| 03.20.2018

Holiday foods around the world — Food is an important part of holidays around the world


Holiday foods can be hit or miss, with some experiences overshadowing others. For different holidays around the world, people incorporate food as diverse as they are. By taking a look at these different holiday foods, a taste of that diversity and inspiration for upcoming celebrations can be found.


Christmas celebrations in the U.S. generally include turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and some form of greens. Some cultures around the world celebrate the holidays with different traditional foods.

Traditional Christmas foods used in celebrations around the world:

  • In Iceland, the main dish is known as the ‘Yule meal,’ a traditional leg of roast lamb.
  • In Denmark, a Christmas tradition is a rice pudding known as ‘Ris a la mande.’
  • In China, a popular tradition is to gift apples on Christmas Eve, usually wrapping them in colorful paper.
  • In Mexico, during the celebration of Three Kings Day, people feast on a cake called Three Kings cake, or Twelfth Night cake. A miniature baby Jesus is placed in the cake as a prize for the finder.

A traditional Hanukah celebration in the U.S. most likely includes potato latkes, brisket or a roasted chicken, greens and jelly-filled doughnuts known as sufganiyot.

Traditional Hanukah food used in celebrations around the world:

  • In Morocco, doughnuts called Sfenj, dipped in sugar or drizzled with syrup, are a classic Hanukah desert.
  • In Syria, people indulge in pumpkin patties known as Kibbet Yatkeen, which are a mix of bulgur and mashed pumpkin and spices.
  • In Italy, a fried rice pudding dessert known as Frittelle di Riso, or Italian rice fritters, is eaten for the holiday.

People who celebrate a traditional Kwanzaa in the U.S. might feast on mazoa, fruits and vegetables such as okra, yams, sweet potatoes and muhindi, a type of corn. The food symbolizes the bounty of the harvest. However, the food served at Kwanzaa celebrations often vary more drastically from table to table than the foods served at Hanukah or Christmas.

Traditional Kwanzaa food used in celebrations around the world:

  • In Ghana, a traditional Kwanzaa dish is Ghanaina, a groundnut stew that includes tomatoes, collard greens and peanut butter among other ingredients.
  • In Nigeria, people eat jollof rice, which is made from rice, tomato stew and Nigerian curry powder.
  • A Senegalese traditional Kwanzaa food is black-eyed pea fritters known as Akkra.
  • Mchuzi wa Samaki, a fish in coconut curry dish, is a delicacy of Zanzibar island, a coastal region of East Africa.

Whatever the holiday tradition may be, the food is just a small portion of the celebration. All around the world and among almost all cultures, the holidays are spent with loved ones and with food that reflects the importance of the holiday to those who celebrate it.

Dominique Stout can be reached at arg-arts@uidaho.edu


Correction: Dec. 27, 2017

In a previous version of this article, Mtuzi wa Samaki was said to be eaten in East Africa for the holiday. Mtuzi wa Samaki is a fish in coconut curry dish — a delicacy of Zanzibar island and a coastal region of East Africa.

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