of the Wildest Christmas Food Traditions From Around the World
With Christmas fast approaching, celebrants around the world are preparing for the fun, festivities, and food that come along with this joyful holiday. While cookies, pastries, and roast meats tend to cross cultural barriers, landing spots on menus across the globe, there are tons of unique Christmas food traditions that don’t get their due outside their home countries. From festive cocktails to baby-shaped breads, these traditional Christmas foods, crazy as some may sound, might just deserve a spot on your table next year.
Fish is a staple in many Scandinavian countries at Christmastime, with herring making frequent appearances on holiday menus. In Denmark, herring marinated in wine, pickled beets, apples, boiled potatoes, onions, and dill pickles are combined to form Sillsallet, or herring salad, a bright purple dish which is usually served alongside rye bread and boiled eggs.
Ponche a la Romana
Move over, eggnog: there’s a new Christmas drink in town. Ponche a la Romana, a popular Chilean holiday punch, takes the dairy-and-booze combining one step further, combining champagne and pineapple ice cream.
Devils on Horseback
Ham, goose, and mashed potatoes aren’t America’s only Christmas staples. In many parts of the U.S., you’ll find Devils on Horseback on the menu during the holidays. This popular hors d’oeuvre takes dates stuffed with cheese, nuts, or chutney, and wraps them in bacon. ‘Murica!
Dopp i grytan
Not a bite goes wasted at a Swedish holiday feast. Around Christmas time in this Scandinavian country, you might find yourself confronted with a plate of dopp i grytan, otherwise known as bread slices soaked in ham drippings. And yes, the ham gets eaten, too.
Rosca de Reyes
While Three Kings Cake isn’t exactly a new sight to many Americans, this dish is usually served at Mardi Gras stateside. This circular cake, which is eaten on January 6th in Mexico, is often topped with rainbow sprinkles and candied fruit and hides a tiny figure of the baby Jesus inside. The lucky person who bites down on baby Jesus is responsible for getting him blessed on Candlemas, February 2nd, and is the chosen host for a subsequent dinner party.
In China, similar-sounding words are worth celebrating. In Mandarin, the phrase for Christmas Eve, píng ān yè, sounds similar to the word for apple, píngguo, and, as such, apples are given as gifts at Christmastime. In many places, the apples are carved with intricate designs and packaged in gift boxes before being sold at many times their supermarket price.
What better way to celebrate the birth of Jesus than to eat him? On Christmas in Belgium, celebrants eat cougnou, a sweetened loaf of bread that resembles a baby—well, at least as much as any loaf of bread can.
If you’re in Mexico at Christmas, you might find menudo on the menu. While, for many people, the name menudo conjures images of Ricky Martin’s early boy band days, this traditional soup, made of tripe and hominy, is not an uncommon sight during a festive holiday feast.
Ensalada de Pulpo
While Love Actually introduced us to the idea of the Christmas lobster, it was Puerto Rico that got us face-to-face with a Christmas octopus. In Puerto Rico, Christmas diners will enjoy a plate of ensalada de pulpo, or octopus salad, a dish combining octopus, tomatoes, cucumber, jalapeños, cilantro, and oregano, all tossed together in an oil and vinegar dressing.
Russia’s cold climate means hot food is a must during the winter months. Fortunately, that’s just what you’ll get on a shivery Siberian Christmas, courtesy of sochivo, a wheat-rice porridge served with nuts and seeds and sweetened with honey. Making this tradition a whole lot more interesting is the Russian tradition of throwing sochivo onto the ceiling to ensure a healthy crop yield in the coming year.
If you’re on the squeamish side, Christmas in Norway might not be for you. In the days leading up to Christmas, many Norwegians prepare smalahove, a sheep’s head that has been salted, dried, and boiled.
If you’re looking to brighten up the often-beige palette on your Christmas table, popular Filipino dish puto bumbong will certainly do the trick. This Christmas staple consists of sweet rice made with purple yam powder steamed in a bamboo tube and topped with sugar and margarine.
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