Whenever you think of Christmas one of the first images that comes to mind – usually after the excitement of getting lots of presents – is that of Christmas dinner, an event that always involves enough food for at least twice the amount of people that it is actually intended for while still leaving enough for the all important Boxing Day cold turkey sandwiches.
Chances are, if you are going to be spending Christmas Day in England, your Christmas dinner will consist of the traditional: turkey, roast potatoes, brussel sprouts and all the other trimmings. But what about the rest of the world? What could you expect if you were sat around the table in another country?
Lets start with a hop across the Channel to France, where (I’m sorry to say) you would be waiting quite some time for food on Christmas Day. The big celebratory meal, know as ‘Le Revellion’ is actually served on Christmas Eve, after midnight mass to be precise. Seen as a symbolic awakening of Christ, what is actually eaten varies somewhat depending on which region of France you live in, but common dishes include oysters, escargot, and foie gras to start. These are often followed by turkey or goose, which are commonly served with a chestnut stuffing, however other meats such as duck, ham or venison may also be served. Of course most important of all is the pudding and in France this is a special chocolate Yule log – shaped cake known as a ‘Buche de Noel’ or Christmas Log.
Venture a little further from home the meals become even less like those that you’re used to. In Bulgaria for example you’d struggle to find any meat at all on the Christmas table, never mind turkey. There it is tradition to cook 12 different dishes, each representing a month of the year, and none of them involving meat. Instead you could expect dishes of nuts, dried fruit and pastry called banitza, made by layering a mixture of egg and cheese between filo pastry.
Another country likely to leave you with a turkey shaped whole in your stomach is America. With Thanksgiving being celebrated only a month before, by the time the 25th of December rolls around, many families in the USA feel that they have had their turkey fix for the year. Instead, it is far more common to see a joint of lamb or beef in the centre of the table on Christmas Day, although still accompanied by many of the dishes that you’d see at home, for example, those tiny sausages wrapped in bacon that we all love, or pigs in blankets, to give them the
Venturing into the Southern Hemisphere to countries such as Australia, the weather has considerable influence upon what you could expect to eat. Like the British, the Australians are fans of the traditional turkey, however, as Christmas Day for them arrives in the middle of summer, preparation for the meal is a little different. Think less time spent slaving over an oven and more spent drinking a few beers on the beach waiting for the barbecue to get hot enough.
Whilst researching different Christmas meal traditions around the world I stumbled upon a somewhat more contemporary one from Japan. There, the Christmas meal has become not so much a display of the family culinary skills, but instead comes ready cooked (and often served in a bucket) in the form of Kentucky Fried Chicken. In fact KFC chains in Japan often become so busy on Christmas Day that they have to allow table bookings.
I don’t know about you, but in my opinion Christmas Day is an occasion deserving of something a little more special then battered chicken pieces and the idea of sunbathing on the 25th is just too weird! So I think I’ll stick to a good old-fashioned turkey and trimmings (even a few customary brussel sprouts) and keep my fingers crossed for snow.