No matter how you celebrate the holiday season, there’s probably one thing we can all agree on: it’s a time for good food! And because many of the dishes we prepare around the holidays only surface once every 12 months, they become traditions we look forward to year after year.
We thought it would be fun to take a look at some of the holiday food traditions that exist outside of the U.S. (as well as within it), and maybe even get inspired to add a little multi-cultural culinary flair to our spreads this holiday season. When you see some of these international delights, we think you might too.
SPICED HOT CHOCOLATE (Peru)
While hot chocolate features in many a holiday tradition, this traditional spiced hot chocolate recipe from Peru takes things up a notch. The key to this particular hot chocolate is the spices — cinnamon, nutmeg, and more – and condensed or evaporated milk. There’s even an event called Chocolatada Navideña’ in which people hand out their homemade hot chocolate at Christmas. If you like the sound of that, you can try the recipe here.
Simple, yet delicious, latkes (often referred to as potato pancakes) are traditionally prepared to celebrate Hanukkah. Latkes are fried in hot oil, to mark a miracle documented in the Bible’s Old Testament, in which one night’s worth of oil lasted for eight nights. While this tradition runs deep in Israel, latkes are a wonderful food to try any time of the year and are made with just a few everyday ingredients. You can find a recipe for them here.
MINCE PIES (England)
The author of this article grew up in England, and can tell you that there’s nothing more seasonal than mince pies! The recipe originates from the Tudor period, when they were made from 13 ingredients to represent Jesus and his disciples. Back then they were filled with actual “minced meat” and dried fruit, but today they are more often filled with fruit and spices, although some traditionalists still make a true meat version. Try this recipe yourself.
NIGHT OF THE RADISHES FESTIVAL (Mexico)
Have you ever seen oversized radishes carved into figurines? You will if you visit certain parts of Mexico during the holidays… This tradition was formalized in 1897 and is celebrated on December 23rd. We’re not exactly sure if the radishes actually get eaten, but it’s a foodie tradition all the same!
RICE CAKE SOUP (Korea)
The New Year is a big time of celebration in Korea, and this traditional dish almost always makes an appearance in Korean homes. It is eaten on Seollal (Korean New Year) – the first day of the Lunar calendar (one of the most important holidays in Korea). The soup is made of disc-shaped rice cakes in a clear broth. We think this ranks as one of the cleanest eating holiday traditions we’ve seen so far!
JANNSON’S TEMPTATION (Sweden)
A casserole made from potatoes, onions, heavy cream, breadcrumbs, and sprats: was a more traditionally Swedish dish ever to be found? This particular meal is served as part of the “Julebord” (or Yule table) and we think it could easily find a home on any dinner table this holiday season. Yum!
BAHN CHUNG (Vietnam)
Banh Chung (square rice cake) is a traditional Vietnamese rice cake made from glutinous rice, mung bean, pork, and other ingredients. Its history is said to date back to the Hong Bang Dynasty. Today, it is enjoyed during the Vietnamese New Year and is even placed on family altars to pay respects to ancestors.
ROAST TURKEY & GRAVY (USA)
Peek in the window of any U.S. home during the holidays, and chances are you’ll see roast turkey and gravy front and center (although in some regions, ham is popular.) While there are many tips and tricks to making the perfect roast turkey, the importance of a good gravy should never be overlooked. Luckily for you, we have the perfect bone broth gravy recipe right here.
OLIVIER SALAD (Russia)
Olivier salad – also known as Russian potato salad – will typically find its way to tables across Russia (and Slavic countries outside its borders also) at Christmas or New Year. It consists of finely diced potatoes, carrots, pickles, boiled eggs, sweet peas, onions, and bologna or ham, all tossed with a simple dressing of mayonnaise, salt, and pepper. If you’re a potato salad kind of person, this version is definitely worth a spin. Recipe here.
BÛCHE DE NOËL (France)
We thought we’d finish with a tempting dessert, and nothing looks more tempting than this yule log that is popular in France during the holidays. This dessert traditionally commemorates the act of cutting and burning a specially selected log known as the Yule log. Initially a pagan tradition, it found its way into the Christmas holidays centuries ago. If you’re feeling adventurous, follow this recipe and give it a whirl.