Whether you observe Yule, Christmas, Sol Invictus, or Hogmanay, the winter season is typically a time of celebration around the world. Traditions vary widely from one country to the next, but one thing they all have in common is the observance of customs around the time of the winter solstice. Here are some ways that residents of different countries observe the season and some recipes that they serve.
Although Australia is huge geographically, the population sits at under 20 million people. Many of them come from a blend of cultures and ethnic backgrounds, and celebration in December is often a mix of many different elements. Because Australia is in the southern hemisphere, December is part of the warm season. Residents still have Christmas trees, Father Christmas, Christmas Carols and gifts which are a familiar Christmas and gifts, as well as being visited by Father Christmas. Because it coincides with school holidays, it’s not uncommon for Australians to celebrate the season on vacation away from home.
Mini Christmas Puddings:
1 x 800gm Dark Fruit Cake (cheap brand)
½ – 1 cup Orange Juice
1 cup Coconut
Red & Green Jelly Lollies
Break Fruit Cake into crumbly pieces. Pour a little Orange Juice at a time into crumbled cake – until moistened Roll mixture into balls (a little smaller than a golf ball) Chill in Fridge Mix Icing Sugar with Orange Juice, Decorate top of balls with icing. Cut up Lollies into pieces & decorate on top of the icing to make it look like holly. Chill & serve
In China, only about two percent of the population observes Christmas as a religious holiday, although it is gaining in popularity as a commercial event. However, the main winter festival in China is New Year celebration that occurs at the end of January. Recently, it’s become known as the Spring Festival, and is a time of gift-giving and feasting. A key aspect of the Chinese New Year is ancestor worship, and paintings and portraits are brought out and honored in the family’s home.
Almond Chinese Cookies
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon almond extract
1/4 pound whole, blanched almonds
Keep the oven ready by preheating it to 325 degrees F. Mix the flour, sugar, butter, salt and baking soda until it forms little balls in a food processor. Add the eggs and almond extract. Roll out the dough on floured surface and cut with a 2 1/2 inch cookie cutter. Place it on the greased cookie sheet and place an almond at the center of each cookie and compete the preparation by baking it for 25 min.
In Denmark, Christmas Eve dinner is a big cause for celebration. The most anticipated part of the meal is the traditional rice pudding, baked with a single almond inside. Whichever guest gets the almond in his pudding is guaranteed good luck for the coming year. Children leave out glasses of milk for the Juulnisse, which are elves that live in peoples’ homes, and for Julemanden, the Danish version of Santa Claus.
Aebleskiver is a Danish traditional ball pancake, made in a special pan called the “monk “pan is served with powdered sugar, warm fruit and whip cream.
4 separated eggs
2 Tablespoons of sugar
½ teaspoon of salt
2 Tablespoons of oil
2 cups of buttermilk
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of baking powder
2 cups of flour
Beat egg whites until stiff, set aside. Mix all other ingredients in a bowl fold in egg white. Grease the holes in the monk pan. Fill each whole ¾ way up with batter. When brown on one side almost instant turn with knitting needles or very thin forks, remove as soon as other side is golden brown.
The Finns have a tradition of resting and relaxing on Christmas Day. The night before, on Christmas Eve, is really the time of the big feast — and leftovers are consumed the next day. On December 26, the day of St. Stephen the Martyr, everyone goes out and visits friends and relatives, weather permitting. One fun custom is that of Glogg parties, which involve the drinking of Glogg, a mulled wine made from Madeira, and the eating of lots of baked treats.
Christmas was typically not a huge holiday in Greece, as it is in North America. However, the recognition of St. Nicholas has always been important, because he was the patron saint of sailors, among other things. Hearth fires burn for several days between December 25 and January 6, and a sprig of basil is wrapped around a wooden cross to protect the home from the Killantzaroi, which are negative spirits that only appear during the twelve days after Christmas. Gifts are exchanged on January 1, which is St. Basil’s day.
1 cup of sunflower oil
1/2 cup water
small schnapps glass of cognac
1 egg yolk
50 grms sugar
1 kilo flour (approx)
1.5 cups of ground almonds
1 tspn baking powder
1/2 tspn ground nutmeg
1/2 tspn ground cloves
Blend the butter and sugar together in an electric mixer until white and creamy. Add the egg yolk, oil, water and cognac with a couple of teaspoon of flour, blending vigorously all the time until well mixed. Pour into a large mixing bowl and fold in the almonds and flour sieved with the baking powder, nutmegs and cloves. Knead until well mixed and a dough-like consistency. Shape into flat oval shapes as in Merikalades (which is the traditional shape) or into any shape that you like. Bake in a moderate oven 180C until pale golden. When cooked remove from the baking sheet and leave to cool. When quite cold, dip in sieved, powdered icing sugar until well coated. Pile on a dish and sprinkle liberally with more icing sugar.
