Season’s Eatings from Around the World

We wish you all the very best this holiday season! Since no celebration would be complete without food, we thought it would be fun to share winter holiday traditions from around the world. Grab a cup of good cheer and settle in for a fun, informative read about holiday foods from around the world.

The winter season is loaded with holidays, both religious and not. These celebrations often focus on food and people around the world celebrate the winter holiday season with a variety of delicious traditional dishes. Many of these customs center around Christmas (which 45 percent of people worldwide celebrate) and extend into the New Year. Others go along with holidays associated with the winter solstice, other non-religious winter holidays (such as Kwanzaa), and religions besides Christianity (including Buddhism and Judaism).

Though these foods are all quite different in both look and flavor, they all share a tendency toward decadence. Full of fat and flavor! Continue reading to discover the holiday foods they serve at this time of year a few of the countries from around the world.

Japan – Believe it or not, Christmas Eve dinner in Japan calls for a bucket of Southern fried chicken. Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) ran a wildly successful Christmas campaign in 1974. Since then, Japanese (for whom Christmas is not a traditional holiday) have grabbed a Christmas meal deal of chicken and wine, sometimes reserving their meal months in advance to avoid the lines on Christmas Eve.

Moving into the New Year, the Japanese enjoy Osechi Ryori to celebrate the day. This all-encompassing word includes an assortment of foods packed in special display boxes. The special dishes include datemaki (a sweet omelette), kuri kinton (candied chestnuts and sweet potatoes), kuromame (sweetened black beans), kazunoko (soy-sauce soaked herring caviar), and many others. Each dish has its own symbolic meaning and families will often change the foods served from year to year.

France – On the savory side, oysters and foie gras are consumed in large quantities during the holiday season. In fact, 70 percent of France’s total consumption for these two dishes happens during the time from Christmas to New Year’s Day. For the sweet side, France draws on the Celtic traditions of celebrating the winter solstice with a burning log. Rather than a flaming branch, the French set a freshly cut log on the table and surrounded it with sweet treats. Pastry chefs took it one step farther and invented the Bûche de Noël, a log-shaped cake.

The French also add a variety of cheeses, escargot, and smoked salmon to the menu for their New Year’s Eve celebration. Mont d’Or, a delightly mild cheese, is a table staple. Escargot, snails seasoned in a variety of ways including buttered, will often make an appearance. Finally, saumon fume or smoked salmon are served chilled on top of canapés (a cracker, puff pastry, or bread) along with chives and crème fraiche.

Norway – The Norwegians celebrate juletid from December through January, so a variety of meals come with the long holiday season. A typical dinner might include lutefisk, mashed peas, boiled potatoes, butter sauce, bacon bits and melted geitost (a brown goat cheese). Lutefisk is made by “cooking’ dried fish in a lye bath. The result is a gelatinous fishy slab. Pinnekjøtt is another dish served at this time of year. The name literally translates as “stick meat” because lamb or mutton that has been dried is simmered with birch sticks that add a minty flavor. Finally, ribbe or roast pork rib is a classic Norwegian holiday dish. Norwegians generally eat a roasted turkey, mutton ribs, or fish on New Year’s Eve, along with seafood smörgåstårta, a pile of smoked salmon, avocado, and baby shrimp.

Phillipines – Christmas breakfast consists bibingka, of a puff pastry made with rice flour and coconut milk contained in a banana leaf that’s baked in terra cotta pots. It’s topped with kesong puti (a type of white cheese) and shredded coconut. Sometimes a salted duck egg is added for extra savory flavor.

New Year’s dinner is heavy on the pork, which is considered lucky. Often, Filipinos roast a whole pig. If not, they grill pork chunks on a stick, fry pork rind (ilokano bagnet), and braise pork leg (patatim). Beef, chicken, and fish are also served in a variety of dishes from sweet and sour to spicy. Noodles, also a symbol of good luck, also make the menu.

Mexico – A mild-flavored plant called romerito is served with a pancake-like pastry made from powdered shrimp and egg whites all smothered in mole sauce. They are eaten during Posada, the nine days before Christmas. A thick, creamy hot chocolate called champurrado is consumed on Christmas Eve. Champurrado is made from corn flour and Mexican chocolate, along with milk, water, or both. It’s sometimes seasoned with cinnamon or anise.

In Mexico, the New Year is rung in with bacalao (dried, salted codfish). Mexicans eat lentils, considered a symbol of prosperity because of their coin-like shape. Tamales, corn cakes steamed in corn husks that often have beans, beef, chicken, or pork, also make an appearance. Dessert consists of a rice pudding called arroz con leche.

China – As part of Dongzhi, a celebration of the winter solstice which literally translates to “the extreme of winter,” rice flour dumplings are served with sweet and savory broths or syrups. One sweet syrup is made using pandan leaf and ginger. The dumplings are often colored pink, yellow, and white for good luck.

The Chinese celebrate their New Year later in January rather than on the first. Their traditional foods include rice cakes, fish (which they leave leftovers of to symbolize overflowing prosperity), sweet rice balls, turnip cakes, dumplings, long noodles (which represent longevity), mustard greens, fruit (including lots of citrus), and spring rolls.

Finland – Served on Christmas Day, the Finnish gobble up riisipuuro, a porridge made from rice cooked in milk, similar to rice pudding. Toppings include cinnamon with a dab of butter and a splash of milk or a thick soup made from prunes. A single almond is often put into the porridge. The person who finds it in their dish gets to make a wish.

The Finns mark the New Year with a Nordic Smörgåsboard, a buffet with dishes from neighboring Norway. Foods may include smoked fish, Lapland bread cheese (a fried dessert), voorschmack (a salty minced meat), and various sweets like pulla (cardamom bread).