It’s the most wonderful time of the year, when our waistlines expand with our shame. But what do Christmas dinners look like around the world? Well …
To be honest, our Christmas cuisine is boring because it’s familiar. Pavlova, seafood, prawns … yawn. However, what is interesting is a spoonful of the abnormal, the exotic. So, let us take a lazy loop around the Christmas tables around the world we’re seemingly not invited to.
Thanks, Finland. I didn’t even want to come anyway.
The fantastically named Joulupöytä (Christmas table) is served at Christmas in Finland, similar to the Swedish smörgåsbord. Although, if you know a Swede, don’t mention that they’re dangerously similar. Wars is how this start. The Joulupöytä contains many different dishes with the main offering usually a large Christmas ham which is eaten with mustard or bread. Fish is also served (often lutefisk and gravlax), and with the ham there are also laatikot, casseroles with liver and raisins, as well as potatoes, rice, and carrots. The traditional Christmas beverage is either alcoholic or non-alcoholic mulled wine, glögi.
Japan is a marvelously strange place. A place of vast conservatism and even vaster kink. I’d waffle further, but it’s Christmas – which actually presents the greatest Nippon nonsense of all. The Japanese love fried chicken (in fact, it’s a staple of the breakfast menu), but the chicken they love most of all is the wings that made the trek from Kentucky.
Back in 1974, KFC launched their “Christmas Chicken” campaign after hearing of Western expats turning to bargain buckets when they were unable to source a turkey in Tokyo. Since then, it has become tradition with the family bucket replacing the standard turkey, because of course.
I can personally confirm this social rumor personally as I found myself boarding with the Nakata family as part of our student exchange in high school, and when Christmas rolled around, the family dressed in their Sunday best and we zipped down to the Colonel with Westerner in tow. Suffice to say, it was the only time I had champagne and seasonally cheered fried chicken, but I’d absolutely do it again.
Sort out your liquor license, KFC.
All hail the almighty edifice is a Pfefferkuchenhaus. A gingerbread domicile resplendent with candies, sweets, and icing sugar snow. Tremble at its might, and perhaps the first step to losing your foot to diabetes.
For those who have already lost their sweet teeth and love the idea of grandmotherly tradition, Grünkohl (kale) might appeal. Apparently, every grandmother in the country, it is said, has her own recipe for spiced kale stew. Roast goose festooned with dumplings and red cabbage and slathered in kale stew is the traditional main.
Pro tip: If your host offers you “ein Knacker” – it’s going to be the best Christmas of all.
Speaking of having a whale of a time at Christmas, in Greenland, you do exactly that.
That said, the eating itself is not always an easy task: mattak is strips of whale blubber encased in whale skin, and even Greenlandic folk used to chomping on these tough, fatty snacks often end up having to pace themselves and succumb to the deep culinary shame spiral that binds us all.
According to custom, men dish it up, but we’re fuzzy on who prepares the kiviak, which is essentially the Inuit turducken. Baby auks (a Scandinavian bird) are buried in a seal-skin several months before Christmas, then dug up once they’ve started to rot and served as a delicacy. Wikipedia claims that it has the taste of Gorgonzola. Okay, Greenland.
Typically, the final dinner honors should go to those habitual cuisine abusers, the British Isles. Great supporters of the Christmas fare we’re roundly rejected, where every subservient animal underneath us is traditionally drowned in gravy, served with cranberry, and a side of apathy. That being said, they do mirth well, as obviously named game retailers GAME decided to make with the jingle lols, transporting the whole experience into one easy-to-regret can. I just hope they didn’t actually make it for realsies.