India’s Hindu population typically observes this time of year by placing clay oil lamps on the roof in honor of the return of the sun. The country’s Christians celebrate by decorating mango and banana trees, and adorning homes with red flowers, such as the poinsettia. Gifts are exchanged with family and friends, and baksheesh, or charity, is given to the poor and needy.
2 cups All purpose flour (maida)
11/2 tbsp. fine grained semolina or rice flour
1/4th tsp. baking powder
2 tbsp curd (plain yogurt)
11/4th cups warm water
1/2 tsp. saffron threads, slowly dry-roasted and powdered
3 cups sugar
2 2/3rd cups water
1/2 tsp green cardamom seeds powder
11/2 tbsp. kewra water or rose water
vegetable oil for frying
Mix the flour, semolina or rice flour, baking powder, curd and 3/4th cup of the water in a bowl (preferably a ceramic bowl). Mix well with a whisk. Mix well and then add remaining water and 1/8th tsp. of saffron powder, and whisk until smooth. Set aside for about 2 hours to ferment. Whisk thoroughly before use. Prepare string syrup by dissolving sugar in the water. Just before the syrup is ready add saffron and cardamom powder. Heat oil in a kadhai. Pour the batter in a steady stream (or coconut shell with a hole) into the kadhai to form coils. Make a few at a time. Deep fry them until they are golden and crisp all over but not brown. Remove from the kadhai and drain on kitchen paper and immerse in the syrup. Leave for at least 4-5 minutes so that they soak the syrup. Take them out of syrup and serve hot.
In Italy, there is the legend of La Befana, a kind old witch who travels the earth giving gifts to children. It is said that the three Magi stopped on their way to Bethlehem and asked her for shelter for a night. She rejected them, but later realized she’d been quite rude. However, when she went to call them back, they had gone. Now she travels the world, searching, and delivering gifts to all the children. FROZEN CREAM WITH MARRONS GLACÉS
Semifreddo ai marrons glacés
In Rome we can buy marrons glacés in pieces. They are cheaper than the whole ones, which are used for decoration.
1/ 2 cup raisins
1/3 cup good-quality rum
1 cup marrons glacés in pieces
4 eggs, separated
1/3 cup sugar
1 pound (450 g) chestnut puree, canned or fresh (see note below), flavored with vanilla
1 3/4 cups heavy cream Semisweet chocolate 6 whole marrons glacés for garnish
Oil a 2-quart (2-L) charlotte mold or loaf pan. Soak the raisins in the rum for at least 1 hour. With an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks for 30 seconds. Add the sugar gradually, beating until stiff and lemon colored. Add the chestnut puree, raisins, rum, and marron glace’ pieces to the yolks, mixing well. Whip the cream until stiff but not dry; whip the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Fold the whipped cream into the chestnut purée, and then fold in the beaten egg whites. Pour the mixture into the prepared mold and cover tightly with foil. Place in the freezer for 6 hours. (This can be prepared in advance and kept in the freezer for almost a week.) To serve, dip the mold in a basin of hot water for a count of 15 and turn out on a serving plate. Repeat the dip in water, if necessary. Grate chocolate over the top of the dessert and garnish with the reserved whole marrons glace’s
In Romania, people still observe an old fertility ritual which probably pre-dates Christianity. A woman bakes a confection called a turta, made of pastry dough and filled with melted sugar and honey. Before baking the cake, as the wife is kneading the dough, she follows her husband outdoors. The man goes from one barren tree to another, threatening to cut each down. Each time, the wife begs him to spare the tree, saying, “Oh no, I am sure this tree will be as heavy with fruit next spring as my fingers are with dough today.” The man relents, the wife bakes the turta, and the trees are spared for another year.
In Scotland, the big holiday is that of Hogmany. On Hogmanay, which is observed on December 31, festivities typically spill over into the first couple of days of January. There’s a tradition known as “first-footing”, in which the first person to cross a home’s threshold brings the residents good luck for the coming year — as long as the guest is dark-haired and male. The tradition stems from back when a red- or blonde-haired stranger was probably an invading Norseman.