Holiday Season: Dishes From Around the World

Holiday Season: Dishes From Around the World

Savouring Central European Christmas: a cultural and culinary expedition

‘Tis the season! As the holiday season spirit embraces us, join the Lingo Star team – a diverse group deeply rooted in the traditions of Slovakia, Italy, the Czech Republic and Germany. Unwrap the festive tapestry of these rich cultures. Savour not only the culinary delights but also the universal language of shared customs that bind us together during this joyous season.

Slovakia: Eastern European elegance

In Slovakia, Christmas is celebrated on December 24th and is marked by unique traditions that add magic to the season. The first meal of the day, Christmas Eve dinner, holds a special place in Slovak traditions. Legend has it that if you refrain from eating all day, you may be rewarded with a glimpse of a golden pig!

Christmas traditions and dishes vary from region to region and family to family. Wafers with honey and garlic kick off the feast, followed by a main course of fish, mushroom, or cabbage soup. Some families add prunes to cabbage soup for a unique and delicious twist. Fish, especially carp, with traditional potato salad, is a staple of the Christmas meal.

No Slovak Christmas is complete without an array of cookies and cakes adorning homes. Some families go the extra mile and bake 8-10 different types of cookies every year.

On Christmas Eve, Baby Jesus, or Ježiško in Slovak, takes centre stage, bringing presents for children under the twinkling tree. To add to the festivities, Slovakia also celebrates St. Nicholas’ Day on December 6th. Children eagerly place their shoes by the door or window in anticipation of a visit from St. Nicholas, who fills them with delightful treats.

Italy: a culinary symphony of the holiday season

Embark on a culinary Christmas journey through Italy! For lunch on the 24th, enjoy a classic pizza with escarole and olives for a festive twist. Next, dinner becomes a feast with insalata di rinforzo, spaghetti with clams, a comforting soup, and the quintessential panettone or pandoro for dessert. Finally, finish with a variety of nuts.

Pandoro and panettone are holiday desserts. Panettone, from Milan, is a fluffy sweet bread with candied fruit and raisins. Pandoro, from Verona, is a sweet bread with icing sugar and more butter – ideal for those who are not keen on candied fruit.

The day after Christmas, the festive flavours continue with culinary treasures. On December 31st, the New Year’s Eve menu echoes the grandeur of December 24th with the traditional cotechino with lentils, a dish believed to bring good luck for the coming year.

As Epiphany approaches, an old woman called the Befana rides a broomstick down the chimney to deliver sweets to good children and coal to the naughty ones – a charming tradition that adds magic to the Italian holiday season. Immerse yourself in Italian Christmas traditions, where every dish celebrates the culinary heritage and the joy of the season.

Czech Republic: Bohemian comfort and elegance

Immerse yourself in the magical Christmas traditions of the Czech Republic! On the 24th, homes come alive with the unique aroma of carp fish and potato salad. Picture the bustling streets with live fish tanks and adventurous souls turning bathtubs into makeshift aquariums – a festive, if bittersweet, preparation for a special dinner. 

Curiously, as the festivities continue into the next day, Czech families indulge in mouthwatering roast duck with dumplings and a colourful mix of red and white cabbage. The rich flavours create a feast fit for the season, bringing loved ones together in a delightful culinary experience.

Explore Prague’s magical Christmas markets, where sausages sizzle, mulled wine warms and chimney cakes tantalise your taste buds. It’s a sensory journey into the heart of the Czech Christmas spirit.

And to bid the year farewell, Czech New Year celebrations include chlebíčky. This is a delicious baguette topped with potato salad, salami, pickles and more. Google it and you’ll see why these tapas-style bites are the perfect party food to bring in the New Year in style!

Germany: tradition meets innovation

In Germany, Christmas Eve, or Heiligabend, is a special time marked by evening festivities and meaningful traditions. On the 24th, many families attend church services in the afternoon to commemorate the meaning of Christmas. The festive atmosphere continues into the evening with a celebratory meal, often featuring traditional dishes such as roast goose or duck with red cabbage and potato dumplings. Later, traditional German desserts like Stollen and Lebkuchen take centre stage, adding a sweet and festive touch to the holiday celebrations.

Families then gather around the beautifully decorated Christmas tree, adorned with sparkling ornaments and candles. The exchange of presents takes place, accompanied by the joyful laughter and warmth of loved ones coming together. This cherished moment captures the essence of German Christmas traditions, emphasizing the spirit of togetherness and the joy of giving.

Not to forget, German Christmas markets, or Weihnachtsmärkte, are also an important part of the holiday season. These markets come alive, especially in the evening. They are offering a magical experience with stalls filled with handcrafted ornaments, delightful treats, and the aromatic allure of mulled wine. The festive atmosphere and twinkling lights create an enchanting scene that adds to the magic of the season.

St. Nicholas’ Day, celebrated on December 6th, remains a delightful prelude to Christmas in Germany. Children eagerly await the visit of St. Nicholas, who rewards good behaviour with small gifts and treats. 

Holiday season: where to go from here?

Embark on a Christmas journey through Central Europe, where flavours, traditions, and customs come together to create a festive and tasteful celebration! This expedition is not only a feast for the taste buds but also weaves a cultural narrative that transcends borders. As we explore Slovakia, Italy, the Czech Republic and Germany, the thread of tradition and shared values binds us together in a universal celebration of joy and goodwill. Join us in savouring the rich tapestry of flavours and customs that make this holiday season a truly magical experience for all.

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