Whether you are celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, or any other end-of-year holiday, December is always a delightful time filled with hearty meals, splendid decorations, and family. Here's what people are eating around the world as luscious scents and festive sounds saturate the air.
Christmas pudding, England
No one will judge you if you're a little wary of English traditional cuisine, given our numerous crimes against food. But Christmas pudding, despite its repulsive aspect, is actually quite good, so it seems like even Britons are making a culinary effort for the festivities.
The pudding tradition dates back to medieval times, and was known at the time as a 'plum pudding', even though it does not contain any plums. Instead it is made of a wide array of dried fruits held together with eggs and beef fat, flavored with nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon. Also, it is aged for at least a month, usually more, and is doused in brandy and flamed right before being served.
Christmas goose, Germany
Christmas is about tradition, and Germany takes it seriously, as you would expect them to. Eating goose at Christmas dinner supposedly dates back to the Middle Ages, with the first reference to the recipe made in Germany's oldest cookbook, written circa 1350. The stuffing is often made of apples, chestnuts, thyme, onions, and prunes, while side dishes include red cabbage, Brussel sprouts, dumplings, and sauerkraut.
As would be expected, the Hanukkah tradition is very big in Israel, and along with it comes a variety of delectable dishes. Latkes, potato pancakes fried in olive oil, are an absolute staple. The crispy side dish is enjoyed sprinkled with herbs and spices and dipped in applesauce or sour cream.
For a healthier option, you can also make versions of latkes with grated sweet potatoes or shredded vegetables.
Fried chicken, Japan
A few decades back, the American food giant, Kentucky Fried Chicken, saw in the Japanese market a lucrative opportunity. With the large majority of the population either Buddhist or Shintoist, Japan doesn't celebrate Christmas. So KFC decided to fill the void, and started creating a new tradition of eating fried chicken for Christmas dinner. Somehow, this appealed to Japanese consumers, who are now queuing up outside KFC restaurants comes Christmas Eve.
Feast of Seven Fishes, Italy
Italy does not joke around with cuisine, and Christmas dinner is no exception. The tradition of the Feast of Seven Fishes comes from Southern Italy, where it is known as The Vigil, and can be traced back to the Roman Catholic tradition of abstaining from meat the day before a feast day.
Now more popular among Italian-Americans than it is among actual Italians, the traditional meal is composed of seven or sometimes more different seafood dishes, including salted cod fish, clams, octopus, shrimps, anchovies, and scallops.
Across Latin America, the typical Christmas dinner differs greatly from Europe's stuffed turkey, potatoes, and gravy in various forms. In Guatemala, a quintessential Christmas meal is tamales, a dish made of corn dough wrapped in a banana leaf or corn husk, and stuffed with meat. The filling can also include red chili, onions, raisins, and potatoes, depending on the recipe. Tamales come in all shapes and sizes across the Latin world, with a wide variety of sweet and savory stuffings.
Oyster and foie-gras, France
France rarely disappoints in terms of food, and Christmas really is its time to shine. The country's culinary excellence becomes even more refined as festivities begin, and Christmas dinner could even be considered an art form in itself.
Apart from enjoying the traditional turkey, quite common across multiple European countries, the French also indulge in more peculiar dishes, including foie-gras and oysters. Although controversial due to cruel production practices, frog-eaters aren't ready to give up their beloved foie-gras anytime soon.
The egg-shaped dessert is a Christmas staple in the sun-drenched Mediterranean country. Made with flour, olive oil, and honey, filled with walnuts, and sprinkled with cinnamon, the dish is so easy to make you could even recreate it at home for a little taste of Santorini.
With its gooey texture and inimitable Christmassy smell, this Greek dessert is really quite addictive. You can also try the chocolate-covered version, because there's no better time than the holiday season to treat yourself.
Julbord is not just one single dish, but a whole buffet. The Swedish tradition truly is a sight to behold and a taste to experience, if only for the peculiarity of the meals it consists of. The literal translation of julbord is ?Christmas table?, on which are displayed three distinct courses.
The first generally includes pickled herring and cured salmon, while the second course's centerpiece is boiled ham, accompanied by liver pâté, red beet salad, and cheese. Finally, the third course is comprised of various pork-based warm dishes, including meatballs (no, not the Ikea ones), sausages, and ribs. A hearty buffet that takes three weeks to recover from, this is what Christmas is all about.
Lechón, Puerto Rico
The roast pig, known as lechón, is a needy dish that requires a lot of attention. Slowly turning on an outdoor spit for hours on end, the pig is cooked delicately until the meat is as tender as possible. Side dishes are numerous and diverse, and include rice and peas, sausages of various varieties, and the star side dish, pasteles. And as you wait for the pig to finally be ready, you can sip on coquito, Puerto Rico's version of eggnog.