International Christmas - Food Culture
Now it’s December, the people of Britain are likely to get in to the full swing of festive traditions as we put our Christmas decorations up, enjoy the morsel of chocolate from our advent calendar and count down the days till our holiday break. However, we were keen to know whether countries around the world are already enjoying the build up to Christmas and what are the unique traditions which they celebrate… Around Europe alone we’ve found a host of both cultural and foodie traditions which make this the most uniquely special time of year for everyone:
While Christmas Eve in Sweden is full of celebration, feasting, and gift giving, one of the biggest holiday celebration is that of St. Lucia’s Day, celebrated on the 13th of December. Kids dress in white dresses and carry around candles to celebrate the day long celebration. It’s a fun day full of singing and jubilation.
As for a food tradition (enjoyed in secret), throughout Scandinavia, instead of leaving carrots and cookies out for our Christmas visitors they leave porridge for a gnome character which is believed to bring them gifts.
In France, the Christmas season is called Noel and it begins on the 6th of December. On Christmas Eve, children leave out shoes for Le Pere Noel (most know him as Santa Claus) to leave gifts. There is lots of feasting and familial gathering on the night called Le Reveillon, a late supper that happens on Christmas Eve, or early Christmas day, after midnight mass.
French cuisine at Christmas is often a stickler for a ‘sweet tooth finish’ and this year on of our City Pantry vendors has created a French Christmas Package to enjoy! Her take on the dessert was poached pears but the nation is also famous for Yule Log and Punitions (biscuits).
In Poland, Advent is the beginning of the Christmas season. It’s a time of simplicity when everyone remembers the true meaning of the holidays. Christmas Eve is a day of fasting until the first star is seen in the sky. This meal is called Wigilia and is a giant feast for friends and family as they celebrate the Christmas season.
It truly is a feast that goes on for ages - Poles place a piece of iron under the Christmas dinner table to make sure everyone has strong legs. The table legs have to be strong too – there are traditionally 12 courses. One of these might be Makowiek, a moist cake with a sugary glaze and a sweet poppy seed coating often eaten for dessert.
In Italy, Christmas is a very quiet and family centered holiday. Children send letters to their parents telling them how much they love them as opposed to sending letters to Santa. A good witch called La Befana delivers children's presents on January 6th using a broomstick rather than a sleigh. But if you've been bad, just like Father Christmas she might bring you lumps of coal.
Besides traditional panettone, there are a host of other Christmas treats served in Italy - by adding lemon zest gives these little hazelnut nuggets of fried dough (Struffoli) the perfect kick. And the dash of powdered sugar and sprinkles makes these some of the prettiest bite sized treats to see on Christmas Eve.