As the winter holiday season approaches, people worldwide are getting ready to celebrate with their loved ones. Food is one of the most essential parts of any holiday celebration, and winter holidays are no exception. While many of us are familiar with traditional holiday foods like roasted turkey, ham, and pumpkin pie, there are a whole host of odd and unique winter holiday foods from around the world that you might not have heard of. In this blog post, we’ll look at some of these unusual holiday dishes and the cultures that celebrate them.
Of course, for your holiday table, Catering by Michaels has you covered! Our curated holiday menus are filled with traditional and modern items, from appetizers to entrees to desserts. We even have chef-seated meal packages for gatherings of any size! To view our holiday menus, visit our website. You can place your order online by visiting CATERINGBYMICHAELS.COM/ORDERCATERING, or you can contact us via email at EVENTS@CATERINGBYMICHAELS.COM. If you’d like to speak with an event coordinator to receive personalized guidance on your holiday selections, you can reach us at (847) 966-6555.
And now, without any further ado, let’s start our global culinary trek!
Unusual Holiday Dishes and the Cultures that Celebrate Them
KFC Christmas Dinner, Japan
In Japan, Christmas is not a national holiday but is still widely celebrated. One of Japan’s most unusual holiday traditions is the KFC Christmas dinner. This tradition started in the 1970s when KFC launched a marketing campaign promoting fried chicken as a Christmas dish. Today, it is common for Japanese families to order a KFC Christmas dinner in advance, complete with fried chicken, cake, and champagne.
Cozonac is a traditional Romanian sweet bread typically served during the winter holidays. The bread is made with eggs, butter, sugar, and flour and is typically filled with nuts, raisins, and other sweet ingredients. Cozonac is often shaped into a twisted or braided loaf and served with various toppings, including honey, jam, and chocolate.
Panettone is a sweet bread traditionally eaten in Italy during the winter holidays. The bread is made with flour, sugar, eggs, and butter and is typically filled with candied fruit and raisins. Panettone is often served with hot chocolate or a glass of wine.
In Mexico, tamales are a traditional holiday food. Tamales are made with masa, a type of corn dough, and are typically filled with meat, cheese, or vegetables. The tamales are then wrapped in banana leaves or corn husks and steamed. Tamales are often served with various toppings, including salsa, sour cream, and guacamole.
Lebkuchen is a traditional German gingerbread often eaten during the winter holidays. The gingerbread is made with flour, honey, and spices and is often shaped into hearts or other festive shapes. Lebkuchen is typically decorated with icing or sugar and is usually served with a cup of hot mulled wine.
Doro Wat and Yebeg Wat, Ethiopia
A traditional holiday dish in Ethiopia is doro wat, a spicy chicken stew. The stew is made with chicken, onions, garlic, and various spices, including Berber, a blend of chili peppers, ginger, and cardamom. Yebeg wat is a spicy lamb stew served during the holiday season in Ethiopia, especially on Christmas Day, which falls on January 7th, according to the Orthodox Julian calendar. The lamb is fed a high-calorie diet for weeks before the holidays, resulting in fatty and tender meat. The stew is made with onions, tomatoes, garlic, kibbeh (Ethiopian butter), berbere (a spice mix), and various herbs. Yebeg wot is a rich source of protein, potassium, antioxidants, and vitamins. Both doro wat and yebeg wat are usually accompanied by injera, a sourdough flatbread used to scoop up the stew.
Mince Pies, United Kingdom
Mince pies are a traditional holiday food in the United Kingdom. The pies are made with a mixture of dried fruits, spices, and suet, a type of fat. The filling is then baked inside a small pastry shell. Mince pies are often served with tea or a glass of sherry.
Oliebollen is a tradition in the Netherlands during the winter holidays. The treats are made with a dough consisting of flour, yeast, milk, and eggs and are typically filled with raisins or currants. The dough is then deep-fried and dusted with powdered sugar.
Stollen is a traditional German fruitcake often eaten during the winter holidays. The cake is made with flour, yeast, butter, and sugar and is typically filled with dried fruits, nuts, and spices. Stollen is often dusted with powdered sugar and is usually served with a cup of hot mulled wine.
