Alternative Christmas Food Traditions Across the US

Are you looking for some Christmas food ideas to enjoy with the family this year? With Thanksgiving now over, it’s time to think about the big day on December 25th, and what better way to celebrate than with non-traditional American foods! Here are some fun Christmas food ideas from traditions that happen across the US from various cultures.

Mexican Christmas

First, we will look at the Southwest and the neighboring country of Mexico. It’s common for Hispanic families living in the US to make several dishes to celebrate Christmas, including flavoursome Tamales. Mexican Christmas food isn’t the same without them, and the holiday season is the perfect time to enjoy these delicious, wrapped parcels filled with a tasty centre. They are prevalent in southern states such as Texas and New Mexico.

Mexican Tamales prepared for Christmas

The cooking process for Tamales is often long, taking around six hours to cook a 10-pound Pork. This gives the meat time to tenderize, so it falls apart when being eaten. Added to this is a variety of seasonings, including red chilli peppers (pequin), garlic and Comino. The more spices added, the better! The spicy filling is then rolled into Masa, a Spanish dough created from fire-dried corn kernels that have been cooked thoroughly in limewater. After plenty of prepping and cooking the filling, the Tamales are ready to be steamed for around 30-45 minutes in their corn husk shells.

If you are interested in a sweeter treat from our neighboring Mexico, we recommend either Conchas or Mexican Cinnamon cookies known as Hojarascas.

Mexican Hojarascas, crunchy and ready to eat

If you want to stick to the more traditional Western Christmas flavours, Hojarascas cookies incorporate the festive cinnamon flavour. This Mexican shortbread is the perfect addition to any home during the holidays, and if making a large batch it should last a while! Mexican Christmas food is incredibly versatile, so they also make great gifts to give to friends, and family, or to include in a holiday bake sale.

Conchas are another Mexican baked good that can house a variety of flavors, including chocolate, which commonly has a brown topping. They are consumed at any time of day, making them the perfect sweet to enjoy after a large Turkey dinner. Much like Tamales, Conchas need ample time set aside for preparing and cooking. We recommend allowing a day or so to prep for these recipes. Concha bread has a soft crumb, and aerated dough with the use of bread flour, or a denser crumb with all-purpose flour.

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German traditions

Traveling across the pond to Germany, a tradition common for this country is Christstollen. German Christmas food can also be found across the US, and German settlers bring these recipes with them. Christstollen, better known as Stollen is a yeasted bread, filled with fruit, nuts and spices, dusted with powdered sugar.

Sumptuous Stollen, sliced and ready to enjoy

Some variations of Stollen exist, including Dresdner Stollen and Marzipanstollen, the former being the most popular at this time of year. The addition of Marzipan to traditional Stollen recipes adds a delicious almond flavouring, just don’t forget to age the Stollen for a few weeks to intensify the flavor!

If Stollen isn’t what you are wanting to add to your Christmas spread, but you still want German Christmas foods on your table, why not swap out Turkey for a Christmas Goose? Weihnachtsgans (Christmas Goose) makes a fantastic centrepiece if you are finding it difficult to get hold of a last-minute Turkey. This recipe can often take a few hours of roasting until cooked, so make sure there’s plenty of time for you to cook the Goose.

Warm, spiced Gluhwein served with Cinnamon & Orange

For the final touch to your German Christmas, a delicious glass of Gluhwein (mulled wine) is recommended by the log fire. This warming alcoholic beverage is comprised of red wine, seasonal spices, orange, and sugar and is heated on the burner to intensify the cinnamon and clove. This sweet, flavoursome drink is the perfect way to finish the day of your German Christmas.

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Festive Italian feasts

Journeying to the Mediterranean country of Italy, it’s go big or go home when it comes to Italian cuisine for Christmas. Italian Christmas food is full of flavor and guaranteed to fill you up, as they indulge in the Feast of the Seven Fishes.

