A Taste of the World: Six Holiday Food Traditions from Around the Globe

Photo of Chefs preparing food

Centennial College is a school of the world, with a diverse student body. With that comes a lot of different traditions around the holiday season. Something a lot of these traditions share in common is the big holiday feast, with foods unique to every culture. At Centennial college, we reflect that global culinary culture in our culinary arts programs, taught at our Progress Campus in our state-of-the-art kitchen labs, where you can learn to prepare dishes like these ones, discovered in the Independent, Reader’s Digest and Smithsonian Magazine.

KFC and Japan

On Christmas day, it’s customary in Japan to eat Kentucky Fried Chicken. It’s all thanks to a marketing campaign in 1974 aimed at western expats living in the country that became surprisingly successful. In fact, eating KFC on Christmas Day is so ingrained in the culture that families need to place orders for the food two months in advance.

Christmas Pudding in England

While fruitcake is a known, popular holiday dessert here in Canada, they really go all out in England, with a variety called Christmas Pudding. It starts with standard fruitcake ingredients, like nuts, spices and dried fruit in flour, but instead of standard baking, it’s doused in brandy or whiskey, and steamed to make the pudding. Because it needs to age, the pudding is prepared in November, before being steamed and set on fire again right before serving. A charm or coin is also baked into it, and the person that finds it is said to receive good luck throughout the rest of the year.

Tangyuan in China

The Lantern Festival is one of the most important Chinese holidays, happening March 2nd this year. With it comes traditional dishes, like tangyuan. A sweet treat, they’re dumplings filled with rice, sweetened with either black sesame paste or red bean paste, served on their own or in sweetened water. They can also be served earlier in the season than the lantern festival, since they’re also associated with the winter solstice.

Hallaca in Venezuela

In Venezuela, the traditional holiday dish, Hallaca, is a large family project, where everyone chips in to make them, which is appropriate for the season. Similar to tamales, they’re wrapped in the leaves of the plantain, a banana-like fruit. Inside, there’s a mix of corn dough, meat, and raisins or olives, though the exact recipe varies by region.

Purple rice in the Phillippines

On the islands, a popular holiday dish is puto bumbong, or purple rice, served after midnight mass on Christmas Eve as a special late-night meal, which can last until sunrise. The key is a special kind of sugary rice called pirurutong, which is made with a combination of white and black rice that winds up coming out purple. It’s steamed inside a tube of bamboo, which means that when it’s served, it’s still in the shape of the tube, with butter, sugar and shredded coconut on top.

Twelve Meatless Meals in Eastern Europe

In Poland, the Ukraine, Lithuania and other Eastern European nations, it’s traditional to serve 12 meatless dishes on December 24th. An important part of this is honouring the spirits of departed relatives, so a space at the table is left empty for them, and food is even served to the empty space.

By Anthony Geremia