Christmas is here and ‘tis the season to be jolly! Known as the season of feasting and gifting, Christmas is celebrated around the world with a variety of delish food. From fancy stuffed turkeys to crumble in your mouth warm gingerbread cookies, each of these Christmas delicacies have a story of their own.
So let’s take a virtual tour around the world and explore the history behind our favourite Christmas delights!
That’s not all, we bring you the best of best recipes of these much loved foods to serve at your Christmas party!
Hop on, fasten your seat belts and let’s go!
Text: Deepika Mohan
Baklava: Greece on a plate!
Baklava, a layered sugar pastry was said to have originated in the Turkish empire and is a staple on dinner tables in Greece during Christmas.
This flaky pastry is layered with nuts, sugar and spices and bound together with a sugar syrup. The tradition during Christmas is to cut it in such a way that each piece is in a diamond shape and the entire dish looks like a star.
Pavlova: Australia’s celebratory dessert!
Pavlova, a dessert made with egg whites, has a crunchy outer shell and a marshmallow-like soft, light centre. This dessert is named after Russian dancer Anna Pavlova and is believed to be created during her tour to Australia and New Zealand.
This dessert is a part of both Australia and New Zealand's national cuisines and is a part of every holiday and celebratory meal. Christmas in Australia is incomplete without Pavlova. This dessert is decorated with various colorful fruits which is a beautiful contrast to the white pavlova.
Plum Pudding: A classic Christmas relish!
Plum pudding, also known as Christmas pudding, has its roots in Medieval England. This pudding was made a staple during Christmas by the Roman Catholic Church. Every family was said to have their own version of plum pudding and during the medieval period, even the poor families made their rich version of plum pudding. Charms, coins and trinkets were inserted into these puddings as a sign of good luck and fortune.
Did You Know? Although known as 'plum pudding', this Christmas pudding does not have plums in it! So why the name? Raisins were referred to as plums in the olden days (before and during the 17th century).
Amaretti: Mouthwatering Italian cookies!
Amaretti, also known as Italian macaroons, are made with ground almonds, sugar and egg whites. Amaro in Italian means ‘ bitter’ and Amaretti means ‘little bitter things’ since bitter almonds are used to make these cookies.
There are many variations to these cookies which are crisp on the outside and soft and chewy inside. These cookies are generally served with sweet wine post dinner on Christmas Eve.
Roast Turkey: A stuffed delight around the world!
Prior to turkey, peacocks, boars, swans and geese were traditionally stuffed with various fillings and served as main course for Christmas dinner. Turkey, which was a luxury till the 16th century, slowly found its way to the feast table and has been a staple during Thanksgiving and Christmas ever since. Roast turkey is a traditional Christmas dish across the world and is a part of the Christmas feast in Philippines, Lebanon, Iceland, Portugal, Spain, England, America among other countries.
When it comes to stuffing poultry, you can use anything from mashed potatoes, sausages to dried fruits. The sky’s the limit!
Yule log cake: Celebrating the season of feasts, French style!
Yule log cake also known as Bûche de Noël, is a French classic. This cake is usually a sponge cake, frosted, rolled and frosted again with a chocolate based icing to look like a traditional Yule log, which is associated with Twelve Days of Christmas, a season of feasts.
The log is made to look real by cutting off the ends where the swirls of the rolled cake are visible and the cake is covered with pale icing to show freshly cut wood. The frosting on the log cake is given textures to represent the bark and additional pieces of cake are added to show branches. A stunning, visually creative, art meets food example!
Gingerbread biscuits: A warm hug in a bite!
As kids, we’ve all heard the story of the cute little gingerbread man, who comes alive, runs and runs only to be eaten by a fox in the end. Well, this little man shaped cookie is so popular during the festive seasons that houses around the world are filled with the warm aroma of gingerbread cookies. These cookies take the shapes of Christmas trees, stars and relevant festive objects and are decorated with various colorful icings and edible decorations.
Gingerbread biscuits are usually found in Europe during the Christmas season and the origin of gingerbread biscuits date back to the Middle Ages. Germans have similar biscuits called Pfeffernusse which are made especially during the Christmas season.
Fruitcakes: Fragrant, warm and very British!
Fruitcakes are available throughout the year but they are relished the most on Christmas Eve, especially in Britain. These cakes are believed to have originated during the Medieval period. These cakes are generally made way before Christmas with dry fruits, spices and alcohol. The alcohol not only provides the distinct flavor but also acts as a preservative.
Fruchtebrot, the German version of fruitcake is made using honey and dried fruits. Stollen, also a German fruitcake has a unique oblong shape and is usually brushed with melted butter and sprinkled with sugar.
Christmas wine: In the spirit of Christmas!
Well, the cold weather during Christmas season definitely calls for a warm drink. So how about some hot wine? Yes, Christmas is a time when mulled wine, a hot/warm drink which has red wine, spices and raisins is served.
Known to have originated in Rome, this drink has different versions due to the various spices used in different countries. This drink is known as Gluhwein in Germany and has various spices such as cinnamon sticks, star aniseed, cloves and sometimes vanilla pods.
Eggnog: America’s holiday drink!
Eggnog, a holiday drink is said to be an America version of Posset, a Christmas drink in England. Eggnog is a drink with milk, sugar, whipped eggs (which gives it the light, airy texture) and is garnished with powdered cinnamon. Alcohol such as rum or brandy is an optional ingredient.
Mince pies: Delicious homemade festive treats!
Mince pies are traditional Christmas pies that are said to have been around since the Medieval Ages. These pies in the olden days contained dried fruits, meat and spices.
In Britain, mince pies consist of dried fruits, nuts, spices, suet (raw mutton or beef fat) among other ingredients. In recent times, these pies are made omitting the meat and in larger sizes.
Biryani: Aromatic delicacy from India!
In India, Christmas dinner usually consists of biryani, an aromatic rice. Meat such as chicken or mutton is added to this rich main course dish.
Apart from the various Indian spices that are added to the biryani, it is garnished with fried cashews, onions and fresh coriander. Christmas biriyani, like wine is said to get better with age!
King’s cake: A royal end to the celebration!
King's cake or The Twelfth Night Cake is a mark of respect for the three wise men who had visited baby Jesus on the twelfth day after he was born. This day, known as Epiphany is celebrated with a feast where the King’s cake is usually served with a small hidden doll. This doll is said to represent baby Jesus and the one who finds the doll in his/her piece of cake is the star of the evening!
The cake has a sugar glazing and colored powdered sugar is sprinkled over it. In Germany, this cake is called Dreikonigskeuchen where the cake is usually decorated with a golden crown on it.
Candy cane: Addictive peppermint bliss!
On a lighter note, let’s talk about the adorable red and white striped candies that always make us look forward to Christmas, shall we? Candy canes, which come in all sizes, is shaped like, no points for guessing, canes.
A German choirmaster gave young singers long candy sticks which had the shape of a hook on top. This was to encourage them to keep silent through a long service. The hook like shape on top of the long candy stick is also believed to represent a shepherd’s crook as well as to remember the shepherds who visited baby Jesus.
The red and white striped candy canes came into existence much later and these candy canes have a peppermint flavor and are usually hung on Christmas trees.
Did You Know: The United States celebrates December 26th as National Candy Cane Day.