24# Feast of the Seven Fishes

On the night before Christmas, some people are preparing and decorating Christmas cookies, while others are readying a delicious roast beast for the oven. But for Italian-Americans, the traditional dinner can taste “a bit” fishy. This feast has no hard and fast rules, except one: seafood must be served! While the precise origins of the tradition are not clear, the Feast of the Seven Fishes, also referred to as “La Vigilia”, in italian, honors Italian-Catholic traditions of eating lean, or “magro”, in preparation for Christmas holiday feasting. Christmas Eve is…

Read More

23# Julmust: the soft drink that outsells Coca-Cola during Christmas seasons in Sweden

Julmust is a soft drink that is typically consumed in Sweden during the Christmas season. Its name come from from Jul, the Swedish word for “Christmas,” and must, a common winemaking term for what you call the not yet fermented juice from fruit meant for wine or cider production. Julmust, which tastes like a blend of cola and root beer, was created by Swedish chemist Harry Roberts in the early 20th century as a nonalcoholic alternative to beer. Harry got the recipe from Germany where he studied chemistry and have…

Read More

22# Black Cake: a Caribbean tradition

If you’re among people who can’t wait to plan (well in advance) Christmas every year, it’s never too early to start preparing the Caribbean holiday treat! Known as black cake or Christmas cake, to prepare this dessert the islanders soak dried fruit in rum and cherry brandy for up to a year before baking. Before baking, the fruit soaks in rum and cherry brandy until it’s so plump and intoxicated, that only good things can come from it! After British colonists introduced plum pudding, which is more like cake than…

Read More

21# Puto Bumbong – Philippines

We are in the Philippines, which are home to one of the longest Christmas seasons in the world, stretching from the beginning of September until the end of December. In fact Christmas carols are heard as early as September and the season last until Epiphany, the feast of the Black Nazarene on the second Sunday of January, or at the Feast of the Santo Niño held every third Sunday of January. As a results, months of festivities are dotted by a wide array of delicious, often colorful treats, and among…

Read More

20# An Australian white Christmas…

A dessert called White Christmas is an Australian holiday classic. It’s easy to make and a delicious kid’s treat (but not only). It keeps really well, making it a tasty dessert to make in advance for when guest pop over. It is a mixture of raisins, glacé cherries, desiccated coconut, icing sugar, milk powder and Rice Crispies, with hydrogenated coconut oil (such as the brand Copha, that I have only seen sold in Australia) as the binding ingredient. The hydrogenated oil is melted and combined with the dry ingredients. Then…

Read More

19# Fruitcake: the gift that keeps on giving

American journalist and humorist Calvin Trillin theorized that there is only one fruitcake and that it is simply sent from family to family each year. What is true, is that most Americans turn their noses at the very thought of fruitcake even though, for some reason, this item keeps making the rounds and this is made possible because the cakes are soaked in alcohol or other liquors to keep them from go bad. Don’t believe me? This man sampled a cake that someone had kept as a family heirloom dating…

Read More

18# Melomakarona: Greek Christmas Honey Cookies with curious origins

Sweet orange-zest cookies soaked in honey and topped with walnut? Yes, please! This treat is a holiday treat that regularly appears on tables in Greece. Known as melomakarona, if you visit Greece in Christmas time, you’ll eat far too many of these delicious Christmas honey cookies. Imagine a cross between baklava and an gooey pecan pie and you’ve got these: typical Greek Christmas honey cookies, and probably you won’t be able to eat just one. Every self-respecting Greek household has a huge pile of these on their Christmas treat table.…

Read More

17# Lussekatter – Swedish saffron buns

Julbord, a three course meal, is served come Christmas in Sweden. The first dish is usually fish, often pickled herring. As second, cold cuts (including Christmas ham) along with sausages are served and the third course is often meatballs and a potato casserole called Janssons frestelse. For dessert, rice pudding is popular, but there’s another treat for which the Swedes are known to make around this time: Lussekatter. Light and fluffy, these saffron buns are a fun to make treat for St. Lucia’s Day and beyond! Sweet yeast rolls are…

