Christmas food traditions from around the world
From KFC to pudding, Christmas dinner traditions couldn't be more different across the globe. Here's a look at how other cultures celebrate and how you might incorporate their ideas into your own festivities.
Turkey is the star of Christmas dinner in the United Kingdom — not so different from many tables in the U.S. Classic accompaniments are bread sauce (a thick, textured sauce made with day-old bread) and Christmas pudding.
Pudding — a dense, moist cake made with fruit, spices, nuts and brandy — is steamed for hours and typically made weeks ahead of time. The day it's made is known as Stir-up Sunday, when each family member stirs the batter and makes a wish.
Then, the Christmas pudding is stored away for weeks and allowed to mature. On Christmas day, the pudding is steamed again. When it's time to serve, the pudding is doused in flaming brandy.
KFC — yep, the fried chicken chain — is the hot place for take-out on Christmas in Japan. It's so popular that the chain lets customers reserve their Christmas party buckets two months in advance. The family-size meal, about $40, has fried chicken, salad and chocolate cake.
This fast-food festivity reportedly started because of a successful ad campaign in the '70s. Now, people line up outside KFC stores for Christmas, sales go through the roof and Colonel Sanders wears a Santa suit and hat to wish customers a merry Kentucky Fried Christmas.
No eggnog here. Toast to the holidays with Sorrel punch, a seasonal island drink that gets its bright red color from hibiscus flowers. The flowers and other ingredients like cloves and cinnamon are steeped in water overnight to make an aromatic liquid, which can be combined with rum to make a sweet cocktail.
On Christmas Eve, Southern Italians celebrate with a dinner called the Feast of the Seven Fishes, which features seven seafood dishes prepared every which way. There is no traditional menu, but there are some popular dishes, including pan-fried smelts, calamari, homemade linguine with clams, baked eel, and baccala, or salt cod.
Why seven dishes? It's unclear, but most explanations point to how the number seven is referenced in the Bible and the Roman Catholic Church. Some families prepare more than seven seafood dishes, with the numbers having religious significance.
If you have a sweet tooth, you might want to borrow this tradition from the Provence region: 13 desserts are set out on Christmas Eve. The number of sweets is a nod to Jesus and the Twelve Apostles at the Last Supper.
The desserts vary, and not all are over-the-top concoctions. There are some healthy snacks, like fresh fruits, almonds and raisins, plus sweets like black and white nougat, dates stuffed with marzipan, fudge, an olive oil flatbread, buche de Noel (a Christmas yule log cake) and other pastries.