Celebrate Holidays Around the World Through Food!

America is a big, beautiful melting pot made up of different nationalities and cultures, simmering with traditions from around the world. Particularly during this time of year, those unique customs are what make the holidays so special. Whether it’s Yiayia’s always tender rack of lamb, Aunt Judy’s famous potato latkes or the sweet smell of mom’s sugar cookies baking in the oven…we all have a favorite that we can’t wait to indulge in over the holiday season. Here are a few nostalgic dishes celebrated and enjoyed during the holidays from around the world!

Many Italian-American families enjoy a big Christmas Eve dinner called the Feast of the Seven Fishes. How the tradition got started or why there are seven fishes isn’t exactly known (but who’s complaining?). Some believe it represents the seven sacraments in the Catholic religion or the seven days it took God to create the earth (as described in the bible). If you like seafood, and you’re lucky enough to partake in this “feast” you can expect to enjoy some Baccala, Clams, Calamari, Shrimp, Octopus and more. We love the selection of fresh seafood from Metropolitan Fish Market.

End the meal with an espresso and piece of Italian fruit cake, otherwise known as Panettone, for the perfectly traditional Italian Christmas Eve dinner. For an unforgettable treat, try the Panettone and other decadent Italian pastries from Pasticceria Rocco!

In Greece, lamb or pork is commonly eaten as a main course. The meat is roasted in an oven or more traditionally, cooked over an open spit. You can expect spinach and cheese pies, salads and vegetables to be eaten on the side. But, the best part of a Greek Christmas is the dessert!

Christmas is a special time for Greeks all around the world. On the day we greet each other by saying “Kala Xristougena” or “Merry Christmas.” Traditionally, we prepare Greek cookies to celebrate the holiday season. These cookies include “melomakarona” or honey walnut cookies and “kourabiedes” or Greek Christmas cookies with almond and powdered sugar. During this festive time of year we focus on family, friends, food and love and sing traditional Christmas anthems together to commemorate this special time of year.

     – Joanna Mastoras, Marketing Director of Titan Foods

Greek Christmas is a wonderful time to celebrate and enjoy delicious handmade Greek desserts which can be found at America’s largest Greek Specialty Food Store, Titan Foods.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the German Christmas Pickle tradition? For those of you who haven’t, let us enlighten you! According to the legend, after the ornaments have been placed on the Christmas tree, and children are asleep, parents take a pickle-shaped glass ornament and hide it within the branches of the family’s tree. On Christmas morning, when the children awaken, the first child to find the glass pickle receives an extra gift from St. Nicholas. The first adult who finds it, is also said to have good fortune for the coming year.

The funny thing about this tradition, is that most native Germans will tell you that they’ve never actually heard of it! So is it truly a German tradition? We may never know…but what we do know for sure is what is served at the holiday dinner table! Duck, pork roast and goose are commonly eaten at a traditional German Christmas. But, like always, save room for dessert!

“The Christmas month is definitely a big occasion for the Germans. The most popular treat is Christmas Stollen, which is a sweet fruit cake that comes in all different flavors. Cookies such as Lebkuchen, Pfeffernusse, and Zimsterne [are also popular], which are tasty variations of gingerbread.”

     – Gary Guarinello, General Manager of Schaller & Weber

Find the largest selection of German specialties at Schaller & Weber!

Hanukkah food traditions have their origins from the years the holiday was first celebrated. The customary food is meant to remind us of the miracles associated with the events of Hanukkah itself. For example, most of the cuisine is fried because oil has significance to the miracle of oil to light the Menorah lasting for eight days instead of one. For this reason, we get to enjoy delicious fried potato latkes! In other Eastern European countries, fried donuts are more popular. But in the United States, it’s definitely latkes (P.S. We love the variety of latkes made at Shelsky’s…check them out for yourselves!)

Also popular; the brisket. This slow-cooked, large cut of meat makes it a special treat for the holidays. There are dozens of ways to prepare the brisket, but nearly every family has that one special brisket recipe that they’ll claim is better than the rest! Find the traditional brisket at Schatzie the Butcher’s or opt for the organic, halal brisket at Honest Chops Butchery.

In Switzerland, the main Christmas meal is eaten on Christmas Eve. Popular foods include a Christmas ham and scalloped potatoes with melted cheese baked in. In fact, cheese itself plays an important role in the feast! The raclette is popular, as well as the fondue (find these and more at Stinky Bklyn). For dessert, simple, delicate cookies can be found at the sweets table. We love the selection of traditional Swedish cookies made at Unna Bakery. The buttery, crumbly Raspberry Cave, the Cardamom Crisp and the Chocolate Caramel Cookie Bar make for a festive treat. “Samichlaus,” as Santa is referred to in Switzerland, would be pleased!

Does your family have a special holiday tradition that you’d like to share? Please leave a comment and let us know!

Happy Holidays from Mercato!