We’re here! The social whirligig that is the run-up to Christmas is over. Peace at last. But before the dry Januarys commence and resolutions are made, we have one final hurdle: Christmas lunch. And whilst it’s turkey all the way for the British, what’s the meal of choice around the rest of the globe? Here are a few of the international highlights:
German Christmases are famous the world over: they offer dumplings, gingerbread houses and Christmas Kitsch at its very best. Gluhwein takes the place of mulled wine, and a fruit bread (Stollen) instead of Christmas pudding. They have their main feast on Christmas eve rather than Christmas day.
Over in South America, a suckling pig is served with pomp and ceremony. Whilst we may be more sentimental about piglets being slaughtered and shoved on a spit, the Puerto Ricans, for example, embrace the whole affair, adding morcilla (blood sausages) into the mix, all – naturally – sloshed down with eggnog made of rum. I have fallen victim to this particular dining experience in times past and whilst the pig itself is fairly delicious, the imaginative recreations of the leftover meat fed us well into February: adopt only if you’re a big on swine.
Belgium, Luxembourg, The Netherlands
The Low Countries are less keen carnivores, focusing instead on sweet bread known as cougnou. Made of flour, eggs, milk, sugar, raisins and yeast, the pastries are formed into the shape of baby Jesus which can be slightly alarming: baked babies with hot chocolate is however a surprisingly deliciously cosy treat.
Australia and New Zealand
Whilst we busy ourselves dreaming of a white Christmas, our antipodean friends have no such luck. Christmas in the summer may sound to you or I like fish without chips, the celebrations fall in the height of summer for the Australians and New Zealanders. No prizes for guessing how they dine: it’s a barbecue, preferably on the beach, of assorted meats followed by a pavlova, of all things.
The award for the most eccentric Christmas feasting tradition undoubtedly goes to the Japanese, who tend to favour KFC – yes, Kentucky Fried Chicken – at Christmas. The American restaurant chain reports that December it its busiest month in Japan, with restaurants seeing increases in sales by up to ten times. It’s a tradition that is said to have started as a marketing strategy (so holy) when the first franchise arrived in Japan in 1970.
And whilst KFC can, occasionally, appeal – albeit late at night after overdoing it – I think we’re wiser sticking with turkey this Tuesday.
Turkeys haven’t always been the bird of choice for the British on Christmas day: they first appeared on our tables in the early sixteenth century, replacing swans, peacocks and pheasants as the favoured feathered friend. Today, approximately ten million turkeys are gobbled on the 25th, and are preferred by 76 per cent of families.
So wherever you are in the world and whatever is on your plate, tuck in, bon appétit and Merry Christmas.