Bûche de Noël, France
Bûche de Noël, or Yule log, is a sweet dessert resembling a wood log. It is made with heavy cream, cocoa powder, eggs, sugar, and vanilla extract and decorated with icing sugar and fruit. It is usually served between Christmas Eve and New Year in France and other parts of Europe and North America. Bûche de Noël commemorates the ancient pagan tradition of burning a specially selected log on the winter solstice to welcome the sun’s return and ward off evil spirits.
Shuba, which means “fur coat” in Russian, is a layered salad that consists of pickled herring, hard-boiled eggs, mayonnaise, and grated vegetables, such as carrots, beets, potatoes, and onions. It is a popular dish during the New Year celebrations in Russia and other former Soviet countries. The dish gets its name from its top layer, which is usually made of mayonnaise or a beet dressing that gives it a reddish color and a warm appearance. Shuba is believed to have originated in the early 20th century when a Soviet chef created it to promote herring consumption among workers.
Spiced Hot Chocolate, Peru
Spiced hot chocolate is a creamy and aromatic drink that is enjoyed in Peru during the Christmas season. It is made with chocolate, condensed or evaporated milk, and a combination of spices, such as cinnamon, chili powder, cloves, and nutmeg. It is often served with panetón, a sweet bread with dried fruits and nuts. Spiced hot chocolate has its own event in Peru, called la Chocolatadas, during which people gather and share the drink with the less fortunate, especially children and the elderly.
Mince Pie, England
Mince pie is a small pastry filled with mincemeat, a mixture of dried fruits, spices, suet, and sometimes meat. It is a traditional dessert that is eaten during the Christmas season in England, as well as in other parts of the world. Mince pie dates back to the Middle Ages, when it was made with meat, such as lamb or mutton, and flavored with exotic spices from the East. Over time, the meat was replaced by fruits, and the pie became smaller and sweeter. Mince pie is often associated with good luck and fortune, and some people believe that eating one on each of the 12 days of Christmas will bring happiness for the following year.
Bibingka is a rice cake baked in banana leaves and topped with butter, cheese, and coconut. It is a popular snack or dessert eaten during the Christmas season in the Philippines, especially after attending the dawn masses, known as Simbang Gabi. Bibingka is traditionally cooked in clay pots over charcoal, giving it a smoky and aromatic flavor. It is usually served with salabat, a ginger tea, or tsokolate, a thick hot chocolate. Bibingka symbolizes Filipino culture and hospitality, as it is often shared with family and friends.
Butter Tarts, Canada
Butter tarts are small pastries filled with a gooey mixture of butter, sugar, eggs, and sometimes raisins or nuts. They are a classic Canadian treat eaten during the winter holidays, especially on Christmas Day. Butter tarts are believed to have originated in Ontario in the early 20th century when settlers adapted the recipes of pecan pie and treacle tart from their homelands. Butter tarts are a source of pride and debate among Canadians, as different regions have their own preferences for the crust, filling, and toppings.
Fried Carp, Czech Republic
In the Czech Republic, a traditional holiday dish is fried carp. Carp is a freshwater fish typically kept alive in a bathtub or pond until just before Christmas. It is then killed and prepared for the holiday feast. Fried carp is usually served with potato salad and various side dishes.
Latkes are potato pancakes fried in oil and served with sour cream and apple sauce. They are a traditional dish eaten during Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights, which usually falls in December. Latkes are a reminder of the miracle of Hanukkah, when a small amount of oil lasted eight days to light the menorah in the Temple of Jerusalem. Latkes are also a symbol of the resilience and survival of the Jewish people, as they are made with simple and humble ingredients that sustained them through hardships.
Winter holidays offer an excellent opportunity to explore unique and unusual foods celebrated in different cultures worldwide. From KFC Christmas dinner in Japan to fried carp in the Czech Republic, many different holiday dishes are worth exploring. Whether you’re interested in trying a new food or learning about other cultures, these unusual holiday dishes and the cultures that celebrate them will pique your interest.
And as always, Catering by Michaels is here for you! Don’t forget to view our holiday menus and place your orders early!