When it comes to the winter holidays, food traditions are an important part of the celebrations in countries all over the world, even if the foods vary.
You could eat mince pies or ham, depending on your preferences. Others believe that a holiday meal would be incomplete without fried chicken, fruit cake, or salted cod. Seasonal delicacies on your table may be sweet, savory, or a little bit of everything, depending on where you grew up and where you live now.
Let’s take a look at some of the world’s Christmas and Hanukkah food traditions.
1. Christmas Fried Chicken (Japan)
Kentucky Fried Chicken, or KFC, a fast-food chain, considers the Christmas season to be the most wonderful time of the year in Japan. Because approximately 3.6 million Japanese families eat KFC on Christmas Eve, reservations are frequently required up to two months in advance.
During the 1970s, KFC created a holiday party bucket and a brilliant marketing strategy to go with it. Japan didn’t have many Christmas traditions at the time. KFC stepped in to fill the void by telling customers, “Here’s something you should do on Christmas.” The craze spread quickly. Today’s KFC Christmas bucket contains more than just fried chicken. It also contains a Christmas cake, which is an important food item on the Japanese holiday menu.
2. Kūčios (Lithuania)
Kūčios, the traditional Lithuanian Christmas dinner, is held every year on December 24th. HostingKūčios is no easy task – this meal can take up to a week to prepare. For Lithuanians, the holidays are about spending time with family, so a week of meal prep is a great opportunity for families to get together, which is probably why the tradition has survived.
3. Latkes (Israel)
Latkes, in various forms, have been a crucial component of Hanukkah tradition ever since Middle Ages. Latkes are fried potato pancakes that are cooked in oil. This commemorates the fact that the Second Temple kept the Menorah burning with oil for eight days. Other dishes eaten as part of this tradition include fried doughnuts and fritters. Hanukkah gelt, or small chocolate coins, are given to children by relatives.
4. Christmas Goose (Germany)
The Weihnachtsgans, or Christmas goose, is the central focus of the German Christmas feast. Eating goose was originally associated with St. Martin’s Day, but it eventually became a part of the Christmas meal.
The goose is served with red cabbage, dumplings, gravy, and sauerkraut, and is often stuffed with apples, chestnuts, onions, and prunes before being spiced with mugwort and marjoram. The oldest known recipe for this dish comes from ‘Das Buch von gutter Speise,’ a recipe book published in 1350.
5. Panettone (Italy)
Italy has numerous regional traditions when it comes to Christmas dinner. In some parts of Italy, they celebrate with The Feast of the Seven Fishes. This meal includes seven different fish prepared in seven different ways. More often than not, two of the featured items are baccala (salted cod) and calamari. In other areas, they eat roasted lamb, or poultry roasted or boiled and seasoned with sauce.
Sweets also play an important role during the holiday season, and in Northern Italy, one of the infamous holiday sweets is panettone – a cake with candied fruit, chocolate, raisins, and nuts. Other treats include torrone, nougat, marzipan, zeppole, cannoli, and pandoro.
6. Tamales (Costa Rica)
Tamales are a Christmas tradition in Costa Rica, with each family having their own secret recipe. Tomales is made from corn dough that has been wrapped in a banana leaf or corn husk and steamed. Some are filled with pork, while others are filled with beef or chicken. Garlic, onion, potatoes, and raisins are some other ingredients that could be used in the filling.
7. Christmas Pudding (England)
This dish is known by a number of different names. This dessert, also known as figgy pudding, plum pudding, ‘pud,’ or Christmas pudding, is a major Christmas tradition in England, Ireland, and parts of the United States.
Contrary to its name, plum pudding does not contain plums. During the pre-Victorian era, ‘plums’ referred to what we now call raisins, and because dried fruits are an important component of this pudding, that is how it got its name.
Christmas pudding, which is primarily made of suet, egg, molasses, spices, and dried fruits, is set alight with brandy right before serving.
8. Bûche de Noël (France)
La Bûche de Noël is a dessert that represents the Yule Log, which was traditionally carried into the home, sprinkled with wine, and then burned on Christmas Eve. When the practice began to fade in the 1940s, this dessert took over.
