Culture, Cuisine, and Celebrations – Planning your Trip for the December Holidays
Christmas music is playing, fairy lights are twinkling in the streets, holiday cheer is all around! The whole world seems to be celebrating in December – from Christmas to Novy God, Hanuka to Kwanzaa, different cultures have different traditions – and of course different foods! Join us as we explore how these holidays are celebrated around the world and start planning your trip for the December holidays!
This December celebration was created in 1966 to honor African heritage and African American culture. It is celebrated from December 26-January 1 and culminates with a feast called Karamu and, of course, gifts! Kwanzaa celebrated seven core African beliefs, or Kawaida, and each day of the holiday focuses on another belief. Different Kwanzaa feasts will vary greatly based on their specific traditions, but in general people decorate the room with African motifs and colors – red, green and black. A mkeka (mat) is places on the floor for food and decorations to sit upon.
The Festival of Lights! Jews celebrate this December holiday to commemorate the re-dedication of their holy temple. They light candles for eight nights to celebrate the miracle of the oil in the menorah that lasted for eight nights and the fire continued to burn. It is customary to eat fried food (miracle of the oil, anyone?). So invite your friends over for some fried potato pancakes (latkes), doughnuts, and let the celebrations commence!
A major holiday celebrated in the countries of the former USSR, Novy God falls on December 31. It is celebrated with gifts which are placed under a tree, and a huge feast with your loved ones with delicious traditional foods. Most Novy God menus will feature olivier salad, a dish made of boiled potatoes, carrots, dill pickles, peas, eggs, celeriac, onions, chicken, apples, salt, pepper, and dressed with mayonnaise. A colorful mimmosa salad should also grace your table, along with pirozhki (pies stuffed with meats and other delicious goodies), dressed herring and kholodets (meat jelly). Make sure to adorn your table with tangerines and have plenty of champagne for all of your guests!
Italians celebrate Christmas Eve with The Feast of the Seven Fishes! It is a tradition to fast the day before Christmas, and the “feast” at the end of the day consists of fish due to the tradition of abstaining from red meat until the Christmas Day meal. However, not everybody it Italy celebrates in this way, as menus and celebrations vary greatly by region, especially by north/south.
In Germany, the Christmas feasts usually feature roast goose and roast carp, although some people opt for pork or duck, served alongside potatoes, cabbage, and other dishes. The feast is usually eaten on Christmas Day – the Christmas Eve meal will usually be simpler and include sausages and potato salad. Two great meals in 24 hours? Make sure to keep Germany in mind when planning your trip for the December holidays!
Portugal is country well known for its delicious fish, and the Portuguese usually have their Christmas dinners featuring dried, salted codfish. The fish is served with greens, cabbage, boiled potatoes, boiled onions, boiled eggs, and chickpeas. After the meal, delicious desserts are served! Filhoses or filhós are made of fried pumpkin dough, rabanadas are a little like french toast, and azevias are round pies filled with a mixture of chick peas, sugar, and orange peel. In Portugal, children write letters to baby Jesus asking him for gifts, rather than to Santa Claus.
St. Lucia Day – Sweden
One of Sweden’s biggest December holidays (other than Christmas) is St. Lucia Day. This day is celebrated in many countries to honor St. Lucy, a 3rd Century martyr and the patron saint of light. Today, St. Lucia Day is celebrated across Scandinavia with a major feast. The eldest daughter in the family dresses as St. Lucy and gives out Lussekatter, traditional sweet buns flavored with saffron. Don’t forget to bake some Pepparkor (Swedish ginger cookies) and pour yourself a glass of Glogg (mulled wine)! Keep this holiday in mind when you are planning your trip to Scandinavia!
Possibly the inspiration behind most of these December holidays, Yule is a pagan Winter Solstice holiday. Modern pagans celebrate in different ways, but mostly in the way that they believe ancient pagans celebrated – and these celebrations often include gift giving and feasts!
We hope this list helped you for planning your trip during the holidays! Where will you be spending Christmas this year?