Would foods like whale skin or a bucket of KFC fried chicken come close to the idea of Christmas dinner for you? Here in America, a festive spread includes roast turkey and ham with buttery mash, glistening sausages, puddings and eggnog. But it’s not the same across the globe. Different nations celebrate the fest with different culinary traditions. Read on to find out what’s on their menu.
Reveillon de Noel, or Christmas Eve, in France consists of a family meal that’s very different from the gourmet dining experience that the nation is known for. It includes traditional recipes handed down through generations. As compared to the big roasts in America, the French prefer lighter meats and seafood like smoked salmon, lobsters and oysters for mains. Dessert is usually a Yule log. The feast begins late in the night and goes well into the early hours of Christmas day.
Believe it or not, the Japanese celebrate Christmas with takeout chicken. Christianity was banned in Japan in the early 1600s and resurfaced only after the Second World War. In the 1970s, western culture seeped its way into Japan and KFC launched its first outlet here, popularizing fried chicken as a must-have dish for the holidays. Decades later, the Japanese continue to follow the tradition. They order buckets of KFC chicken months in advance, to avoid the peak season rush.
Here, Christmas rings in a tradition called festa dei sette pesci (the feast of the seven fishes). The theme is nautical and the dinner spread includes dishes like crunchy battered calamari, fresh marinated anchovies, creamy baked eels and crispy cod.
In the land of the pharaohs, Christians stick to a vegan diet due to The Holy Nativity Fast which begins 43 days before Christmas. When the fast ends, the locals indulge in a hearty dish called koshari made of rice, macaroni, tomato sauce and herbs. For dessert, they enjoy local delicacies like ghryba, a sugar-coated egg yolk cake.
This icy nation has the most surprising holiday meals. The celebration involves Mattak, a dish of whale skin complete with fatty blubber and kiviak, the raw flesh of Arctic auk birds that have been buried in seal skin for months. These meals keep them nice and warm to get through the biting cold.
In Sweden, it is traditional to serve sweet, wholesome rice pudding with almond hidden in it. The finder is said to be rewarded with luck, but is often given a gift too.
This is the season to be jolly, a time for families to come together. Across nations, Christmas serves the same purpose, but different dinners.