La Bûche de Noël, which is often made from sponge cake and chocolate buttercream, resembles a real log. Other pastry variations have emerged. Recipes for everything from tiramisu to cran-raspberry mascarpone, caramel cream to Meyer lemon are now available.
9. Kolivo коливо (Bulgaria)
Kolivo, boiled wheat with sugar and walnuts, is a traditional Bulgarian Christmas Eve dish. Both Russia (кyт) and Poland (kutia) have dishes that are similar to pudding.
Kolivo can be made in a variety of ways, also with honey, poppy seed, other grains, rice, beans, or dried fruit. It is frequently associated with Orthodox traditions. It can also be found on tables in Serbia, Romania, Georgia, and Ukraine.
10. Melomakarona (Greece)
Want to try these cookies with orange zest that have been soaked in honey and topped with walnuts? Yes, please! This is a traditional holiday treat that can be found on many Greek tables. These cookies, known as melomakarona, are said to taste similar to baklava.
Melomakarona are soaked in a honey-sugar water mixture and sprinkled with walnuts immediately after baking. A dark chocolate-dipped version of this recipe is also available. In any case, sign me up.
11. Cookies (Poland)
Poland is another country that serves cookies during the holiday season. Koaczki is a flaky, jelly-filled confection made with sour cream or cream cheese dough.
These fold-over cookies are available with a variety of fillings. If apricots or raspberries aren’t your things, try with poppy seed, nuts, or sweet cheese. They’re dusted with confectioners’ sugar before serving.
12. Bacalao (Mexico)
Bacalao, or salted cod, is not a popular holiday dish in most countries, but it is a staple in Mexico. Prior to refrigeration, salted and preserved meats and fish were required. This is no longer the case, but the practice persists. And when the fish is rehydrated and cooked, as in the case of bacalao, the result is tender and delicious.
Bacalao a la Mexicana is made in Mexico with tomato, ancho chiles, onions, almost, potato, and olives. It’s filling and definitely warms you up!
13. Saffron Buns (Sweden)
Julbord, a three-course meal, is traditionally served at Christmas in Sweden. The first course is usually fish – usually pickled herring. Following that, cold cuts (including Christmas ham) and sausages are served. Meatballs and a potato casserole known as Janssons frestelse are frequently served as the third course.
Rice pudding is a popular dessert, but the Swedes are also known to make Saffron Buns around this time of year. Saffron buns are sweet and frequently yellow (due to the saffron, of course!). They are formed into an “S” shape before being baked into their final buttery form. By tradition, the oldest daughter serves them to the family, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying your hand at making them and, more importantly, enjoying the end result.
14. Roast Pig (Philippines)
Noche Buena, or Christmas dinner, is served after families attend the Misa de Gallo (“Mass of the Rooster”). The main attraction is Hamón (cured pork leg) or Lechón (spit-roasted pig). It is frequently accompanied by quesa de bola (a ball of cheese), pasta, lumpia (spring rolls), and fruit salad.
In the Philippines, Christmas is a big deal. It has the longest Christmas season, with carols beginning as early as September and usually ending around January 9th with the feast of the Black Nazarene. Officially, however, the holiday is observed from December 16th to the first Sunday of the New Year.
15. Food Board (Finland)
For their Christmas dinner with Joulupöytä, Fins go buffet style, or literally ‘Christmas table’ style. This traditional food board is similar to the Swedish smörgsbord or julbord. It includes seasonal dishes such as Christmas ham, fish, and casseroles.
Other dishes on the menu may include mushroom salad, pickled herring, and Karelian stew. Desserts include joulutahti (tarts), piparkakku (Gingerbread), and rice pudding.
16. Fruitcake (US)
is the gift that keeps on giving
Calvin Trillin proposed that there is only one fruitcake, which is simply passed down from family to family each year. The mere mention of fruitcake makes most Americans cringe. However, for some reason, this item continues to circulate – something made possible by the cakes being soaked in alcohol or other liquors to keep them from molding.
Do you not believe me? On Tonight, Jay Leno sampled a cake that had been kept as a family heirloom since 1878. The Antarctic Heritage Trust discovered a 106-year-old fruitcake that was “almost edible” in 2017.