Read More

16# Traditional German Weihnachtsgans – the Christmas Goose

Christmas season in Germany conjures different things: winding and pictoresque Weihnachtsmärkte, seasonally draining wallets or St. Nick and terrifying (at least in Bavaria) counterpart Krampus. One thing, however, a German Christmas should always conjure: delicious food, and plenty of it! Crispy goose, gingerbread or sugar-covered raisin cake: good food belongs to German Christmas celebrations as much as the Christmas tree. And many traditional dish dates back to medieval times or even earlier. Before they adopted Christianity, Germanic peoples celebrated winter solstice around the same time as Christmas and meals were…

Read More

15# Kūčios: traditional Christmas Eve Dinner in Lithuania

Kūčios, the traditional Lithuanian Christmas dinner, is held on December 24th every year. And hosting kūčios is no small feat: this meal can take up to a week to prepare. For Lithuanians, the holidays are about spending time with family, so a week-long meal prep is certainly a great opportunity for families to get together and is likely why the tradition has persisted still today. Many people fast during the day, and also Kūčios meal shouldn’t contain any meat. Often an extra place is set for a family member who…

Read More

14# The Christmas Pickle

Each december, millions of people dust off Christmas ornaments and hang them on their respective trees. They carefully place glass baubles and string lights to respect a tradition that, as we already know, has very ancient origins. However, in Berrien Springs, Michigan, some Christmas trees have something to hide. But why, if they are adorned in tinsel, string lights, and ornaments, and they don’t absolutely appear out of the ordinary? A closer look might reveal a shimmering emerald vegetable hiding inside the evergreen branches. No mistake, you’ve just spotted a…

Read More

#13 Cuccía: a Sicilian tradition on Saint Lucy’s day

On the calendar, December 13th appears a day like any other, but in Sicily many are waiting for this date. The day of Saint Lucy (also celebrated in other parts of the world) is in fact one of the most awaited (minor) holidays by the Sicilians, and above all by the Palermo people. For devotion, of course, but above all for gluttony, and the cuccìa that certainly cannot miss. Large excluded: flour products.  The origin of this custom remains disputed between the cities of Palermo and Syracuse, where Lucy also…

Read More

12# the Christmas tradition of making Tamale

For Latin Americans, making tamales is a Christmas tradition and every family has their own secret recipe. The basis is a corn dough, wrapped in a banana leaf or corn husk, and then steamed. Some are stuffed with pork, and some with beef or chicken. Other foods that may be a part of the filling are garlic, onion, potatoes, or raisins. At first glance, they might seem simple enough. However, Tamales are different not just from country to country, but also from region to region and even from abuela to…

Read More

11# Chicken Bones: the story behind an uniquely Canadian holiday treat

In the riverside town of St. Stephen, New Brunswick, sweet tooth still speak with reverence about an almost 140-year-old candy known as Chicken Bones, a vibrant pink candy made of pulled sugar, with a cinnamon-flavored outer layer and a bittersweet chocolate filling. It hold high regard in Canadian Christmas traditions, where it appears as a common stocking stuffer, or as a staple in grandma’s candy dish. They are a product by the most experienced confectioners at Ganong Brothers Limited, the oldest candy manufacturers in Canada (in business since 1873). The…

Read More

10# Struffoli: Neapolitan Christmas Tradition

Of the many pastries and dishes that Italy has gifted to the world, the Neapolitan delicacy known as struffoli are the quintessential festive dessert on Neapolitan tables and for Italian-American families alike. They originated in Napoli, the capital of the region of Campania, and dates back to the time of the ancient Greeks who once ruled the port city. And then the Romans have adapted the recipe into their own version, stuffing the dough balls with candied fruits and chopped almonds. It seems the name struffoli comes from the Greek…

Read More

9# The Tradition of Christmas Pudding

Christmas pudding, known also Plum pudding, or simply “pud” is a type of pudding traditionally served as end of the Christmas dinner in the UK, Ireland and in other countries where it has been brought by Irish and British immigrants. It has its origins in medieval England, and despite the name, it contains no actual plums. Its name come from the pre-Victorian use of the word “plums” as a term for raisins. Many households have their own recipes for Christmas pudding, some handed down through families for generations, but what…

