The festive season is galloping towards us with the nimble speed of a cheeky reindeer, a time when we all start to look forward to our own traditions and favorite Christmas dishes. Our cuisine is meshed and embedded in the language and culture of our home country, and is as much a feast of tradition as of tasty treats!
Every country has its favorites – the foods that are a classic and a must have for every table.
Here are our 10 favorites so far, in a sleigh ride around the world of Christmas culture:
The tradition of baking gingerbread into houses and decorating them began in Germany after the ‘Brothers Grimm’ published their collection of fairy tales, which included Hansel and Gretel in the early 1800s. If gingerbread doesn’t do it for you, then try the equally yummy Pfeffernüsse Cookies – think little stars and shapes covering in icing sugar, or Stollen (a fruit bread containing dried fruit and often covered with powdered sugar or icing sugar.) Fröhliche Weihnachten!
Yule Log or Bûche de Noel is a French desert that literally translates to ‘Christmas Log’; referring to the traditional Yule log that a family would burn throughout the Christmas period. Joyeux Noël!
A true Irish celebration dish! Served cold and thinly sliced, it is a great buffet favorite in many Irish households during the holiday season, traditionally served on St. Stephen’s Day (26th December), especially in Country Cork. Nollaig Shona!
Pavlova is a fruit and meringue-based dessert named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova. It is a popular dish for celebratory meals in Australia and New Zealand. Not what you would think of traditional winter food, but remember that down under, Christmas comes in one of the hottest months of the year, where outdoor eating and barbecues rule the roost. Happy Christmas!
Akoho sy Voanio
Christmas in Madagascar is also celebrated in the summer months; thus the Christmas classic is a fresh summer chicken dish prepared with rice and fresh coconut. Merry Krismasy!
This fruit-based mincemeat sweet pie of British origin has ingredients traceable to the 13th century when returning European crusaders brought with them the Middle Eastern recipes containing meats, fruits, and spices. However, in the 17th century, the filling contained real meat, with minced cooked mutton, along with the usual pastry, currants, and raisins with ginger, mace, nutmeg, cinnamon, orange rind, salt and a tiny quantity of sugar that we know so well today. Happy Christmas!
Also known as Janssons Temptation, this is a Swedish Christmas classic. It is a creamy potato and anchovy casserole said to be named after Pelle Janzon, a food-loving Swedish opera singer in the early 1900s. Along with Janssons Frestelse, the ever-popular Swedish meatballs, risgrynsgröt (rice pudding) and Lussekatter (sticky buns), it is served on St. Lucia’s Day on the 13th of December, their key festive day. God Jul!
Bigos or Hunter’s Stew is a traditional Polish dish of finely chopped meat of various kinds stewed with sauerkraut and shredded fresh cabbage; supposedly served by the Grand Duke of Poland in 1385 to his hunting party guests. Another festive favorite is makowiek, a sticky cake with a poppy seed filling. Wesołych Świąt!
This centerpiece of a sit-down American holiday meal began with a fresh, affordable and “large enough to feed a crowd” idea, back in the 17th century. Although Goose used to be the traditional centerpiece in the U.K., the turkey is getting its trot on to take over. Merry Christmas!
A festive favorite of Italy, this is a type of sweet bread loaf originally from Milan. The word ‘panettone’ is derived from the Italian word ‘panetto’, meaning a small loaf cake. Along with the almond Amaretti biscuits and hazelnut struffoli dough ball, these Italian treats are a sugar lover’s dream during the festive season. Buon Natale!
And now for a quick recap…
If you didn’t before, you now know where these yummy festive treats originated from, plus how to say Merry Christmas in a few different languages. If that has whetted your appetite, munch on some more language treats here.