10 Wacky Christmas Food Traditions From Around The World
Ever wondered what people from other countries eat on one of the world's favorite holidays? What about how some foreign favorite dishes stack up health-wise?
Whether you've ever been curious before or not, you may enjoy this mighty interesting list of some of the wackiest Christmas food out there!
1. Italy: Eel
For those of us whose main knowledge of eels comes from Flotsam and Jetsam of The Little Mermaid, the idea of eating them may seem a little weird. In Italy, though, eel had two things going for it: the fact that eels are abundant in the seas surrounding the region and a tradition that forbid meat from being eaten on Christmas eve.Luckily for Italians, eel is actually a pretty healthy food! It's rich in omega-3 fatty acids, high in a variety of minerals, low sodium, and sugar-free. Eel gets a little less healthy once you fry it, as many Italians do, but you could still do a lot worse food-wise during the holidays.
2. England: Mince Pies
We've heard of sweet pies and we've heard of savory pies, but mince pies are somewhere in between. For the English, eating the strange little things at Christmastime dates all the way back to the 13th century!Apparently, the tradition began when Crusaders returned from their travels with new and then-exotic spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. These spices were combined with other ingredients like chopped dried fruit, nuts, distilled spirits and, weirdly enough, beef and venison. Ergo, mince pie was born!Since the bulk of mince pie is made of white-flour pastry and it's quite high in sugar and fat, eating it is not exactly the healthiest of holiday traditions. If you do want to try a mince pie, try to stick to a small serving and avoid any extras like cream or butter!
3. Germany: Goose
While your American Christmas table is more likely stocked with some ham, turkey, or chicken, the German have made a habit of eating goose. This tradition may have migrated to Christmas from an earlier custom that involved eating goose on St. Martin's day, which itself began because this St. Martin once hid in a goose pen to avoid being ordained.The German often stuff their Christmas goose with ingredients like apples, chestnuts, onions, and prunes, then add spices like mugwort and marjoram. The good news is, while we can't speak for every indulgent recipe, goose meat itself is pretty healthy.Though goose is high in fat, this fat is mostly healthy fat that is thought to have anti-inflammatory properties. Goose is also rich in micronutrients and has a particularly high concentration of vitamins B6 and B2 and minerals phosphorous and selenium.
4. USA: Fruitcake
We Americans certainly aren't immune to our peculiar food traditions either. Fruitcake has remained a staple at holiday gatherings despite the running joke that not many of us actually like it, at least not as much as we like our apple pie!Apparently, this oddity came about because dried fruits and nuts were both once very expensive. Thus, serving one at a holiday gathering or giving one as a gift was something of a display of prosperity. Considering that these sugar-laden concoctions aren't too good for us, maybe we should start putting together ostentatious fruit and vegetable displays instead!
5. Sweden: Jansson’s Temptation
This traditional Swedish casserole usually contains potato, onion, pickled anchovies, cream, and bread crumbs. While anchovies aren't exactly what most people would call Christmas food, the wackiest aspect of "Jansson's Temptation" is probably its mysterious name!
One story goes that it was borrowed from the film Janssons frestelse, a little known 1928 Swedish silent film. Another idea that it was named after Pelle Janzon, a Swedish opera singer with a famously big appetite.
A spicier story is that it was instead named after a religious leader named Erik Janson, who preached vigorously against all pleasures of the flesh. When Janson was found ravenously devouring this tasty casserole, his reputation was toast!If you do find yourself celebrating in Sweden on one Christmas or another, you may want to moderate you consumption of this traditional dish. While the onions and anchovies it contains have their health perks, the potato, cream, and bread crumbs are all on the high-calorie side.
6. Norway: Lutefisk
The weirdest thing about this dried and salted whitefish dish is probably the way it's prepared. After being dried, the fish is treated with lye, a corrosive chemical better known for its place in many soaps.
While whitefish itself is pretty healthy, this process wipes out many of the foods vitamins and minerals as well as much of its protein. It also changes the taste to one that many find unfavorable, meaning it can join fruitcake in the "love to hate it" category.
Still, you'll be left with a relatively low calorie and high protein dish; just don't go crazy with any of the sauces you may find it served with!
7. Philippines: Puto Bumbong
This Filipino delicacy is made from a rare strain of sticky rice that has an unusual purpleish black color. This rice is soaked overnight, drained, then inserted into bamboo tubes or "bumbongs."These bumbongs are then served with butter, sugar, and shredded coconut. Those obviously aren't the healthiest of add-ons, but at least you'll be getting a few antioxidants and nutrients from the rice and coconut. Besides, how often do you get to eat purple rice?!
8. Israel: Sufganiyot (Jelly Donuts)
Sufganiyot, a type of fried donut filled with jelly or custard, shares its roots with the more-popular-in-America latkes. Both spring from a part of Hanukkah's origin story in which an oil lamp that should have run out of oil after only a day instead remained lit for 8 days.Frying food in oil supposedly honors this miracle, and while there's no way to get around oil's high fat content, you can at least make an effort to use healthier oil options. Olive oil, walnut oil, and avocado oil all contain more healthy fats than unhealthy saturated ones.There's also not much to be done about all the added sugar in these pastries, but oh well. Hanukkah only comes once a year!
9. Ukraine: Kutya (Kutia)What kind of Christmas dish can you make without meat, fat, or sugar? It turns out: a pretty tasty one! Since Orthodox Ukrainians are forbidden from eating any of the ingredients above during the Christmas season, they eat a dish called kutya made from foods like wheat, poppy seeds, dried fruits, and nuts sweetened with honey.While kutya isn't a terribly low-carb or low-fat food, it does have the benefit of being minimally processed and made from whole foods. If you want to eat it like a Ukranian, you have to wait until after you see the first star appear in the night sky!
10. KFC Fried Chicken: Japan
The Japanese people's primarily seafood and plant-based diet makes their country one of the healthiest ones around. So how did they come to have a Christmas tradition of eating one of the most unhealthy American foods around? The answer is simple: marketing!
Japanese is a mostly Shinto and Buddhist country, but as they became more Americanized, they felt a little left out as they realized they didn't have any Christmas traditions of their own.So, KFC stepped in, vigorously promoting the idea of a fried chicken dinner on Christmas or Christmas Eve. This idea became so ubiquitous that families who want a KFC chicken dinner now have to reserve it as many as two months in advance, and on Christmas Eve, KFC stores are a full ten times busier than usual. Since KFC chicken is a MSG-flavored and high-fat health nightmare, this is one seasonal tradition it's hard to get behind. If you ever do find yourself in Japan on Christmas, you'd have better luck skipping the lines and trying out some more traditional Japanese fare.
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