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Traditional Christmas Dinners from East to West

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If there is one thing everyone looks forward to on the holidays, it’s the traditional Christmas dinner.  In the U.S., there is such a blend of cultures that it’s hard to name a common meal all people have.  However, many other countries from east to west have unique traditional meals to try. Some of these countries include Russia, Ethiopia, Poland, Sweden, France, Spain, the United Kingdom (U.K.), and Mexico.

Russia boasts a variety of pork: roasted pork, stuffed pig’s head, roasted meat chunks.  Other courses include goose with apples, sour cream hare, lamb, and whole fish.  Berries, fruit, candy, cakes, biscuits, and honey comprise the array of sweets.  Some customary drinks are various broths, Chinese tea (a tradition from the 18th century), and Kissel (a viscous fruit fish of berry juice thickened with starch and an option of adding red wine or dried fruits).

Ethiopia is an oddball in that its population (over half of which is composed of Orthodox Christians) still follows the Julian calendar.  Thus, Christmas, called Ganna, is celebrated on Jan. 7.  Their meal is made of a main course like doro (a spicy chicken stew) or wat (a thick, spicy stew with meat, veggies, and sometimes eggs), injera bread (a flat, round bread used to scoop and eat the food), and homemade wine or beer.

Poland has a special custom where they prepare 12 dishes to commemorate the 12 Apostles on Christmas Eve.  There is no meat; the dishes consist of fish and vegetables, and the meal begins when the first star is seen.  Some common dishes are Barszcz with uszka, kompot, and lamaniec. Barszcz with Uszka is a classic starter and is simply a beetroot soup with dumplings. Kompot is a traditional drink consisting of dried or fresh fruit boiled in water with sugar. Lamaniec is a popular dish in eastern regions and is a flat, hard pancake soaked in warm milk with poppy seeds.

Sweden’s meal is an assorted variety of meat, vegetables, and sweets.  Some meats in a traditional Christmas dinner would be köttbullar(Swedish meatballs), julinska (Christmas ham), various forms of hot dog sausages, and spare ribs.  rödkål (sweet and sour red cabbage) and grönkål (sweet and sour kale) are common side dishes along with potato casserole with anchovies and vörtlimpa (Swedish rye bread with grated orange peels and an array of cheeses).  Gingerbread and julgröt (Christmas rice pudding with an almond inside) are common desserts.

France has a varied medley of meats: oysters, foie gras (goose liver), chestnut-stuffed turkey, smoked salmon.  Walnuts, almonds, raisins, apples, pears, oranges, and winter melon are often seen adorning the table.  The French have a similar custom to the Polish in remembrance to the Apostles.  They have the Thirteen Desserts (some of which might be Bûche du Noël, nougat blanc, or nougat noir au miel) representing Christ and his Apostles. These desserts are set out Christmas Eve and stay out until Dec. 27.

Spain has a wide assortment of meats and desserts that decorate their tables on the holidays.  Jamón (Spanish dry-cured ham), roasted lamb, and roasted turkey are common dishes along with langostinos (king prawn) and Gilt-head bream (a fish with an average mass of 21 lbs.).  Often seen treats are turrón (a form of nougat), marzipan, churros, and King Cake (a dry cake with nutmeg and cinnamon, icing of lemon flavor, and colored crystals).

The U.K. has a vast variety of meats, sides, drinks, and desserts to help celebrate Christmastime.  Roast turkey, Beef Wellington, and Christmas ham are regular favorites.  To complement these, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and Brussels sprouts are common side dishes.  Hot chocolate and mulled wine are popular drinks, and the meal is topped off with desserts such as a chocolate Yule log, gingerbread, and Twelfth Night Cake (only served on the final day of Christmas).

Finally, in the Western Hemisphere is Mexico sporting a medley of meats, stews, sugary delights, and drinks.  Cidra (apple cider), atole (a corn-based drink), and Rompope (an equivalent to eggnog) complement a meal of seasoned and dressed meats such as stuffed roasted turkey, honey-glazed ham with cherries and pineapple, and jamón, a shared dish with Spain.  To accompany these meats are stews such as menudo (tripe and hominy soup prepared the preceding evening) or pozole (hominy soup with pork).  Some desserts to finish the meal are bunuelos (a fried pastry), cocada (coconut candy), and marzipan, another shared dish with Spain.

From east to west, this world is connected by Christmas, and everyone must eat.  These are just a few of the 194 other countries aside from the U.S. on Earth.  There are plenty of others with their own cultures and traditions surrounding their Christmas meal, and this is only a taste of the blessed diversity of Christmastime.





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