10 Surprising Christmas Feasts Worldwide
Most of us are pretty familiar with the usual roast turkey/ham/beef Christmas dinner with all the trimmings and some good old Christmas pud to finish with… but what about the rest of the world?
What foods do other nations come back to each year to help them get into the festive spirit? Here’s a lowdown of the some of the more unusual Christmas feasting traditions from around the globe.
Greenland – Rancid Birds
One delicacy eaten in Greenland around Christmas time is ‘kiviak’. This meat is prepared by stuffing number of little auk birds into a sack made of sealskin, squashing all the air out of the sack and then storing it under a pile of rocks for several months. After the birds have decomposed enough the putrid meat, said to taste like gorgonzola cheese, is eaten raw!
Japan – Finger Lickin’
Japanese folk have taken to celebrating Christmas with a KFC bucket, and the tradition has apparently become so popular that families have to reserve their festive fast food in advance to make sure they get their fried chicken. KFC vouchers have even become acceptable Christmas presents in Japan, rather than being, at a push, amusing secret Santa presents for health freaks in the rest of the world.
Netherlands – Gourmet Groups
One interesting festive tradition in the Netherlands is that of ‘gourmet’, where a group of friends and family will sit in small groups, each with their own small frying pan. Each group cooks small batches of food from the chopped ingredients, spices and sauces prepared by the host. The tradition is thought to originate in the Dutch colony of Indonesia.
Norway – Salted Lamb Ribs
One popular Christmas dish for Norwegians is a form of cured lamb called pinnekjøtt, which is made by salting, drying and, in some regions, smoking lamb ribs. The cooked ribs are usually eaten with potatoes and mashed swede, and washed down with beer and akvavit – a spiced Scandinavian spirit.
Czech Republic – Carping On
The Czech republic favours a hearty meal of fried carp and potato salad on Christmas Eve. Christmas cookies are also a key part of food celebrations, with intricate designs taking many days to complete before Christmas day, and many ending up as decorations on the tree.
Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine – The Chosen 12
Much of Eastern Europe follows the tradition of preparing a Christmas meal made up of 12 meat-free dishes, each representing one of the 12 apostles. The twelve dishes often include pickled or dried mushrooms, fish dishes using herring or carp, sauerkraut with mushrooms, red borscht and boiled or fried dumplings.
Mexico – Christmas Wrap
In the north of Mexico, a popular Christmas meal is tamales, served with sauces, perhaps some cream and also maybe a helping of crumbly cheese. Tamales are made by steaming corn dough wrapped in plantain leaves or corn husks. They can be stuffed with sweet or savoury fillings, and are also popular in many countries around South and Central America.
Catalonia – The Pooping Log
Not really a Christmas dinner but pretty strange so it’s well worth a mention… The Tió de Nadal is a Catalan tradition which involves a large hollowed-out log, popularly referred to as the Caga tio, or ‘poop log’. The log has a smiley face painted on one end and during the lead up to Christmas, each day it is ‘fed’ various treats, like nuts and sweets, and is covered with a blanket to keep it warm and cosy. Then on Christmas Day, the log is placed partially in the fire and is made to ‘poop’ out its various treats as family members beat it with a stick while singing songs ordering it to defecate.
Slovakia – Bobalky
One traditional Slovakian Christmas dish is a cabbage soup cooked with sausage and mushrooms. This may be eaten with carp and potato salad, with festive biscuits and bobalky – an ancient recipe for Christmas bread topped with poppy seeds.
USA – Being Shellfish
While much of the US favours traditional British-style Christmas foods, different regions can vary dramatically. In Virginia, one traditional Christmas meal is made up of oysters, ham pie and other roast meats, perhaps with a dessert of chocolate and chestnut pudding.