BY GIANNA STANLEY
Whilst we all celebrate Christmas at different times, days, and in all weathers, an ongoing theme is the national sense of tradition and love that occurs worldwide during the festive seasons. Here are my top five unique food traditions enjoyed during Christmastime around the world, because Christmas is all about appreciating and learning about other cultures.
I don’t know about you, but the highlight of my Ikea trip is getting to devour those famous meatballs. The Swedes eat their dinner on Christmas Eve, rather than Christmas Day, and their dinner follows the Nordic tradition of a smörgåsbord (a buffet-style meal). This consists of dishes like pickled herring, cured salmon, home-made liver pâté, ham, and yes, Swedish meatballs. Instead of just roasting their ham, they take it one step further. The ham is first boiled, then glazed with egg, breadcrumbs, and mustard. In fact, the feasting of this ham dates back to myths about the Nordic gods who all gathered in Valhalla to feast on a rather eternal boar who could reincarnate… must have been one delicious boar. A sweet and unique Scandinavian tradition is leaving the food on the table overnight, as it was speculated that the dead would come and feast on this food whilst the family slept, so they could be with their loved ones in spirit.
If you don’t like turkey, you might opt for a warm, roast chicken instead. The Japanese seem to take this option with their own twist – indulging in fried chicken for Christmas. Not just any fried chicken, but from the sacred KFC fast food chain. Funnily enough, some people need to place their orders up to two months in advance to ensure they get their goods, seeing as the restaurant becomes especially popular over the holidays. This tradition began in 1970 after the first KFC opened in Japan. The owner, after overhearing conversations from foreigners about how they missed Turkey, came up with the idea for a fried chicken substitute, and marketed this idea as the ‘Party Barrel’. Clearly, this idea sticked, and the Japanese will continue to have a merry-kentucky-fried Christmas.
Perhaps one of the most unique, on the menu for Christmas in Greenland are whale and reindeer meat, mattak (whale fat), and kivak (meat, fat, blood, herbs, and berries wrapped in a lining of seal skin). Whilst it may not sound as appetising as KFC, these dishes are a local delicacy in Greenland, with traditions stemming from hunting the meat that they cook. For dessert, they prepare warmer treats to combat the icy temperatures outside – serving apple and berry crisps, or porridge laced with butter, cinnamon, and sugar. Like Sweden, these meals are eaten on Christmas Eve after the Church services, in which many natives dress in their traditional Greenlandic dress or white anorak.
4. The Philippines
Also known as the country who start Christmas early, the Phillipines enjoy a myriad of their own traditional delicacies over this festive period. They start celebrating Christmas on September 1, as it marks the beginning of the so-called ‘BER months’. During this stage, radios start playing Christmas music and trees and lights start going up. Noche buena feast (on Christmas Eve) is seen as one of the most important family gatherings of the period, so of course, they need to serve only the best dishes. One of the biggest stars on the dinner table is puto bumbong, a sweet mixture of black and white rice that presents a purple colour. The rice is inserted into a bamboo tube, and then mixed with butter, sugar, and shredded coconut. This can be accompanied by a yellow noodle dish, buko pandan (gelatin mixed with coconut and cream), and a roasted pig. Although they start their festivities early, these sweet, delicious foods are worth the wait.
Throw some shrimp on the barbie! Over in Australia, the heat is cranked up, and Aussie’s spend the day out at the beach with friends and family, or having a barbecue at home. Whilst they typically include roasted ham as a main dish, seafood is a huge tradition over Christmas, with grilled shrimp, smoked oysters, crab, lobster and so on! Ironically, their traditional dessert is titled ‘White Christmas’ – bringing the snow to Australia during summer. This dessert is quite similar to torrone, made with coconut, dried fruit, and rice krispies. Although the weather is not quite as traditional, they sure make up for it with warm desserts and cultural delicacies!