Christmas time is only once a year! So, Christmas dinner cannot be missing in any event… A festive meal that is lost through centuries has as its main characteristics the abundance of local goods and common ingredients like spices, dried fruits, meat etc.
Everyone is looking forward to the Christmas Eve meal or the Christmas day meal- tradition varies from place to place. Goods that were missing on a daily basis were kept for these important circumstances. Everything was in abundance that day, in opposition to the frugal meals that they used to have the rest of the year.
However, what are we looking for in the Christmas meal? Niko Romito, chef with 3 stars, claims that although he experiments during the whole year in his dishes, in these days he stops doing it: «People are looking for what they already know. The one that they feel safe with: the tradition. They are not fond of changes. As for me, in my restaurant, I recommend traditional dishes of Abruzzo and in the end the traditional dessert. I use the same ingredients and I serve it out with a slightly different way. Considering something different in that day is out of question for me. The customers are the ones that ask for it: in that specific day, they want to feel sure that nothing has changed. They want to know that they will find what they are used to».
It is about a mechanism, psychotherapists explain, that can be easily decoded: «during Christmas days, people need peaceful moments, without extremes, unknown things and external rainstorms. They are searching for stable points, in order to find themselves again. This can happen even with a meal. A meal that is similar to the one that their mother or grandmother used to cook. It is about an internal tradition that is difficult to be renounced». The festive meal is always related to flavors that kindle our memories and our feelings.
The traditional dishes of our country are known to us, but are you familiar with what people all around the world eat those holy days?
France – Bûche de Noël
Buche de Noel is a dessert that represents symbolically the Yule Log- a wooden log that they brought traditionally in the house, they poured wine in it and they burned it in the fireplace during Christmas Eve. During the 40’s, when this tradition started to wane, the dessert replaced the log. It is made with sponge cake and chocolate butter cream. It is like a real log.
Mexico – Bacalao
Bacalao, or corned hake, is a typical dish in Mexico, although in most of the countries people do not eat this kind of food during the holidays. It is eaten along with tomatoes, hot chili peppers, onions, potatoes and olives.
Sweden – Julbord
During Christmas in Sweden, they have a three-course meal. The first course is usually fish- usually pickled herring. The second one is cold meat and sausages. The third one is usually meatballs with pot baked potatoes. Christmas ham boiled and frosted with eggs, bread crumbs and mustard is in the center of the table. Once the meal is ready, they all try a little bit of Dopp i grytan or «dipping in the pot», In other words, they dip chunks of bread into the broth of the pork ham. White flesh fish, a variety of corned meat and cabbage steeped with dark, thick syrup are added in the table. All these are accompanied by plenty of Glogg (mulled wine). As a dessert, rice puddling is very popular, while the yellowish cakes with saffron in an S shape are quite famous and are served according to the tradition, by the oldest daughter.
Portugal – Cod
Cod with boiled potatoes is the basic dish in the festive meal of Portugal, but the real attraction is the large variety of pastries and desserts. Finhoses are strands or balls of light, spiced dough, dusted with icing sugar, while formigos is a sweet, sticky blend of nuts, honey and raisins. However, Bolo Rei is the king-cake. Nuts and crystallized fruit gaud the surface of the white, fluffy treat, named in commemoration of the Magi. Variants include the beautifully-named Bolo-Rei escangalhado, or broken-king-cake, which drips with cinnamon and chilacayote jam.
In Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine, in the Christmas Eve meal, a large variety is consumed with 12 overrefined basic dishes. Meat, eggs and milk are not included in the festive meal, according to the rules of the orthodox and catholic fast and while the fast is not as strict as it used to be, seafood is also included in the meal as well as cereal-based dishes. There are many traditions that accompany this meal and many of them have pagan roots, like the break of the unleavened bagel and the hay spreading in the table in commemoration of the Jesus birth (or in order to ask for the new year’s fertility). Attendants are trying all the dishes- the person who does not do so, will die during the year, always according to the tradition.
Germany – Pfefferkuchenhaus
It is a dough house with ginger, decorated with dried fruits, pastries and sugar paste. For those ones, who are not so keen on desserts, Grünkohl (collard) may seem more tempting: it is said that every grandmother in the country has her own recipe for pot collard greens with spices. Roast duck with pasta and red cabbage, in combination with the collard, consist the basic, traditional meal. Do not become alarmed if your Teuton host offers you a <> – it is only a smoked sausage!
The Philippines – Roast Piglet
In the Philippines, Christmas meal is known as Noche Buena and takes place once the family watches the Misa de Gallo (“midnight mass”). The Hamon (processed pork drumstick) or the Lechon (spit roast piglet) are the main dishes of the Christmas meal. They are often accompanied by: quesa de bola (cheese ball), pasta, lumpia (spring rolls) and the fruit salad. Christmas is considered very important in the Philippines. This country is famous for her long Christmas holiday period. They start singing carols from the September till the 9th of January, as then they celebrate the black Nazarene.
Japan – Fried chicken
In Japan, Christmas is the best time of the year for the Kentucky Fried Chicken, or KFC, a fast food chain. This happens, because around 3.6 millions of the Japanese families dine at the KFC, while often they have to make a reservation for this dinner even up to two months ago. In the decade of ’70s KFC, presented a «festive package» which hid a very clever marketing plan. In that period, Japanese people did not have plenty of Christmas traditions. KFC solved this problem, by telling the consumers “this is something that you have to do in Christmas”. So, this became a trend very quickly. Today the «package» of KFC Christmas does not include only fried chicken. It also includes a Christmas cake, which is another part of the festive meal.
So, no matter where you are during Christmas holidays, whether you are at your house with your family or in another country, as a tourist or as a guest, try to enjoy your festive meal as much as possible, with a good company and a cheerful mood.
Enjoy your meal and Happy Holidays!