Christmas Around The Globe: Traditional Holiday Meals

Christmas is celebrated in various ways throughout the world - as is the Christmas Feast. Here's a peek at traditional holiday dinners around the globe.

Among the many things that form our foundation and hold us together as a family and as a society are the traditions which we hold dear. Whether happy, somber or pious, traditions help to anchor us in our daily lives and establish us as members of a unique segment of the general populace. Christmas traditions, in particular, help to identify our system of beliefs and values, as well as our heritage - right down to what we eat for dinner on that most sacred of days. While some annual holiday meals simply reflect a celebratory attitude, still others mirror a deeper understanding and appreciation of the true spirit of the season. Let's have a look at the traditional foods which people around the globe use to grace their tables as they gather to enjoy their holiday feast.


There are two traditional Christmas dinners that are enjoyed by the people of Argentina. Some of the natives typically prepare Ninos Envuettas - three inch squares of steak, filled with meat, spices, hard-boiled eggs and onions, which are rolled before cooking. Others celebrate by preparing roast peacock, garnished with some of its own vibrant feathers. These entrees are then surrounded by a variety of regional side dishes.


In Brazil, the Christmas meal is quite a feast, offering large quantities of food, such as a wide variety of dishes which include fresh vegetables (including Couve a Mineira - kale, highly seasoned with garlic) and luscious fruits. Accompanying these are bowls of zesty, colorful rice and platters filled with ham and Ceia de Natal - Brazilian Christmas turkey.


Carp is the main course for Christmas dinner in the Czech Republic. To introduce the meal, fish soup is served, as well as a variety of salads. As a complement to the fish, sides which include potatoes, eggs and luscious vegetable dishes are served, and the meal is topped off with Christmas cake, heavily peppered with raisins and almonds. Rather than enjoying their feast on Christmas day, folks in the Czech Republic share their traditional holiday meal on Christmas Eve.


The Danish prepare a feast of succulent goose, filled with prunes and apples and draped with a luscious lingonberry sauce. This is served with roasted brown potatoes and colorful red cabbage. Preceding the entrée is rice pudding, containing a single whole almond - the lucky recipient of the almond wins a special treat at the end of the meal, often consisting of a marzipan. Like the Czechs, the folks in Denmark enjoy their holiday feast on Christmas Eve.


Those who celebrate Christmas in Egypt share their holiday meal well after midnight on Christmas Eve. Traditional fare consists of soup, boiled meat and rice, and is topped off by Kahk - biscuits which are sweet to the taste and decorated with a cross. The eating of Kahk, too, encompasses a separate tradition which reflects the eating of similar biscuits by the Moslems on Eid el Fitr.


Folks in Germany celebrate the holiday with a huge feast which begins with roast goose and breads that are laden with raisins, dried fruit, nuts and citron (known as Christstollen). Also on the table are deliciously spicy bars (Lebkuchen), Dresden Stollen (another form of fruited bread) and marzipan. Prior to this, a separate dinner takes place on Christmas Eve which includes roast pig, macaroni and white sausage.


As in Denmark, the people of Iceland include a tasty rice pudding with their Christmas meal, filled with raisins and a single almond. The main course consists of smoked mutton and leaf-bread (Laufabraud) - a slim, deep-fried wheat bread that's decorated with elaborate patterning. In lieu of the smoked mutton, some families feast on Rock Ptarmigan - a small winter grouse found in Iceland - which has a wonderfully gamy taste and can be fairly difficult to acquire.


Italians celebrate the holiday with two wonderful feasts - one on Christmas Eve, the other on Christmas Day. The meal on December 24th brings a variety of seafood dishes, lentils, pasta, numerous salads and - quite often - Capitone (roast eel). Christmas Day brings the second feast, consisting of platters of regionalized Italian appetizers (salami, olives, spiced meats, etc.) and soup. For the main course, there are typically several varieties of pasta, including lasagna and tortellini, among an assortment of other shapes; and numerous meat and vegetable dishes, as well as salad. The three traditional desserts that are present at most holiday feasts are panforte (gingerbread), torrone (nougat candy) and panettone (fruitcake).


Peruvians celebrate the Christmas holiday with a feast of roast turkey, tamales and numerous types of salad. The traditional dessert is fruitcake, as in some other countries. Up until this point, folks celebrate quite heartily from the beginning of the season, and enjoy food from a plentiful number of vendors selling regional favorites through the marketplaces. The Peruvian feast isn't given the same emphasis as the Christmas meal is in other areas of the world.


The Wigilia - traditional Polish Christmas dinner - begins with the breaking of a thin wafer (the Oplatek) by the head of the house, and is followed by a variety of dishes that are inherent to the region, as well as the more basic staples that can be found in most areas of Poland. These items include beet soup, sauerkraut and dumplings, noodles with poppy seeds, a variety of fish recipes and prune dumplings. Desserts are also abundant, and include strudel, fruit compote and a type of porridge made of grains, raisins, honey and nuts (known as Kutya).


While the feasting begins on December 13th, along with the festivities, it reaches a crescendo on Christmas Eve, with a huge Christmas smorgasbord. The holiday fare consists of jellied pigs' feet, Lutfisk (cod in cream sauce), ham and porridge. Included in the yuletide celebration is the traditional Doppa I Grytan (meaning, "dipping in the kettle"), in which those who are gathered dip small hunks of dark bread in the juices of meats, such as pork, corned beef and sausage.


Large feasts are enjoyed for the Christmas meal in Zimbabwe, and are typically prepared by a number of the women in a particular part of the community - or those who are members of a specific church. Traditional fare may include roast ox, bread with jam and porridge that's made with cornmeal. An alternative to the roast ox is goat, although some families partake of both types of meat during the holiday meal. Beverages traditionally include cups of sugared tea.

While the methods of celebration differ from country to country during the holidays, most employ a tradition which includes gathering with friends and relatives to break bread. In the spirit of the season, they enjoy a sumptuous Christmas feast containing foods that have their traditions firmly rooted within generations of family members.

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