The holidays are celebrated differently all over the world. It’s really interesting reading about all the different traditional foods, customs, and beliefs. In our last post we took a look at how Christmas dinner is served in Japan, Poland, Finland, and more. Below you’ll find even more interesting holiday dinner traditions.
Hanukkah is an eight-day, wintertime, Jewish “festival of lights.” It’s celebrated with nightly menorah lightings, special prayers, and delicious foods. One of the most important Hanukkah foods is latkes. In some form or another, latkes have been used in Hanukkah traditions since at least the Middle Ages.
Latkes are fried potato pancakes that have been cooked in oil. This recognizes that the Second Temple kept the Menorah burning with oil for eight days. Other dishes enjoyed as a part of this tradition include fried donuts and fritters, apple sauce, challah, cheese, and various meats. Small chocolate coins, known as Hanukkah gelt, are also given to children by relatives.
In England, Ireland, and even parts of the US, Christmas pudding is an important part of the holiday dessert menu. Christmas pudding is primarily made using suet, egg, molasses, spices, and dried fruits. It is also typically aged for at least one month or more. The high alcohol content in the recipe prevents it from spoiling. Immediately right before serving, you set it alight with brandy.
In Lithuania, the traditional Christmas dinner is called Kūčios. This celebration is held on December 24th every year and hosting the dinner is no small feat. The meal can take an entire week to prepare. Like most, the Lithuanians place a lot of value on spending time with family. Week-long meal preps certainly are a great opportunity for families to get together and this is probably the main reason the tradition continues to exist.
Kūčios incorporates 12 different dishes, one for each apostle. The menu for this meal is made up of no meat, dairy, or even hot food. Dishes typically include fish, different breads, and vegetables. You might find herring served in a tomato, mushroom, or onion based sauce, potatoes, sauerkraut, smoked eel, mushrooms, and cranberry pudding.
In Germany, the big Christmas feast is traditionally set around the Christmas goose or Weihnachtsgan. The custom of eating a goose was originally tied to St. Martin’s Day during the Middle Ages. Eventually, it became a part of the Christmas meal.
Germans often stuff their Christmas goose with apples, onions, chestnuts, and prunes. They are spiced with mugwort and marjoram and served with red cabbage, dumplings, gravy, and sauerkraut. The oldest known Christmas goose recipe comes from a cookbook published in 1350 called ‘Das Buch von guter Speise’.
Norway has a very interesting menu for its Christmas dinner. You might even find yourself a bit surprised if you were invited to a traditional Norwegian Christmas meal. The typical mainstay dish is called Smalahove. It is a whole, steamed sheep’s head.
Other popular holiday dishes include Lutefisk. Lutefisk is dried cod that has been soaked in a lye solution, then boiled or baked, and served with butter, salt, and pepper. It is rarely eaten more than once a year. Ribbe is also popular. Ribbe is fatty pork ribs. Rakfisk, which is trout or char that has been salted and fermented for two to three months and Pinnekjøtt, ribs of lamb or mutton, are also traditional dishes.
For Orthodox Ethiopians who use the old Julian calendar, Christmas is celebrated on January 7th. Beginning on November 25th, most also fast for the 43 days leading up to the celebration called Ganna or Genna. When fasting ends, dinner typically includes a meat stew called rooster doro wat, hardboiled eggs in sauce, and a flatbread called injera which is used as a base for toppings and to scoop food instead of using utensils.
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