Deck the halls with boughs of holly, fa la la la la, la la la la, ’tis the season to be jolly and stuff our faces with food, candy and other various fattening goodies. It’s Christmas! Hence, the time when all the family gathers round the Christmas tree, sings carols and shares presents, good wishes and warmth, but also a wonderful opportunity to delve into countless cultures and extract the most amazing foods and traditions. For the celebratory dinner, I have picked several dishes from all parts of the world – well, mostly sweets and beverages, seeing that almost no main course is made specifically for Christmas (just like turkey meat isn’t consumed only on Thanksgiving).
A staple item for the winter holidays is, for almost every country in the world, the cake. The well-known Christmas cakes take different shapes around the globe – in the Caribbean, the dough used for the cake is mingled with pieces of fruit soaked in rum for three months (talk about lengthy preparations). In Chile, a sponge cake named Pan de Pascua (similar to the Stollen in Germany and panettone in Italy) is eaten on Christmas Eve. Funny thing is, Pan de Pascua translates literally as bread for Easter”. The Portuguese have the Bolo Rei, a cake in which uses a fava bean. The tradition says that whoever finds the bean must pay for next year’s Bolo Rei. In Belgium, a traditional dessert is the Cougnou, a sweet pastry shaped in the form of a baby Jesus and decorated with teracotta, different incisions or flowers. In France and former French colonies or francophone countries, people bake a Bûche de Noël, which relates to the European tradition of burning the Yule log on Christmas Eve.
For the drinks, the Danish have special beers brewed in this period, called Julebryg and Juleol, while the Chilean have an alcoholic beverage named Cola de Mono (monkey’s tail), made with Aguardiente (a generic name for beverages with 45%+ alcohol), milk, sugar, coffee and cloves, the equivalent (in meaning, not in ingredients) of the Eggnog in the United States. The Norwegians think about their children, too, with some kind of soda, Julebrus, which comes in two different colours (red or brown, depending on the ingredients) and is made only in this period of the year.
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