Is there any better feeling than waking up to presents on Christmas morning and smelling the beginnings of the best roast of the year? Nothing beats a golden turkey with all the trimmings, followed by a Christmas pudding, surrounded by family in full view of a Christmas tree.
But Christmas doesn’t just happen in England. From salted cod to KFC, here are some of the ways the rest of the world celebrate the Christmas festivities.
Costa Rica – Tamales
This Christmas tradition is made of corn dough, wrapped in a corn husk or banana leaf, filled with a variety of fillings. Some are filled with Pork, Beef, or Chicken but every family will have their own ‘secret recipe’. They will be flavoured with garlic, onion, potatoes or even raisins, and shared between family and friends.
France – Buche De Noel
This Yule Log dessert is a symbolic representation of a medieval tax given at Christmas time called the ‘right of the log’. Peasants were ordered to carry a large piece of wood to the Lord of the Manor’s house to feed his fire. Years later, they began doing it for their own houses, decorating it with ribbons and pouring oil or wine over the wood to keep it burning for several days
In the 1940’s this tradition started to disappear, and so the chocolatey version began to make an appearance.
Mexico – Bacalao
Bacalao is a staple part of any Mexican Christmas feast. Sold all over Mexico during Christmastime, this salted cod recipe originated in Spain, before being adapted by the Spanish settlers. The cod is rehydrated and cooked with tomatoes, anchovies, onions, potato, olives and chillies – perfect for warming you up when it’s cold outside!
Sweden – Saffron Buns
St Lucia Day, also known as the festival of light, is celebrated on December 13th in the spirit of Advent and Christmas. Young girls dress in white robes with red sashes and carry a single candle, while the parents’ eldest daughter is selected as ‘Lucia’ – she then wears a crown of candles and delivers coffee and ‘S’ shaped saffron buns to her family. These sugary, buttery treats are vibrant yellow due to the saffron infused dough, with raisin ‘eyes’ for extra sweetness.
Japan – KFC
Yes, you read that right! In Japan, KFC is so popular at Christmas that families often have to pre-book months in advance. The Japanese ‘Party Barrel’ was the genius marketing plan by the first KFC manager in the country – Takeshi Okawara.
He overheard western customers talking about how they missed having Turkey for Christmas and invented the ‘Party Barrel’ as an alternative, using the slogan ‘Kentucky is Christmas’. For approximately £25, this barrel contains fried chicken, Christmas cake, and wine! If you’re feeling extra festive, you could order the Premium Barrel, which comes with roast chicken or ribs as a choice of side.
Italy – Panettone
An Italian triumph, the panettone is a Christmas tradition that is available around the world. The origins of this fruit-studded sweet loaf are wide and varied, but it is universally accepted that it originated in Milan. There is even a love story attached to it. According to legend:
‘A nobleman fell in love with a baker’s daughter, whose family business had hit hard times. His family disapproved of his choice and so he disguised himself and took a job in the bakery, adding expensive butter and sugar to the bread mix. The sweet bread was popular, and the bakery began to prosper. At Christmas he added candied peel and raisins to the mix, which made the bakery the most sought after in the land. It became so popular, and the Baker became so well known that the rich man’s family gave permission for him to marry the Baker’s daughter.
Philippines – Hog Roast
Christmas Dinner is known as Noche Buena in the Philippines. Spit roasted pig is the main feature, served with a ball of cheese (quesa de bola), pasta, spring rolls (lumpia), and fruit salad.
The Philippines make a huge deal of Christmas, often starting their carol singing as early as September, and ending it around January 9th!
Finland – Joulupöytä
Joulupöytä translates as ‘Yule Table’ which is exactly what you get. The buffet style dinner contains several typical seasonal dishes such as ham, fish, and casseroles. Other items on offer are mushroom salad, pickled herring, and karelian stew.
Greenland – Mattak
Men in Greenland serve the women throughout their Christmas meal, which consists of mattack – strips of whale blubber encased in whale fat, and kiviak – auk meat which has been buried in sealskin for several months and served once it has begun to decompose.
Whatever country you find yourself in for Christmas, be sure to check out their regional delicacies. From goat curry in Jamaica, to smalahove (steamed sheep head) in Norway, there is a whole world of new and exciting cuisine to try!