Posted in Kafevend Blog

Although most of us in the UK will be sitting down to a dinner tomorrow that includes roast turkey, stuffing and brussel sprouts, people in other parts of the world have their own festive traditions to follow. What better opportunity to look at those food and drink customs than today in the Christmas Eve blog.

In Japan Christmas Day has never been a public holiday, but that doesn't mean that the Japanese haven't adopted the festival and given it a twist of their own in the past few decades. Their most popular Christmas meal is Kentucky Fried Chicken, so much so in fact, that many families place an order a couple of months in advance to try and avoid the huge queues! The tradition harks back to 1974 when KFC ran a 'Christmas Chicken' advertising campaign in Japan and they've been building on its success ever since. Another favourite festive food is the Christmas cake, but not as we know it. Instead it's an airy sponge cake covered in a layer of cream and topped off with juicy strawberries.

One of Iceland's Christmas delicacies is a type of sweet bread called laufabrauð, which translates as leaf bread. The dough is rolled out into thin sheets, then patterns are cut into it -sometimes quite intricate ones- before being deep fried. Although bakeries sell ready made leaf bread these days, some families still like to get together early on in December to make their own and store it ready for the big day.

While here in the UK we save our appetites for Christmas Day, many of our European neighbours eat a celebratory meal late on Christmas Eve, often on return from Midnight Mass, when traditionally pre-Christmas fasting is broken and the feasting begins. The meal will generally stretch over several courses and into the early hours of Christmas morning. Many other nations around the world also begin their Christmas celebrations on Christmas Eve.

Peru is one example; turkey or chicken are just as popular there as they are here, but during the week preceding Christmas there's a wonderful custom featuring hot chocolate, a drink that's been of huge importance to Central and South America since ancient times. Up and down the length of the country organisations such as churches and businesses organise events known as chocolatadas. Cups of hot chocolate, plus a snack such as panettone - popular in Peru since Italian immigrants brought their recipes with them - are handed out to the poorer children of a community along with sweets and toys.

In Greenland, where it's dark all day at this time of the year, one of the traditional Inuit Christmas foods on offer is kiviak. The bodies of sea birds known as little auks are sewn into sealskin and left to ferment for several months; an acquired taste no doubt!

Finally, a word about our own British tradition of roasting a turkey for Christmas dinner. Turkeys were first introduced to the UK from their native North America during the sixteenth century, but it actually took until the early twentieth century for them to become established as the centrepiece of our festive meal. We hope you enjoy your own Christmas meal tomorrow and wish you a very happy Christmas!

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