Holiday Foods Around the World: How cultures across the globe celebrate Christmas.

Candy canes, hot chocolate, marshmallows… these immediately come to mind as American Christmas staples. However, this isn’t the case for many other countries around the world. Here are ten dishes that you may not be so familiar with; perhaps one of these could become your new Christmas favorite!

Japan: Fried Chicken and Kurisumasu Keiki— The first time I read this, I didn’t believe it, but several articles later, I’ve become convinced. Apparently Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) ran a very successful marketing campaign around the 1970’s that linked their fried chicken to Christmas in the minds of many Japanese people. Kurisumasu Keiki is also served around Christmastime in many Japanese homes; the dessert resembles a strawberry shortcake, with layers of vanilla sponge, whipped cream, and strawberries.

Italy: Feast of Seven Fishes and Panettone— While not all of Italy celebrates this tradition, some areas do. Seven is a number recurring in the Bible as associated with God, so in this holiday feast, various types of fish are prepared seven different ways. Popular versions of the meal include salt cod, fried calamari, linguini with clams, and shrimp scampi, though there are many possible variations. Almost all of Italy does, however, celebrate Christmas with panettone, which is sweet bread similar to a fruitcake.

Venezuela: Hallacas— This dish is similar to a tamale and traditionally only prepared during the holiday season in Venezuela. It can take a long time to make, with some families starting to make theirs in the morning. The ingredients can involve pork, chicken, capers, raisins, and other fillings all rolled into corn dough and wrapped in a banana leaf.

France: Buche de Noel— A common translation of this French dessert is the Yule log. I know my mum always made one of these growing up; while many Yule logs are flavored with chestnut and decorated to look like a log, complete with marzipan mushrooms, my mum’s are always chocolate, with a liberal helping of raspberry sauce. The Yule log is made by baking a thin sponge, spreading a layer of whipped cream over it, and rolling it tightly.

Phillipines: Roasted Pig— The Phillippines are known, among many other things, for their Christmas celebration. Many traditional dishes are involved in this meal, including puto bumbong, which is a mixture of black and white rice that appears purple. The rice is soaked in salt water, steamed, and served with butter, sugar, and shredded coconut, which sounds absolutely delicious to me. However, one of the biggest stars of the show is often the roasted pig.

Germany: Christmas Goose— The Weihnachtsgans, otherwise known as roasted goose, is usually the centerpiece for the Christmas meal in Germany. Side dishes can include red cabbage, and some delicious Christmas desserts in Germany are stollen, a type of fruit cake made with rum, spices and a sugary crust, and Lebkuchen, a soft gingerbread cookie.

Greece: Melomakarona— These Greek cookies are often made with cinnamon, cloves, and oranges, then dipped in a light syrup and sprinkled with nuts. There is also a less-traditional version of the cookie that is dipped in dark chocolate rather than syrup; either way, sign me up for some melomakarona!

England: Christmas Pudding and Mince Pies— I’m half English, and I can attest to the predominance of mince pies around Christmastime. My mum’s recipe for mince pies include several types of raisins and other dried fruit soaked in rum and spices, then baked into little, muffin-tin sized pies. When they’re cooking, they make the whole house smell like Christmas. However, I have never had a Christmas Pudding, which is made with raisins, nuts and cherries and often set alight with brandy just before being served.

Ethopia: Doro Wat on Injera— Doro wat is a type of meat stew made in Ethopia; it often served on top of a thin, spongy light brown bread known as injera. Injera has a slightly acidic taste, which cuts through the spiciness of the doro wat. The injera is also used in place of a utensil in many cases, as the bread can be scoop up the stew.

Mexico: Bacalao— This dish is made with rehydrated salted cod cooked with tomatoes, anchovies, onions, potatoes, olives, and other ingredients. It dates back to the days when refrigeration was much less of an option than it is today, when meat and fish were often salted to preserve it.

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