Read More

8# The delicious history of the Yule Log Cake – or bûche de Noël

Paris at Christmastime is heaven for sweet tooth. Even if, patisseries on virtually every street corner is attractive at any time of year, there’s something magical about windows packed with elaborately decorated little logs. I discovered that few French people celebrate Christmas without one of these Yule log cake, known also as bûche de Noël, a Christmas cake with a ritualistic and interesting past. Cleverly shaped and decorated to look like a 3-D little log, the cake represents a melding of ancient midwinter traditions: one that celebrated the end of…

Read More

7# Ul Boov: the Mongolian “shoe sole cake“

We are in Mongolia. Tsagaan Sar, arguably Mongolia’s most important holiday, is the celebration of the Lunar New Year, held a month after the first new moon following the Winter Solstice. Tsagaan means “white” and Sar can be translated as “month” or “moon”. When locals celebrate the Lunar New Year with a days-long holiday, that like the best holidays, is all about family, the centerpiece is usually a fabulous ul boov. Ul boov in the lyrical, literal style of the Mongolian language means “shoe sole cake”, probably a humble name…

Read More

6# Samichlaus, the beer from Austria brewed only on Saint Nicholas’s Day.

Like Santa Claus, the brewers of Samichlaus beer carry out a very special task each December, when Austria’s Schloss Eggenberg brewery prepares a batch of Samichlaus on Saint Nicholas’s Day, just today, December 6! Samichlaus (Santa Claus in English) then is aged for 10 months, to be released the following winter and the result is a lager with notes of raisin, malt, and caramel. At 14 percent alcohol by volume, the drink, made in the a very strong style known as doppelbock, was once considered the strongest beer in the…

Read More

5# Sinterklaas Pepernoten – Netherlands

Pepernoten (literally pepper nuts) are little, brown spice cookies very popular before and during the Dutch holiday Sinterklaasavond, or Saint Nicholas’s Eve. Sinterklaasavond occurs on the night of December 5 when the patron saint of children, Sinterklaas (de Sint, or formally: Sint Nicolaas, from whom the modern Santa Claus evolved), distributes presents and sweet treats across the country. Sinterklaas is an elderly, stately and serious man with white hair and a long, full beard, supposed to live in Spain. He wears a long red cape with golden fringes over a…

Read More

4# Christmas Cake and Cheese: a big deal in Yorkshire – England!

Yorkshire, a historic county of Northern England and the largest in the United Kingdom, has its a curious variety of weird and wonderful traditions often unknown on the rest of the world. There is also one festive custom which probably is set to take dinner tables by storm, in future. The poor fruitcake has gotten a bad rap over the past few decades, and it is not just a cellophane package. Probably people misunderstand its booze-infused density and fruitiness, chalking up the decision to give such a gift as nothing…

Read More

3# From the bathtub to the table: Christmas Eve Carp!

There are many ways to ensure your meal is fresh: first, you can grow it yourself, or you can buy it directly from the farm. Or you can take it home alive and let it swim in your bathtub! The latter method is a Christmas Eve carp tradition in Slovakia, Poland, and Czech Republic. For centuries, families throughout much of central Europe have relied on one simple main course for Christmas Eve dinner: the common carp, a symbol of good luck and classic meat-free meal for Christians. Strong Catholic traditions…

Read More

2# Gata at Geghard Monastery – Armenia

We are in the rugged Upper Azat Valley in Armenia, around the entrance to the rock-carved Geghard Monastery. Here you’ll notice elderly ladies clustered around roadside stalls leading to the site, selling round Gata cakes inscribed with patterns and intricate Armenian script. The glazed pastry, made with simple ingredients, has a crusty texture that’s soft once you bite into it, and is stuffed with a sweet filling, called khoriz, made from a fluffy mixture of flour, butter, and sugar, with a consistency of baked custard. Even if styles will vary…

Read More

1# Christmas Risengrød, the Danish rice pudding that appeases wicked elves!

In Denmark, the tradition of eating rice pudding, or risengrød, on Christmas starts with a mischievous elf. In many European countries, traditions linked to Christmastime feature magical creatures who are slightly less benevolent than the American version of Santa and his elves. In fact, it seems that many of these curious sprites, in fact, are trying to steal or otherwise make trouble for people. Danish folklore features a gnome or elf-like creature known as “nisse”, who lives in barns and becomes particularly exuberant during the Christmas season. If treated well,…

Read More