Surrounding most holidays, you’ll find a wide assortment of holiday meal traditions that vary by country and even by region. Nothing says “Happy Holidays” like sitting down with your loved ones to share a hearty meal.
Here, in the U.S., when we hear the words “holiday meal”, we think of roasted turkeys or hams, mashed potatoes, and tasty pies. We thought it would be interesting to showcase a few holiday meal traditions in countries where you can experience a Taste Vacation:
Italian Holiday Meal Traditions
Though Italians celebrate from the beginning of December (St. Nicholas’s Day – Dec 6) until the beginning of January (The Epiphany – Jan 6), Christmas Eve or La Vigilia (The Vigil) is a special day where people fast during the day and gather together that night for a festive celebratory meal of fish and seafood. The tradition of serving fish and other seafood comes from the Roman Catholic practice of abstaining from meat on the eve of a feast day. Here in the U.S., you may have heard of the Feast of the Seven Fishes which is the Italian-American version of this Southern Italian tradition.
Chilean Holiday Meal Traditions
Chilean’s big holiday celebration meal lands on Christmas Eve or La Noche Buena. And similar to here in the U.S., roast turkey, beef or other meats are served accompanied potatoes, vegetables, and sometimes rice. Traditionally, red wine, like delicious Chilean Carmenere, or a drink called “Cola de Mono” (Monkey’s Tail) is also served. The Cola de Mono is similar to a White Russian cocktail but is made with brandy and has a cinnamon stick as garnish.
Spanish Holiday Meal Traditions
The Spanish celebrate the holidays above all else at the table, and not just at one big meal. Traditionally, they enjoy five delicious leisurely meals that can stretch on for hours, starting on Christmas Eve (Dec. 24) and ending on Three Kings Day (Jan. 6). Each meal consists of an appetizer of various tapas such as ham croquettes, boiled shrimp, or paté on crackers, a first course of soup most likely filled with more tasty seafood, a second course of roasted fish or meat, and finally dessert, which can be a whole meal on its own – no wonder it takes hours to consume!
Belgian Holiday Meal Traditions
The traditional holiday meal in Belgium is eaten on Christmas Eve, but the cuisine can vary according to the region, just like the languages spoken there (French, Dutch, and German). Though the details may differ, the holiday meal typically starts with a toast with an apertif and is followed by the main meal of roast duck, goose, turkey, or lamb, accompanied by vegetable and potato dishes. A traditional Christmas chocolate log cake or “la buche de Noel” is then served to cap off the celebration, decorated to resemble a real log.
Does your family have any holiday meal traditions? Are they regional, cultural, or did you make up ones of your own? Whatever your holiday meal traditions are, we wish you Buon Appetito, Buen Provecho, Bon Appétit, or Guten Appetit!