The Magnificent Christmas Dinners of the World

Pavel Raskovalov, Staff Writer

Despite its originally Christian origins, Christmas has transcended its roots, and is now celebrated all across the world no matter the country. Many cultures have adopted the holiday for its purpose of bringing people closer together, choosing to celebrate the holiday in their own way. Various cultures across the world have chosen to incorporate their own culture into their Christmas celebrations, personalizing the holiday to their desires. A large part of the holiday is the Christmas eve dinner, which most adopters have kept as part of their celebrations.  Of course, people have added their own spin to Christmas dinner, straying from the original tradition of hams and turkeys and adding their own culture’s best food into the mix. The American version itself, despite many people considering it classic, strays quite a bit from the original food eaten during the holiday in Europe. Allrecipes, a cooking website, cites the “main dishes” as being an oven roasted glazed ham, as well as a stuffed turkey. Sides include scalloped potatoes (also known as funeral potatoes) a dish with Irish origins, as well as gravy and canned cranberry sauce which comes with the turkey. Allrecipes states that some parts of the U.S. also eat a Christmas prime rib steak, but that is uncommon.

India has adapted the Christmas feast by adding a ton of traditional food, National Geographic Traveler describing their dinners as “more extravagant than even the American ones.” One of the main dishes are “naga spreads,” which according to Nat Geo Traveler “include smoked pork with axone, pork cooked with fermented bamboo shoots, pork innards with pig’s blood, pig trotters and pig’s head, served with sticky rice.” The feasts still include the staple chicken, cooked slightly differently. Most dishes cooked also include sesame, a seed that the American version rarely utilizes. Indian Christmas foods also include significantly more baking than their American counterparts, involving pastries and bread into many dishes, unlike America’s largely meat-based diet. Some examples of this presented by Nat geo are the “kuswar, which is filled with twelve-layered bebinca, deep-fried kulkuls, crescent moon-shaped neuris, coconut cookies or bolinhas, crispy kormolas, chana dal and coconut fudge called doce de grao, black jaggery and coconut based dodol, and each household has its own tweak.”  There is also a Christmas cake, a tradition that would seem strange to Americans but is commonplace in India. Sophomore Alex Mkrtchyan said he loved his family’s Christmas food, and that his favorite was turkey.

Another culture that also celebrates Christmas for cultural reasons is China. It is often referred to as “Sheng Dan Jieh” or the “Holy Birth Festival,” with both religious and secular Chinese Christmas traditions.” According to a Love to Know,  a Christmas cooking website, a Chinese Christmas feast involves dumplings, usually filled with meat and vegetables, creating a sweet fried dish that makes the mouth water. Like America, they also create a pork roast, an exquisite dish with lots of flavor and character, significantly differing from its American counterpart due to different flavoring. Spring rolls are often present, filled with vegetables and chicken, also flavored with sweet and sour sauces to complement the pre-existing flavor. Despite its presence in spring rolls, the Chinese are one of the few ethnic groups who celebrate Christmas and do not eat plain chicken during it. Also different from other cultures is the fact that they eat apples called “peace apples” during the holiday.

Similarly, to India, the Japanese also eat Christmas cake as a holiday tradition, according to the Byfood blog. The cake is usually a strawberry shortcake with whipped cream icing on it. The practice originated in a “Fujiya department store in 1910. They became hugely popular after World War II and became a sign of Japan’s economic stability. The cakes are now primarily sold in Ginza and at convenience stores,” the blog explains Japanese people also commonly eat fried chicken at Christmas, a unique tradition. There are also Yuzu, a citrus like fruit that is often eaten during the winter. Yuzu flavored items also begin to appear around Christmas time, as people begin to flavor many commercial products with the fruit. Little green tea flavored pastries called Wagashi are also eaten.

Though Russia celebrates the New Year in place of Christmas due to the banning of religion and religious holidays during the time of the Bolshevik revolution, Christmas food is still prepared for the occasion. A common dish is Selyodka Pod Shuboi, which according to my grandmother Tatyana is prepared by covering the Selyodka with layers of mayonnaise and assorted vegetables, and is usually served cold. Assorted winter salads such as vinaigrette, the Russian variation including peas, potatoes and beets are also made. A been and potato dish called Zharkoye is also cooked, it consists of the staple meat and potatoes. There are also pirogi, which consist of a filling baked into some bread. Junior Kennedy Eller said that the peanut butter balls that her family makes are by far her favorite. Senior Vasiliy Kovalenko stated that although he would not eat it all year round, Russian Christmas food is quite different from other parts of the world. There is a gigantic amount of variance when it comes to Christmas food, just waiting to be tried. There are thousands of recipes all over the internet that could very well become your favorite meal.