Let’s take a step away from our daydreams of smoked turkey, mashed potatoes, and pies for a second. Though we’re all looking forward to Christmas here in the States, let’s not forget we’re not the only ones celebrating the best holiday of the year (and if you think it’s not the best holiday, then you’re just wrong.)
It’s hard to imagine a Christmas different from our westernized winter wonderland. To help you out step out of your cultural boundaries, here’s a list of 7 countries and their food-related Christmas traditions.
Being a predominantly Christian country, Christmas is sacred in Spain. The Epiphany is an aspect of Christmas that is not widely celebrated in our culture, but is celebrated in many European countries. It falls on January 6th and represents the day in which God recognized Jesus as the Son of Christ in human form.
On this day, it is believed the Three Wise Men recreate their journey to Bethlehem. Spanish children will leave their shoes on the windowsill and fill them with carrots and barley to please Balthazar, the Wise Man who gives out presents. That sounds a little better than coal in a sock.
For the big Christmas meal (which they tend to eat on Christmas Eve,) the star of the show is a dish called Pavo Trufado de Navidad, which is turkey stuffed with mushrooms.
Deep down all Americans want to be more like the Aussies. But due to being on different sides of the equator, it’s hard to have an Australian Christmas here. Christmas falls in middle of Australia’s hot summers, which is represented in their Christmas menu. A typical Australian Christmas takes place as a picnic or a patio party. Wouldn’t that be fun to do here?
Popular Christmas goodies for our friends down under are ice cream (can you imagine eating cold ice cream in the middle of December here?), seafood, mince pies, and salads. These are just a few Aussie food traditions that you wouldn’t typically find in the U.S. And the fact that they get to celebrate Christmas a day earlier (thanks, time zones) makes Australian Christmas sound even better.
The Japanese do what we as Americans do on every other day of the year. That’s right- nom down on fast food. Believe it or not, buying a family sized meal of KFC chicken and wine or champagne is how many Japanese celebrate Christmas.
The first KFC in Japan opened in 1970. In 1974, a visiting family trying to find a turkey to eat on Christmas day ended up at KFC, because fried chicken is the next best bet, of course. The Japanese KFC company witnessed this and created their master mind advertising campaign. Go to KFC Japan’s website and you can see their campaign for “Kentucky Christmas 2014.”
Only 2.3% of Indians are Christian, but since India is such a large country, that still means around 25 million Indians celebrate Christmas. What makes an Indian Christmas interesting is their replacement of the traditional evergreen tree. Since evergreens are not found in the area, Indians will decorate banana or mango trees instead. I don’t know about you, but I can see bananas and mangos making great, no hassle ornaments. Also, Indian families will cover their house in mango leaves.
The Greek are known for having amazing food, and they continue to prove themselves around Christmas time. On Christmas Eve, many Greek boys carry a boat imbedded with gold painted nuts and carol from door to door. If they sing well, the adults give them dried figs, other sweets, and more nuts. Simple enough way to get food, right?
As for what they eat on Christmas day, a very popular dessert is melomakarono, which is an oval shaped biscuit cookie with olive oil, honey, and walnuts.
College students under 21 are about to get jealous real quick. On Christmas, children in Haiti get a lot of leeway that they don’t normally get to experience. On Christmas, children are allowed to drink “Anisette,” which is a rum drink with soaked anise leaves and sugar. In addition to drinking, younger children are allowed to be out and about as late as 3am, and the older kids are expected to look after them. Sucks to be an adult, am I right?
The few Egyptians who celebrate the religious aspect of the holiday participate in The Holy Nativity Fast. This lasts from November 25th to January 6th, which is their Christmas Eve. In this fast, Egyptian Christians basically become vegans- they don’t eat any animal products for 43 days. Once January 7th, the day they celebrate Christmas, rolls around, they have a huge feast eating everything they couldn’t during the fast.
Secularly, children and their families leave out kahk for Baba Noël. This is their equivalent of leaving out cookies for Santa. We’re not all that different, after all.
Of course, these are just a few of the interesting Christmas food customs that are practiced all around the world. Before you think these traditions are “weird” or “strange,” take a different perspective and wonder how strange they think it is for us to expect a large, red-suited man to come down our chimneys to give us presents all in exchange for some store-bought cookies. It’s all about perspective.
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