Happy holidays! This year the Translators International family has grown as we joined Venga Global and we are happy to share this post with traditional foods from our team’s home countries!
Maru & Melisa – Argentina
In Argentina, almost everyone celebrates Christmas as we are a majority-Catholic country. For Christmas, families get together on December 24th (Christmas Eve) and have dinner together, waiting until midnight to celebrate Christmas. We use the expression “Feliz Navidad” on this day to wish Merry Christmas to each other.
Christmas dinner is served here on the night of 24th December around 10pm-11pm. As it is summer here, the traditional Argentinian Christmas dinner may be served in a garden area and consists of cold dishes such as “vitel tonné,” “torre de panqueques,” “piononos,” fruit salads, and more.
At midnight, after having dinner, we receive “Papá Noel” (Santa Claus) and we open presents. The typical gift for women is pink underwear as a symbol of good fortune, and they must use their presents on New Year.
The New Year is often celebrated with friends. We say “Feliz año nuevo” to wish Happy New Year to each other. The traditional Argentinian New Year dinner is more or less like Christmas, also served around 10-11 pm, waiting for midnight to celebrate the New Year coming. Apart from eating the 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight, when you eat one grape per month and you make a wish, people circle the block with an empty suitcase wishing to go on a trip on that year.
Alice – Czech Republic
Preparing food, and especially baking “vánoční cukroví,“ or Christmas cookies, is one of my favorite Czech traditions. In many families, Christmas baking takes up almost all the free time in December and cookies are usually ready long before Christmas Eve. They are definitely fattening but absolutely delicious, since they’re made using butter, vanilla, nuts, cinnamon, cocoa powder and other classic ingredients. Traditional recipes are sometimes transformed into different types of cookies and this activity can turn into a competition of who can make the most varied selection. Cookies can be rolled into balls, sandwiched together using jam or decorated with icing. Be warned that all of them are highly addictive and once you start eating you are not likely to stop.
Nadine – Germany
Below are some common foods that we eat during the Christmas season:
During Christmas season, we drink Gluehwein (mulled wine) and eat Plaetzchen (Christmas cookies), including Lebkuchen (gingerbread). Nuts and mandarins are also common treats.
On Christmas Eve/ Christmas day, we don’t really have a traditional dish, but many people eat potato salad with sausages, duck, turkey, or beef Rouladen with cabbage and Knoedel (dumplings).
Raf – Italy
Traditional Christmas foods vary by region in Italy. Here are some that you might see at Christmas feasts across the country:
Pandoro: it’s a typical cake from Verona, with a golden color and a vanilla smell, made with eggs and flour.
Panettone: it’s a typical cake from Milan. It’s made of water, flour, butter and eggs. It differs from the Pandoro because it always contains candied orange and citron peel and raisins. (There’s also a flatter version of the cake from Genoa, but most of what you see in American stores is panettone Milanese.)
Cappone ripieno: it’s a second dish and it consists of a stuffed capon. The stuffing is different from region to region, but it always consists of meat and vegetables.
Torrone: the classic Italian nougat candy. The traditional recipe is scented with honey, orange, and almond flavors, and packed with toasted almonds. Torrone is usually made with edible rice paper to make it easier to slice and serve.
Cotechino: it’s a sausage cooked with lentils. Its name comes from the skin (cotenna) that contains the meat. This is prepared and eaten the last (or the first) day of the year and it’s said that a person will be as old as as the number of lentils they eat with the cotechino.
Struffoli: is a traditional Neapolitan dessert. It’s made of thousands dough balls no bigger than 5-10mm made with flour, eggs, butter, sugar and other flavorings (the grandmas’ secrets, of course). They’re fried in oil and when dry, they’re completely covered in honey.
Cappelletti: commonly called “tortellini,” they’re a kind of stuffed pasta with ricotta and meat. The stuffing can vary by region, although they’re usually cooked in soup with chicken or other meat.
Capitone: Another dish of the Neapolitan tradition. It’s a large female eel that’s been stewed or fried.
Kohta – Japan
In Japan, people go back to their hometown and spend time with their family on New Year days. During this time, people eat Osechi, the traditional Japanese cuisine for New Year days. It contains many type of colorful dishes put together in Jubako, which are special beautiful boxes.
In Japan, New Year’s is a time for rest. According to tradition, nothing should be cooked on New Year’s Day–everything should be prepared by New Year’s Eve. Osechi is prepared by the end of the year and people eat it during the first three days of the New Year holidays. Most of the foods are cooked with a lot of sugar, salt or vinegar so that they are preserved to last for a few days.
Although Osechi was traditionally prepared at home, because of changing family structure and lifestyle, you can order Osechi made by department stores, famous restaurants, and supermarkets now. You can find Osechi-style Bento even in convenience stores.
The contents of Osechi vary depending on where you live, and every family has their own Osechi recipe. We even use special chopsticks to eat Osechi, which are rounded on both ends. One side is for us humans and the other side is to feed the gods. Japan has a lot of special dishes with special meanings and Osechi is one of the most interesting ones. Each dish in Osechi has a special meaning, mainly to symbolize wishes for the coming year.
