No matter where you live, celebrating Christmas with a holiday meal is an occasion to create unforgettable moments with family and friends. Food is often central to creating these memories.
Sharing traditional recipes and even new customs with your family and friends back home can keep your connection alive even when many miles are between you. Phone calls, video chats, recipe sharing, holiday cards, and gift exchanges give you ways to stay in touch over the winter holidays.
Because Western Union keeps families connected across more than 200 countries and territories worldwide and food is such a terrific way of connecting families and cultures, we thought we’d share the foods people around the world share during the holidays.
Christmas & Holiday Meals Around the World
One way to keep traditions alive is to share and prepare favorite Christmas recipes within your family. You know as you measure and mix in your kitchen that your extended family is chopping and stirring in theirs as well. Not sure which recipes to resurrect? Or which new ones to try? Here are holiday traditions and favorite foods from around the globe to spice up your holiday gatherings.
United States shows its mixed heritage and sweet tooth
One example of how traditions persist across continents is the Italian-American tradition on Christmas Eve of gathering for the Feast of the Seven Fishes, which is believed to have originated in the Southern Italy region many decades ago. And though most Americans enjoy a big turkey dinner on Thanksgiving about a month before Christmas, many roast turkey again for Christmas. Some choose baked ham as the main course instead, and some have a big pasta-centered feast. While the main course may not be the same across the country, Christmas cookies and eggnog are often the favorite sweet treats this time of year, and baking batches of cookies is a fun family tradition.
Canada takes the cake
Known as bûche de Noël or a Yule (Christmas) log, this traditional dessert served in Canada and other countries is as sweet on the eyes as on the lips! Made in the shape of a miniature Yule log, rolled layers of sponge cake and icing covered in brown chocolate “bark” resemble a log. Finish decorating with fresh berries or mushrooms made of meringue or marzipan. Get as fancy as you want!
France starts early, goes long
A French Christmas is all about the food and the gathering. Planning the menu and shopping begin weeks before. France celebrates the traditional meal “Le Réveillon,” which loosely translates into staying up all night to wait for Père Noël (Santa Claus), around 8 p.m. until after midnight on Christmas Eve. The evening’s five-course meal kicks off with a toast of “Santé!” with traditional drinks for adults and apple juice for children along with savory small bites. As the hours roll by, hosts serve starters (hors d’oeuvres), entrées, cheese & salads, and dessert. Similar to Canada, a bûche de Noël is France’s Christmas classic dessert.
India is spicy and sweet
India’s British influences can be seen in many of its traditional Christmas foods. Roast turkey with a stuffing made of eggs, breadcrumbs, boiled carrots and peas, and seasoned with mint powder and lemon rind is served as often as duck curry. Christmas cake made with dried fruits, plum pudding, which refers to raisins not plums, and intricately shaped rose cookies are favorite desserts.
Jamaica means fruit cake and sorrel
Spicy curried goat with rice and gungo peas is a classic for Jamaican Christmas meals. Or families may choose to roast a ham dressed with cherries and pineapple. Spicy fruit cake preparation gets underway before the holidays by soaking the fruits. Consider inviting new friends over for a “mixing party” to put all the fruit cake ingredients together for baking. And pour them a glass of the sorrel you prepped the night before (or earlier).
Australia keeps it cool and light
At Christmas in Australia, the temperature’s sizzling so any cooking that day moves outside, and chilled foods are the stars of the table. Cold ham and turkey as well as cooled oysters and prawns greet guests. Many families serve barbequed chicken, lamb, or steak on skewers. And for dessert, pavlova is a tradition. The light, fluffy white meringue “cake” topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit is a refreshing and lighter sweet on the summer day.
Indonesia regions have many different food traditions
Indonesians start celebrating the holiday on Christmas Eve, and specific foods are associated with the country’s different regions. In Central Java, Selat Solo is a beef and vegetable dish that mixes the sweet with the spicy. In North Sumatra, roast pork seasoned with lemongrass, onions, and sweet soy sauce is a favorite. Fish dishes are also popular: Ikan Kuah Kuning made with tuna or muba fish in a yellow sauce of coconut milk, turmeric, and lime; and Ikan Woku Belanga, a fresh fish with basil, Pandan leaves, and lime leaves. Versatile lapet cake from North Sumatra is a sweet-salty dessert eaten with coffee in the morning or as a snack in the afternoon during Christmas.
Staying Connected at Holiday Time
Enjoy staying connected with your family and friends through the Christmas holidays by sharing your traditions new and old. If you have immigrated to a new country, consider enjoying holiday meals with new friends and have everyone bring a dish from their culture.
And if you can’t join far-away family and loved ones, you can always send money to your family to help them celebrate – and you don’t even have to leave your home. You can easily send funds online or use our fast and reliable money transfer app, and because Western Union has locations in over 200 countries and territories around the world, your family has options on how they can receive the money.
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