My family eats mulligatawny on Christmas Eve every year. It’s a British curry soup, and not at all traditional, but that’s what we have. It’s funny how, once you get in the habit of eating something on Christmas, you tend to stick with it. But thinking about it this year made me wonder about other Christmas Eve and Christmas Day meals, aside from the usual roasted meat or ham, that exist around the world. It turns out that there are some really interesting ones. Here's a quick tour:
The Feast of the Seven Fishes – Pretty much what it sounds like. Seven different kinds of fish, including shellfish. It seems like people are pretty flexible about what kind of fish you can use and in what dishes, though clams are a favorite. Panettone, a light, sweet bread with nuts and fruit, is a traditional dessert.
In France, oysters are so popular at Christmas that at least half of all the oysters eaten in a year are consumed in December. The classic French Christmas dessert is the Bûche de Noël, a cake in the shape of a Yule Log, which is often decorated with mushrooms made of meringue.
Poland (and other Slavic areas)
Wigilia (pronounced vee-GHEEL-yah), the Polish word for Vigil, is the traditional Christmas Eve meal. It’s vegetarian (in the Catholic sense, meaning only fish allowed), and often includes sauerkraut, dried fruit compote, fried fish and babka.
Along with the traditional roasted meat, a Christmas table in the Dominican Republic usually includes moros de guandules, a mixture of rice and pigeon peas.
Tamales are a longtime Christmas tradition in Mexico, and the whole family comes together to help with the labor-intensive process of making them. Buñuelos, a kind of sweet fried dough, are a classic Christmas dessert.
This is a tiny fraction of what I found out, but I have to say that it made me want to change up Christmas dinner and explore some new ideas for what to make. It would be really interesting to try an international Christmas dinner this year – though, of course, it would still have to include mulligatawny.
A few recipes to try:
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