Turkey, stuffing or dressing, cranberry sauce, sweet potato pie, eggnog, apple cider, fruitcake, and gingerbread are all dishes associated with the United States; Americans look forward to waking up to that savory aroma on Christmas morning. But, that’s not the case everywhere, as contrasting cultures enjoy different Christmas cuisine.
Christmas dinner traditions differ greatly around the world. For instance, some devour oysters as the main course instead of turkey, others enjoy a hot wine drink instead of eggnog to commemorate the season. Though the mode of celebration, the food, the traditions, and sometimes the dates vary, the Christmas spirit of feasting, good wishes, and high spirits remains the same wherever you go.
About 5,000 flight miles away from America in Germany, families are feasting on sausage and pickled cabbage as they celebrate Christmas on December 24. Apple strudel with cream delights the young and the old after the presents underneath the tree are opened.
Goose or duck is a traditional German dish, usually stuffed with a mixture of apples and prunes, accompanied by potatoes, carrots, parsnip, and pickles, and stollen (loaf-shaped fruitcake powdered with icing sugar).
After caroling in the churches and cathedrals on Christmas Eve, goose is the main course in Alsace, France, and it is oysters and foie gras (food product made of the liver of a duck or goose) in Paris. In Brittany, buckwheat pancakes with sour cream are a featured dish. Also eaten by the French during the holidays are smoked salmon, chapon (roasted chicken), and chestnut-stuffed turkey.
In the French region of Provence, the Christmas supper ends with 13 dessert items, representing Jesus Christ and the 12 apostles. The desserts are set out on Christmas Eve and remain on the table until December 27.
Christmas in Australia is in the middle of the summer – you may even see Santa depicted in a swimsuit, arriving at Aussie beaches on a surfboard! Roast chicken, turkey, and ham are eaten along with the trimmings … roast vegetables, stuffing, and gravy. There might even be a barbie (barbecue) on the beach on Christmas Day!
Christmas also falls during summertime in New Zealand where the usual meal fare is glazed ham, turkey, roast potatoes, pumpkin, kumara (sweet potato), onion and cloves of garlic, all covered in homemade gravy.
A favorite New Zealand dessert is the pavlova, sort of a giant roasted marshmallow with a thick crispy caramelized-sugar exterior surrounding a light meringue. As the weather is sunny and warm in New Zealand, many families may also opt for a barbecue by the pool or a picnic at the beach.
In Denmark the main celebration is on Christmas Eve and everyone has cookies, hot chocolate, and glogg (hot wine boiled with raisins, nuts, and spices). The traditional Christmas dinner consists of roast pork or duck with crackling, stewed red cabbage, and small boiled potatoes fried in butter and sugar.
Dessert is rice pudding mixed with chopped almonds and whipping cream. The cook slips one whole almond into the pudding and whoever gets the almond receives the almond present, traditionally, but not necessarily a marzipan pig.
Favorite Christmas foods in Brazil include chicken, turkey, ham, rice, salad, pork, fresh and dried fruits, and beer. Many people start the Christmas celebration on Christmas Eve with fireworks and a big churrasco (barbecue).
Even though most of the population of Japan is not Christian, it is typical to eat a special dinner on Christmas Eve. Popular dishes include roast chicken, fried chicken, teriyaki chicken, and a Christmas cake that is usually a round sponge cake topped with whipped cream and fruit.
Whatever the menu, a special Christmas family meal is an essential part of the celebration for many, even though it varies from country to country. Perhaps it is not the food, but the closeness of loved ones at the dinner table that is most important during this holiday season.
Article by Melissa Parker
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