Holiday Food Traditions

Holiday food traditions vary in the U.S., but a turkey dinner with all the trimmings is the classic choice for the holidays. Did you know that when the English discovered turkey in the U.S. during the 16th century and took some back to England, Henry VIII made turkey the meat of choice for Christmas?

Good food, good wine, and good company are the perfect ingredients for good memories. Let’s explore some holiday food traditions that you may want to experience on your next holiday vacation or adopt at home:

Italy — Feast of the Seven Fishes

The Feast of the Seven Fishes is a Christmas Eve tradition for many Italians and Italian-Americans. The time-honored seafood and shellfish feast typically has seven different dishes, representing the seven days God took to create the universe. Or some like to cook twelve dishes of fish, to represent the twelve apostles.

Australia — Barbecued Shrimp and Pavlova

By the end of December in Australia, it is hot and sunny. Santa is out surfing at a white-sand beach. Aussies prefer to barbecue outside rather than roast things in the oven. Barbecued prawns are popular menu items, as is pavlova, that crispy meringue topped with fresh berries and cream.

Poland — Wiglia Feast

As soon as the first star appears in the sky, the carefully prepared Christmas Eve feast called Wiglia begins. Wiglia traditionally includes twelve dishes, representing the twelve apostles, including barszcz – a beet soup also known as borscht, pierogi with vegetable fillings, fish, poppy seed cakes, golabki (cabbage rolls), and more.

France — Bûche de Noël

The Bûche de Noël is the French version of a Yule Log cake. The story goes that the first bûche came from either a Saint-Germain-des-Prés or Lyon pastry shop. The cake resembles the Feast of Yule large log of wood which families burn from Christmas Eve until New Year’s as an offering to the gods to ensure good harvests for the coming year.

Mexico — Tamales

Dating back to 8,000 BC, the tamal is a staple of ancient Mesoamerican culture. They pre-date tortillas. Offerings of tamales honored the Gods during moon phases, the seasons, spiritual celebrations, and more. To many, masa, the foundation of tamales, allowed them to thrive and was both sacred and a blessing. Today, making tamales together celebrates tradition and family.

England — Mince Pie

In England mince pies take center stage during the holidays. They date back to the 1300s when crusading knights brought home nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon. Superstition suggests that if each family member makes a wish while giving the mixture a stir in a clockwise direction, joy will spread among the family. For good health, one must eat one mince pie each day of the Twelve Days of Christmas.