Growing up in Kansas, Christmas day always culminated in a dinner that challenged Thanksgiving day for the grandest feast of the year. What I enjoyed more than the roast and scalloped potatoes, were a variety interesting side dishes such as grandma’s carrot raisin salad or mom’s strawberry Jell-O with layers of sour cream and bananas. This year I’ve wondered what the rest of the world feasts on come Christmas day. Here is part of what I discovered.
It was no surprise to learn that in Poland their enormous banquet, the Star Supper, features borscht and dumplings, while in Italy they celebrate with the Feast of the Seven Fishes including fried eel followed the next day by a sausage made from pig’s intestines.
To my horror I discovered that in Iceland Christmas delicacies include roasted reindeer. In Slovakia the featured entrée is fried carp, and in Japan, which is over 99% non-Christian, it’s Kentucky Fried Chicken. In Australia where it’s is summer in December a barbecue is common. I was rather surprised that in Peru turkey is popular, but served with hot chocolate. Which is echoed in a wonderful holiday custom among various organizations called chocolatadas, events where the poor are provided hot chocolate, sweets and toys.
In the Caribbean the dessert course frequently features black cake. Common on Jamaica, Bermuda, St. Vincent and other islands, it’s a different take on fruitcake. The fruit is soaked in local rum for months and then mixed into a batter with lots of caramelized sugar. The finished cake is soaked in rum again for a very merry Christmas on the islands.
Whether your holiday feast is classic American fare or is inspired by the heritage of your family and friends, I hope it will be part of an especially Merry Christmas this year. — James