Here are some of the contents and the meanings behind them:
Kazunoko is a salted lump of herring roe. There are many kinds of dishes for Osechi Ryori, but Kazunoko is one of the most popular one. It contains many tiny eggs in a tight cluster and it symbolizes many children and prosperous family.
Kuromame are Japanese boiled black beans that become sweet and soft when cooked. Beans symbolize health and earnestness. Also, the Japanese word for bean, “mame,” sounds like the word for “working diligently.”
Tazukuri (Gomame) are dried anchovies seasoned with sugar and salt. Tazukuri is written as “making rice crops” in Kanji characters, and it symbolizes abundant harvest.
Kurikinton is sweet chestnuts mixed with mashed sweet potatoes. Kin is Japanese for “gold” or “money” so, this food represents success in business or being lucky with money. It is one of the most popular dishes for kids because it is sweet like a dessert. I love it, too!
Kobumaki is rolled kelp cooked in a sauce with sugar and salt. It symbolizes happiness because the word “kobu” sounds like another Japanese word for being happy or joy, “yorokobu.”
Datemaki is a sweet, made of a rolled egg cooked with fish cake. The word “date” means “stylish” or “fashionable.” Also, the scroll-like shape resembles rolled books, so it symbolizes wisdom.
Esmée – The Netherlands
The holiday season in the Netherlands starts on the 5th of December with the celebration of Sinterklaas. Sinterklaas is only celebrated by families who have children, mostly below 9 years old, who still “believe” in Sinterklaas. The story grownups tell their children is that Sinterklaas lives in Spain and travels to the Netherlands by boat in mid-November. Children put their shoes in front of the fireplace from the day that Sinterklaas is in the country and they receive small gifts and/or sweets in their shoe. Typical sweets are “pepernoten,” which are small round cookies, sweets in the shape of Sinterklaas, or the child’s initial in chocolate. On the 5th of December, children get bigger presents and, in some houses, Sinterklaas and/or his helpers come by to throw more pepernoten and sweets around the living room.
Influenced by America (and American movies), some families in the Netherlands celebrate Christmas with presents as well. Most Dutch people celebrate Christmas by having dinner with their family. Most families eat a variety of meat at Christmas, called “gourmetten” in Dutch: There are one or more stoves on the table with small pans where everybody prepares their own food, while seated. They can pick all different kinds of meat, fish and vegetables, which are all cut in small pieces.
Another tradition around Christmas which involves food is the annual “kerstpakket” distributed to staff of Dutch companies. Employees receive a big box with all kinds of food in it, from tins of chicken ragout to a “kerststol” (a currant bread with ground almond paste in the middle) to wine or special beers.
At New Year’s Eve Dutch people traditionally eat warm “oliebollen” and “appelbeignets.” Oliebollen are deep fried fluffy bread balls, sometimes filled with raisins, with powdered sugar on top. Appelbeignets are also deep fried, but they are flatter and have slices apple inside.
10 seconds before midnight, we start counting from 10 to 1 with a glass of champagne in our hands. Exactly at midnight, we wish everybody a happy new year, give everyone our Dutch three kisses on the cheek and go outside to watch the fireworks while drinking champagne. The fireworks are set off mostly by the men in the family.
Lidia – Spain
There are many Christmas traditions common to all areas in Spain, like eating 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight in New Year’s Eve, and having chocolate & churros the next morning for breakfast, or having Roscón de Reyes on the 6th of January, when the Three Wise Men deliver their presents to all good children, and coal to all the naughty ones (don’t worry, the coal is just made of sugar)!
There is always a big family meal on Christmas Eve, with lots of wine, cured ham, cheese, lamb, suckling pig, shellfish and plenty of Christmassy sweet treats like Turrón (nougat), marzipan or polvorones, a very crumbly type of shortbread.
But there are also certain delicacies specific to each area.
In Andalucía you’ll often find Picadillo soup, Anise or Wine Bread Rolls, Borrachuelos, Hojaldrinas & Pestiños.
In addition to the fact that all Turrón comes from Valencia, in this region you can never get away from Paella, Fideuá, Bunyols, Horchata and Fartons, but you’ll also have sweet potato cakes for the special occasion. You may wash it all down with some Mistella wine, and you’ll probably end up with a Puchero con Pelota or Meat Ball Broth on Christmas Day with all the leftovers.
And Catalans take their traditions very seriously! So you will always find Escudella i Carn d’Olla con Galets (meat stew with pasta shells), Rostit de Nadal or Christmas Roast, and on boxing day, the local cannelloni with leftover stewed meat; and rolled wafer Neules for dessert.
Like everywhere else, this is not a diet conscious time of the year, so dig in!
Tess – USA
Happy Hanukkah! Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday in the United States and is celebrated around the world. The celebration lasts eight days and each of the special days is represented by lighting a candle on the Menorah–that’s why some people call it the Festival of Lights.
The traditional food is fried in olive oil to represent the miracle of the burning oil lamp. That means we enjoy latkes, or potato pancakes, with toppings such as sour cream and apple sauce. Another delicious staple is doughnuts stuffed with jelly called sufganiyot. Lastly, silver or gold-wrapped chocolate coins are a staple for children. These gold coins are called gelt and they are usually given to children as a gift and uphold a tradition of giving children money. We spin the dreidel to remind us of a great miracle and often exchanges gifts with family and friends!