“Christmas with the family”, according to the tradition: a feast to celebrate with friends, in the warmth of our homes. Not surprisingly, next to the tree and the nativity scene icons, the Christmas imagination is that of a large table set for the long-awaited lunch of the year.
But what is it that makes this table so special in the different countries of the world?
Here is a brief culinary tour starting from Finland, the land of Santa Claus. This country, where the tradition of a great winter festival dates back to ancient times of paganism, celebrates Christmas with recipes far from our traditions such as moose dishes, herring flan or liver and barley pie, together with mushrooms or berries.
To wash it all down there is the excellent glögg, a sort of mulled wine with almonds, raisins and cinnamon.
Besides this, in the whole of Scandinavia the Christmas scent is spiced of ginger biscuits, flavoured with cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and orange peel.
Moving on to the UK, the Christmas table anxiously awaits the Christmas Pudding which, since for about two hundred years, is the icon of the feast despite its remote Celtic origins. Its recipe mixes spices like cinnamon and nutmeg to fresh fruit (apples and lemon) and processed (candied fruit, Malaga raisins and Corinth raisins, apricot jam), mixing everything with the usual ingredients (eggs, sugar, butter, cream) and unusual, such as suet, stout beer and an excellent rum.
Corinth raisins are also Christmas protagonists in their homeland, Greece, where they are used to stuff the turkey together with chestnuts, walnuts and almonds in the traditional recipe of galoupola. On the Christmas table it is also traditional to serve christopsomo (bread of Christ), decorated with scenes of family life.
The Greek one is an Orthodox Christmas, which, is still however, celebrated on December 25 according to the Gregorian calendar, used in Italy as well.
Other Orthodox Churches adopt instead the Julian calendar and so they celebrate Christmas 13 days later, on January 7.
This is the case of Russia, for example where the day most celebrated is Christmas eve
After a whole day of fasting, at the appearance of the first star they will have dinner. This is usually made up of the traditional Sočivo, a creamy soup made with wheat, poppy seeds and sesame, dried fruit and honey. The Christmas rite wants to be the head of the family to start this dish, after proclaiming the birth of the Lord.
Finally across the ocean in the United States, we still find dried fruit in mince pies, which happens to be the favourite dessert of Santa Claus’ As in our country, it is custom to leave Santa Claus milk and cookies as a refreshment after he delivers gifts, in the United States they offer him these sweet stuffed pastry, accompanied by a glass of sherry.
As for the main courses, on the US tables this varies from region to region, starting from turkey and ham in cranberry sauce in the northern states to the oyster pie in the Cajun tradition.