Christmas is undoubtedly a favourite holiday in many countries. It is the time, when the whole family get together, spend time in joyfull celebrations, cook and eat tasty food and exchange presents. For Latvians it is even more special, since our country believes that Riga is the first place where a symbol of Christmas – a Christmas tree – had been decorated to honour this holiday. Many people think that the evergreen tree came from Germany, but the documents say that indeed it was Riga back in 1510.
Although Christmas is a religious occasion, a family feast is the main event of this holiday. In Latvia gingerbread cookies are what everyone eats during winter festive season. Their shapes and recipes vary, they can be thin and crispy or more like biscuit; there are even gingerbread cookies covered in chocolate, so everyone can find a taste one likes.
According to Latvian traditions Christmas dinner should include nine dishes – every dish with a special purpose:
Different countries have various traditional dishes for Christmas dinner. In Britain one of such dishes is, of course, Christmas pudding. First Christmas pudding was cooked sometime in the fourteenth century and it was actually a porridge named ‘frumenty’ that was made of beef and mutton with raisins, currants, prunes, wines and spices. You could even say that it was more like a soup. Over the years frumenty had undergone serious changes – eggs, breadcrumbs and dried fruit had been added to it and it had been given more flavor by alcohol. Christmas pudding became the traditional Christmas dessert around 1650, but it had changed into what people eat now only during the reign of Queen Victoria.
Although far from Christian traditions, Japan aslo have Christmas festivities. Traditions there are mainly influenced by popular culture. The funniest tradition is probably eating in KFC fast-food restaurants, which is a result of a successful advertising campaign in the 1970s. Eating chicken meals there is so high in demand that without a prior reservation you won’t be able to get there. In Japan a Christmas cake is a white sponge cake covered with cream and decorated with strawberries. They also eat German Stollen, which is often made locally.
By the way, did you know, that originally a Christmas fruitcake was intended to be cooked at the end of the harvest season and kept to be consumed at the beginning of the harvest time the following year? If people received it as a gift for Christmas, they knew that it was meant for good luck. Alcohol and sugar, which are plentiful in this cake, are supposed to preserve it for such a long time.
In Australia Christmas actually falls in the middle of the summer. This is funny, but it is a fact. Although the food traditions are mainly based on English ones, Australians usually cook their festive dinner on barbeque to avoid heat. Australians also put seafood on their Christmas table. Prawns, lobster, oysters and crayfish are common, but for dessert they like light Pavlova cake with strawberries, kiwi and passionfruit. Panettone, an Italian sweet bread loaf, is also popular and available in shops of Sydney and Melbourne.
When we think “Christmas” it’s impossible not to hear a melody “Jingle Bells” in our heads right away. It is sung all around the planet and translated into many languages. This song, which has become a Christmas hymn, was written in 1850 by James Lord Pierpont and was – suprise! – intended for American Thanksgiving. Moreover, it is the first song that was broadcasted from space in December of 1965.
Ēst – est.lv wishes everyone Merry Christmas! Let this festive season be full of joy, tasty food and warm memories!