Eastern Europeans enjoy fried carp and pea soup during their holidays. If you lived in Britain, you’d be chowing down on mincemeat pies. Visiting Spain? Savor the suckling pig, chorizo, and roast lamb, but don’t be fooled by fun-loving bakers who might put salt in their cakes. And on Christmas Day in Tokyo, the tables are flush with buckets and buckets… of KFC. That’s right. Kentucky. Fried. Chicken.
It’s only natural that holiday eats around the world vary so greatly. But would you believe that America itself has Christmas traditions that are just as varied? Forget spending great bags of cash to cross the pond. You can just hop in your car and cross a state line to experience a different culinary tradition than your own!
Hawaiian Christmas Traditions
Well, getting to Hawaii by car would be a wee-bit difficult… but Hawaii during the holidays? Can you even imagine? It’s already paradise, and that’s before you even taste the Kalua Turkey. While, for most, turkey is the complete opposite of a “unique” tradition, it’s the way that it’s cooked that brings out the best. Wrapped up in banana leaves and shoved in an underground earth oven (known as an imu), the bird is then steam-cooked overnight, resulting in an extremely moist, juicy meal with a bold hint of earthy flavor. Served with pineapple, rice, and the turkey’s own juices, this holiday meal sounds hard to beat.
Let’s continue the theme of warm-weather destinations and hop over to Florida to experience Noche Bueno. A plentiful Cuban community helps keep this tradition alive. So “alive,” in fact, that many non-Cubans have even adopted it into their own celebrations. Noche Bueno, or “Good Night” in Spanish, is a Christmas Eve feast that will find you nomming on forkful after forkful of slow-roasted pork, rice, black beans, and Cuban bread. A “Good Night” indeed!
Christmas in the South
Mosey over to the Southern US and you’ll come face-to-face with Hoppin’ John and Skippin’ Jenny. What’s with these fun-sounding folks? Well, for one, since we’re talking about food, you can probably take a stab at guessing they’re not “folks” at all. But would you have guessed they’re both the same dish? Black-eyed peas, rice (again!), onion, and bacon are the four ingredients you need for this southern staple of symbolism. You see, eating Hoppin’ John on New Year’s Day is thought to bring you a prosperous year as the peas represent pennies or coins and anything the color of money served alongside this dish adds to that symbol of wealth. Skippin’ Jenny comes to play when you eat it as leftovers on the day after as a sign of being frugal and hopeful for even more prosperity in the New Year.
The Snow-Packed States Love Lefse
Time to zip up your winter coats, readers, because we’re heading north. Way north. Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota, to be specific. Hailing from Scandinavian stock, these snow-packed states celebrate their Christmas with plates piled high with Lefse. For the layman, Lefse is a potato flatbread you can top with anything you find tasty, but for those that celebrate the tradition, Lefse is much more than that. For instance, in Fargo, North Dakota, there’s a Lutefisk and Lefse festival. And Fosston, Minnesota hosts a Lefse Fest where they crown their Champion Lefse Maker. For many families, however, it’s not the Lefse itself that’s important, but the creation of it, as older generations teach younger ones how to craft it with perfection so they can help keep it alive for years to come.
A Californian Christmas
For our final destination, we’re trading snowshoes for sunglasses and heading to northern California, stomachs prepped and ready for the start of Dungeness Crab season in December. Why have turkey when you have serve massive amounts of ultra-fresh and extra-meaty Dungeness Crab for your holiday feast? When in Rome… For many in this area, Dungeness Crab is a classic celebration meal during the holidays and, as such, they know how to cook it however you want it. Dipped in butter, cooked Asian style, in a seafood stew… the list goes on.
Now, we could go on, but honestly, there’s too many regional and state traditions that this would turn into more of a dissertation than a fun-loving food blog. But if you have a unique culinary Christmas tradition that you want to share, we’d love to hear about it through Facebook, Twitter, or you could even take a drool-worthy food-pic through Instagram. Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! And Seasons Eatings!