We all have Christmas Traditions, even in America where we are one giant hodgepodge of cultures. Whether you started a tradition within your own family, or it was passed down from your great-grandma, we all have something. Even if they are some we don’t care to remember.
Christmas is seen as a Christian holiday in most places around the world, but in America, it’s celebrated by almost everyone Christian or not. I’m an atheist and EXTREMELY into Christmas along with my family, I adore it, so point made.
In the small Christian (or just those who celebrate Christmas) populations around the world, here are some of the interesting and different traditions that people there have come up with.
1. RUSSIA – Selyodka Pod Shuboy
This is a Russian traditional holiday dish that the main ingredient is dressed herring. It is layered with the pickled herring, vegetables, chopped onions, and mayonnaise. Sometimes there are variations that include grated apple, which honestly, even though I am Russian, I am not so sure of. I am willing to try everything at least once though!
2. JAPAN – Fried Chicken
Kentucky Fried Chicken loves this tradition because 3.6 million Japanese families eat fried chicken on Christmas Eve. They actually have to order it months ahead of time because it is so popular. KFC should love it though because in the 1970’s they started it. They created a marketing plan that told Japanese families, who at the time lacked any Christmas traditions, that they should eat fried chicken. It caught on like wildfire, and here it stands even more popular today.
3. LITHUANIA – Kūčios
Kūčios is a Lithuanian dinner that is held on Christmas Eve. It originally was considered a pagan tradition and contained 9 dishes. Later though, expanded to 12 dishes for each apostle when adopted by the church. Because of the large number of dishes preparations can sometimes take up to a week!
The meals contain nothing hot, nor any meat or dairy. What it does include are fish, bread, and vegetables and is similar to the Swedish Julbord (which is also during the holidays). If you ever attended one of those at Ikea during the holidays you know what I am talking about. I have and if you haven’t, it is definitely worth the experience.
4. GERMANY – Goose
What’s good for the gander is good for the goose, and the Germans love their goose at Christmas (not really so good for the goose though), It goes by the name Weihnachtsgans, which directly translates into Christmas goose. It is a tradition that dates to the middle ages, and the goose is usually stuffed with apples, prunes, onions, and chestnuts. They use a baste of mugwort and marjoram, and it is served alongside German classics like sauerkraut and dumplings.
It is said that historically the first written use of the tradition was in 1350AD, in the ‘Das Buch von guter Speise’ cookbook.
5. ITALY – Panetonne
Many people know of this tradition since it seems everyone has at least some kind of Italian married into the family, I know I’m not the only one. Italy has a vast amount of Christmas traditions, but this one is notorious across Northern Italy. Fruitcake anyone? This is the Italian take on the tradition which is a cake that has candied fruit, chocolate, raisins, and nuts baked in. Yum.
6. COSTA RICA, MEXICO – Tamales
Yet another reason I love Christmas time is because of this tradition. I live in Arizona and we have a high Hispanic population, so at Christmas time you will see people out selling tamales. They will sell these big bags of the best, homemade, tastiest tamales for cheap.
Of course, a tamale is corn dough stuffed with shredded pork, beef, whatever. Then wrapped in a corn husk and steamed, and if you haven’t had one yet in your life, you need to. So good.
7. UK – Christmas Pudding
Give us some figgy pudding, now give us some figgy pudding. Yes, like the song. That is another name for Christmas pudding, as well as plum pudding or “pud”. It doesn’t actually have plums in it but since figs, raisins, dates are dried up round purple fruits and through history, it got a little twisted, it’s still called that today.
The ingredients usually include suet, egg, molasses, spices, and dried fruits served with brandy on the side. Or if you are like me you actually cook the brandy in the mixture; it gives it a nice kick.
8. FRANCE – Bûche de Noël
Bûche de Noël is a yummy dessert that represents the yule log, which was a log that was sprinkled with wine and burned on Christmas. Towards the 1940’s the yule log tradition started to disappear and the dessert took its place.
It is created with sponge cake, buttercream, and made with many variations these days. We even have them in America, and other flavors have emerged like red velvet, tiramisu, or mascarpone, to even lemon, and even looks like a log!
9. GREECE – Melomakarona / μελομακάρονα
I’m not crazy about nuts but if you are this seems like the dessert for you. They are sweet orange-zest cookies that are soaked in honey after baking and then finished off by being topped in walnuts. Baklava anyone? Sounds similar to me and that’s no surprise because they both come from Greece.
10. SWEDEN – Saffron Buns
My daughter’s name! Yay for Saffron!
We discussed earlier the Julbord at Ikea, and saffron buns are the traditional dessert after. The buns are yellow because of the saffron that is mixed in, they are then formed into “s” shapes and baked into a flaky buttery form. After they are finished, the buns are traditionally served to everyone by the eldest daughter.
Do you know any other traditional dishes from other cultures that I should include here? Send me a shoutout or comment below.