This spread of fresh seafood is served on December 24 and is common amongst Italian-American families. It comprises either 7 different types of fish or a variety of fish prepared in 7 different ways, and it varies between families. Families usually choose between fresh pasta, soups and Gnocchi to serve their fish with.

Shellfish cooked and prepared for the feast

If you are looking to host friends this holiday season, another Italian Christmas food we recommend is a Charcuterie spread. These are perfect for larger gatherings and mean your visitors can pick and choose from the foods they want to eat.

Suggestions for inclusion on a Charcuterie spread are having the main cheese staple. We recommend Burrata or Fresh sliced Mozzarella. These pair best with cured meats, olives, and tomatoes. For more exotic flavours, Parmigiano-Reggiano with cured meat, honey, grapes, and pears/figs is sure to be a winner.

Delectable Charcuterie spread with various cheeses and meats

Natale Lunch, or ‘Italian Christmas Lunch’ is typically served on Christmas Day. This feast includes starters, which are various cured meat platters, crostini, (toasted bread) and panzerotti (miniature calzone). Following this is 3 other courses, first, second and finally an extravagant dessert.

Families usually gather to feed many mouths in Italian culture, and Christmas is no exception to this. From chicken broth to pasta with clams, all the freshest ingredients are used, and all dishes are made from scratch. To finish off Natale lunch desserts include Panettone, Pandoro and Ferratelle.

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Christmas in China

Chinese culture doesn’t tend to celebrate Christmas and often uses this day to enjoy their favourite western take-out food. KFC is very popular this time of year! However, if you are wanting to incorporate more traditional Chinese food on Christmas this year, here are a few options.

Chicken or Peanut Lo Mein is a quick and easy dish to cook and serve and would be perfect for Christmas Eve. This dish is slightly healthier than the Chow Mein alternative and uses more vegetables and protein to bulk out the coated noodles. The Lo Mein sauce also provides a bolder flavour, guaranteeing your Holiday guests a feast of flavours this festive season. The cooking method of Lo Mein is also different, which includes a difference in the technique of using the Wok. Why not give it a go this year for a Chinese Christmas treat?

Seasoned Lo Mein, perfect for Christmas Eve

Incorporating flavours from different parts of the world is a great way to experience Christmas from other cultures, and Chinese Dumplings can also experiment with flavours and fillings. Steamed dumplings are a very popular dish from the East and serving them with a spiced cranberry sauce is one way to enjoy them.

Dumplings are a great way to use up those leftovers from a Christmas Eve party, so if you’re hosting for the holidays this is a great way to use ingredients you already have in your larder! Grab that leftover stuffing and pop it into some dumpling wrapper for a Chinese starter in your 3 course Christmas spread.

Chinese dumplings after steaming and bursting with flavor

Much like Denmark, Duck is a firm favourite in Chinese culture during the holiday period. The use of Peking sauce differentiates it from the European recipe. Chinese five-spice and aromatic seasonal spices coat the Duck whilst cooking and are usually served with Cucumber, Scallions, and Mandarin Style pancakes. There are plenty of recipes for Peking Duck available, so why not try out a new tradition this Christmas and give Peking Duck a go?

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Succulent Swedish dishes

Finally, we travel to Sweden, where there are even more flavours to behold and inspire you for your holiday lunch this year. No Swedish Christmas is complete without the traditional Ham served with Kale. Swedish Christmas food utilises the Julskinka (Christmas Ham) as the centrepiece of the dining table. Glazed with mustard and breadcrumbs after boiling, Swedes tuck into their Ham and serve it alongside Långkål (creamed kale).

Swedish glazed Ham usually served with creamed Kale

To finish Christmas Day, we recommend indulging in a hot glass of Glogg by the log fire. Similar to the German Gluhwein as mentioned above, this wine-based drink is enriched with spices to warm you up after a winter’s day walk.

The recipe for Glogg differs slightly, by utilising Sauternes and aquavit, and is also enriched with raisins and almonds. Simply simmer this recipe on the stove for 15 minutes, and it is ready to enjoy!

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