Mouthwatering Winter Feasts Around the World
by Michele D. Baker
This article was originally published in the December 2022 / January 2023 issue of eat. drink. MISSISSIPPI magazine
As the days get shorter and the nights get longer, across the world people are getting ready for winter celebrations and the delicious dishes that go with them. In Britain and the USA, Christmas means roast turkey with all the trimmings. In France, they enjoy the lavish Réveillon on Christmas Eve. In South Africa, it’s all about outdoor braais, or barbecues. Here are just a few of the many luscious, food-filled holidays this season:
December 6: Nikolaustag (Saint Nicholas Day) (Germany/Netherlands)
On the night of December 5, children all over Germany and the Netherlands tidy their rooms, polish their shoes, and set them on the doorstep (or window sill, or by the fire) before going to bed. In the morning, good children wake to find Saint Nicholas has come and filled the footwear with fruit, nuts, candies, and small toys and gifts.
December 18-26: Hanukkah (worldwide)
Throughout the eight days of Hanukkah, a festival of lights commemorating the reclamation of their temple in Jerusalem, Jewish families celebrate by eating latkes (fried potato pancakes) with sour cream and apple sauce, sufganiyot (fried jelly doughnuts), gelt (foil wrapped chocolate “coins”), beef brisket, noodle kugel, and chocolate babka. Hanukkah Sameach!
December 20: Kimtee Inmewit (United States)
The Umatilla Native American tribes of eastern Oregon hold their “new year” ceremony just before the Winter Solstice on December 20 in a celebration called “Kimtee Inmewit.” Tribal history dictates that the first food that was created was the nusux (salmon), the second was the nukt (deer), and the third was a bitter root called sliiton. New Year is a time to celebrate the return of the sacred foods with singing, drums, dancing, prayers, and a shared meal of meat stew and fry bread.
December 25: Christmas Day (Botswana, Zimbabwe, South Africa)
When you think of Christmas food, turkey and dressing are often high on the list. But in South Africa, it’s festive fried caterpillars! This may seem like an unusual Christmas tradition but eating the Pine Tree Emperor Moth – or Christmas caterpillar – with its red, blue, and green bands and black and gold spots, is believed to gift a little extra luck on the coming year.
December 25: Christmas Day (Japan)
In 1974, a fast-food franchise famous for its chicken released a festive marketing campaign in Japan. Their slogan “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!” (“Kentucky for Christmas!”) hatched a national tradition – including Colonel Santa, complete with red and white suit – that continues to this day. Although it isn’t a national holiday in Japan, each Christmas, families from all over the country celebrate with nearly a million pre-reserved, piping hot chicken dinners.
December 25: Christmas Day (Australia)
Christmastime in Australia is high summer, so Christmas dinner for many Aussies is a mid-day picnic featuring boiled prawns or a trip to the beach to go surfing with Santa. The holiday is an all-day affair, and Christmas lunches are relaxed, with lots of eating and breaks for playing a “spot of cricket” or a quick splash in the backyard pool. Christmas crackers – those gaily wrapped paper tubes that when pulled go BANG! – are a must. (Yes, you must to wear the paper crown inside!)
December 25: Christmas Day (Latin America)