Christmas Food Traditions: a flavorsome journey around Europe
A week until Christmas, so it’s time for some European Christmas delicacies! This is the period of carols and kind words, wonderful lights and decorations, presents and hugs from friends and delicious food, enjoyed with family. Each culture is unique and has plenty of Christmas customs with rich history, traditions that are proudly celebrated to this day. Now, get ready, as we will take you on a mouth-watering journey and show you the best Christmas food traditions in Europe.
Countries in spotlight: Portugal, France & Italy
The western-most country of Europe has a similar Christmas dinner as Spain, with Consoada being the traditional meal of the Christmas Eve table. It’s the old custom of fasting all day before the Missa do Galo (the Catholic Mass) that has made this dish popular, as people would come back from church and would eat a very light meal. It consists of poached codfish (bacalhau), with potatoes, eggs and broccoli rabe or Portuguese kale. This is normally followed by shellfish, wild meats or different expensive foods.
The desserts are, however, Portuguese’s pride and joy: Bolo Rei (King’s cake) is placed in the center of the table. It’s a beautifully decorated cake with crystalized fruits, symbolizing the crown jewels. The cake includes a characteristic dried fava bean and tradition has it that whoever finds the fava hidden inside will buy the next Bolo Rei. Other sweet delicacies include Formigos – a dessert made with bread, cinnamon, almonds, and the famous Port wine or Azevias de grão to name a few.
The French cuisine is one of the best in the world. A harmonious blend of tradition, culture and sophistication gave us dishes such as the famous Coq-au-Vin, Bœuf Bourguignon or Escargots de Bourgogne. It’s no surprise that the Christmas food traditions in France are just as refined; called Réveillon, the Christmas meal usually consists of Foie Gras, or Dinde aux Marrons (roasted turkey with chestnuts) and perhaps oysters, lobster and cheeses.
The dessert is a classic – Bûche de Noël, a sponge roulade with delicious chocolate whipped cream, resembling a yule log. In other regions, such as Provence, it’s customary to serve 13 desserts. This symbolizes Jesus and the 12 apostles. Here’s a proper reason to visit Provence in the wintertime!
Similar to the Portuguese Christmas Eve meal, Italians serve seafood dishes on the 24th of December, called la Vigilia. The tradition comes from Southern Italy and commemorates the wait for the midnight birth of baby Jesus. Nowadays, this custom is known as the ‘Feast of the Seven Fishes’.
Italians usually serve sword fish, tuna or salmon, octopus salad, calamari, spaghetti with clam sauce and the famous Italian classic—salted cod, baccalà.
But, perhaps the most important meal of Natale is the Christmas Day lunch. Antipasto spread with dry cured meats, cheeses, olives or artichokes are served before the main course that usually consists of pasta – different from region to region.
The meal ends with roasted veal, baked chicken or braised beef in wine sauce (Brasato), followed by the classic Panettone or Pandoro. Panettone is well-known across the world, but perhaps not many know that the Italian way of serving it is by dipping in wine or coffee, which is why it’s quite a dry and dense cake. Panforte is another typical Tuscan dessert served at Christmas time.
The Italian cuisine remains an inspiration for travelers around the world who inevitably visit this beautiful country at least once in their lifetime.
Stay tuned! Tomorrow, the British and German Christmas treats will definitely warm your soul.
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