ending to our meal but frankly i'm normally far too full at this point and a handful of quality street will usually do.
Here are recipes for all of the items mentioned and a few others.
In the early 1970's KFC in Japan started promoting their food as a great celebratory meal and thanks to the 1974 marketing campaign “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!” (Kentucky for Christmas!) they have succeeded in making Japan the third largest worldwide consumer of KFC. Christmas isn't a public holiday in Japan, in fact less than 1% of the country considers themselves to be Christian and yet the KFC Christmas feast has become an ingrained nationwide tradition. Despite starting out as quite a basic meal, the full Christmas meal now costs around $40 and even includes cake and champagne. Most people order their food months in advance in order to avoid the several hour long queues that await on December 24th.
Jewish people all around the world celebrate this eight-day religious festival with menorahs, dreidels and plenty of delicious things to eat. It is customary to eat foods that have either been fried in oil or are made with cheese. The most traditional of the items on the menu are latkas (fried potato pancakes), which are served with applesauce or sour cream, and sufganiyot (jelly-filled doughnuts). Other favorites include brisket, soft pretzels in the shape of Hanukkah symbols, kugel and cheese crackers.
Recipes for all types of foods popular during Hanukkah can be found here.
Kwanzaa is a week long holiday, centered around the celebration of African American and Pan-African family, community and culture. Throughout the week many African-American, as well as traditional African, Caribbean, and South American foods are served and this culminates on the sixth day, when families, friends and entire communities gather together for the great feast of Karamu. The menu to be served could be a group effort with everyone bringing a favorite dish or food from a particular country. Meals often include popular foods such as Jollof Rice, a traditional West African dish, jerk meats from the Caribbean, and black beans that are popular in Caribbean and South American dishes.
Here are a wide variety of recipes to help you celebrate Kwanzaa this year.
As in many other countries, traditional Christmas food in Mexico varies by region. There are, however, several dishes that remain constant staples throughout. Ensalada de Noche Buena (Christmas Salad) is not only delicious but incredibly festive to look at, containing lettuce and beetroots, it may also include apple, carrot, orange, pineapple, jicama, pecans or peanuts, and pomegranate seeds as a garnish. Buñuelos, served with hot drinks on cold nights, are like a sweet tostada either sprinkled with sugar or covered in syrup. Tamales are a main staple, alongside Ponche Navideño (fruit punch) and salt cod.
A list of recipes to help you prepare a Mexican Christmas feast can be found here.