Christmas Treats from Around the World
Here are some delicious Christmas treats from around the world that you might like to try. Thanks to By Erik Wolf, Executive Director, World Food Travel Association.
No matter if you celebrate Kwanza, Hanukah or Christmas, each of those holiday traditions offers wonderful and unique food and drink experiences.
When we consider Christmas foods, we need to look at countries with a Christian tradition, so while Christmas might be celebrated by some people in Africa, the Middle East or Asia, the Christmas food traditions are simply not well developed enough in those places.
Below I’d like to share some of those Christmas foods and drinks that I have enjoyed from North America, Latin America, Europe and Oceania. The handy thing about Christmas foods is that you do not have to be Christian to enjoy them!
Seen in Spain around the holidays, turrones look like blocks of chocolate, but are actually made of nougat and other ingredients like nuts and fruits. The most common ones are chocolate based but there are white ones too. There are as many different kinds of turrones as there are towns in Spain! The sweet is a legacy of the Moorish invasion of Spain 1000 years ago.
Mulled wine is found largely throughout northern and eastern Europe and is extremely easy to find in Germany and Austria. Glühwein is made from a base of red wine that has been simmered with sweet spices like clove, orange and cinnamon. Left to cool slightly before serving, it is a perfect drink to sip at a Christmas Market or around the Christmas tree, reminiscing with friends and family about the year past. The name translates loosely to “glow wine” which is a reference to the red-hot irons that would have been used to heat the wine. It dates back to 1420.
Many food lovers have heard of this Italian sweet bread, but do you know how many flavors it comes in? The traditional one has dried fruits, but try it with chocolate chips, pumpkin, Amaretto or even pineapple. Enjoy it as a dessert after your evening meal, or with a cup of coffee or tea in the afternoon. The origins of the bread date back as far as ancient Rome, but most Italians are more familiar with the origin story dating back to 1494 in Milan of a young man who wanted to impress the Duke for his blessing of a marriage across classes.
Bûche de Noël (France and UK)
The bûche de noël, which originated in France, is known as the Yule log in the UK. It is a long cake with cream filling shaped like a log. There are many variations on flavors, from plain white cream, to raspberry or orange sauce, and even mint flavor in the UK. Variations on this are seen in Spain and other European countries as well. The origin of the French bûche dates back to pagan times, when wood logs were burned in home hearths. Over time, hearths disappeared, to be replaced by wood-burning stoves. The inspiration for the sweet dessert came from the smaller logs that were burned on the wood-burning stoves.
When you start to see these cookies in bakeries across Greece, you know that Christmas is around the corner. These circle or oval cookies are flavored with cloves, orange and cinnamon and usually dipped in a syrup before being sprinkled with chopped pistachios. The sweet originates in the times of ancient Greece when a version of it was offered to the gods at funerals.
Pavlova (New Zealand & Australia)
As the discussion goes with Lamington cakes, there is a lot of back and forth among the Kiwis and Aussies as to which country invented pavlova, which is made of meringue and chopped fruit like strawberries and blueberries. Since Christmas down under is during the summer, this is a refreshing holiday treat for the warmer weather. The dessert was named after the famed Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, who toured Australia and New Zealand in 1926.
Christmas Pudding (UK & British Commonwealth Countries)