Mince Pies—England’s Medieval Advent Treat

We were watching the Rick Steves Christmas special (again) last week with the 12 days of Christmas on the brain. So when Rick mentioned that an English family was baking mince pies so they could eat one for each of the 12 days, we took notice. 

On the Sixth Day of Imported Christmas, we baked tiny mince pies. We were too excited to make them from scratch, so we cheated, using canned mince and frozen pie dough. We also only managed to get nine pies out of the ingredients, so we’ll have to make more to finish out our 12 days. 

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Julbord—Sweden’s Christmas Feast

Christmas is for eating your favorite food with the people you love. Unfortunately, sometimes the people you love can’t agree on what that favorite food should be. Rather than risk hurt feelings and grouchy faces at the table by choosing the wrong dish, follow Sweden’s lead: don’t choose. Have them all. You can’t have a true Swedish Christmas without a buffet of all the Scandinavian classics with a few modern favorites thrown in for good measure. So on the Fifth Day of Imported Christmas, we are having a julbord.

The standard julbord spread includes pickled herring (three kinds), smoked salmon, preserved cod, eggs, ham, roast meat, pate, salads, meatballs, smoked sausages, glazed ribs, red cabbage, rice pudding, saffron buns, chocolate fondant, tarts, truffles, flatbreads, crackers, and anything else the family wants.

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Advent Wreath—Germany’s Candlelit Countdown

Advent countdowns come in all shapes and sizes, from paper chains and wall hangings to boxes of chocolate or 12 pairs of socks. Every year, we visit World Market to see what exciting Advent calendars they have in stock, buy far too many of them, and spend each of the 12-24 nights before Christmas eating candy, cookies, jams, and marzipan.

This year, Gordon decided to add a less delicious but much more meaningful Advent countdown to the mix. On the Fourth Day of Imported Christmas, we are celebrating with an Advent wreath.

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Chicken Bones—New Brunswick’s Crunchy Christmas Treat

Last weekend, we told my friend’s six children that we were giving them chicken bones for Christmas. They were horrified. Granted, this wasn’t the first time that week we’d given them something weird in the name of international holiday traditions, so they were suspicious.* If you told a group of children in New Brunswick the same thing, I imagine they’d be delighted. So for the Third Day of Imported Christmas, we’re eating Chicken Bones.

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Pavuchky—Ukraine’s 8-Legged Decorators

I learned a lot of rules for life from Ukrainian babushkas: Don’t whistle inside or all of your money will fly out of your pocket. Never throw away bread, no matter how stale or moldy; feed it to animals instead. Hoping to stay healthy during the winter? Eat raw garlic. And never squish a spider in your house, especially around Christmastime.

Not only do spiders get special protection during the holidays, they also get an honored place in Christmas decor. Often, Ukrainians who put up a Christmas tree include small spider ornaments and tinsel to represent spider webs. So on the Second Day of Imported Christmas we made tiny beaded pavuchky (little spiders) for our tree.

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Sfincione—Sicily’s Christmas Pizza

With holiday plans cancelled, travel suspended, and everyone stuck at home with the same people, pets, and dwindling stash of toilet paper every day, we figured there’s never been a better time to import some Christmas cheer. We’re counting down 12 international holiday traditions that you can incorporate this year to make Christmas 2020 memorable for more pleasant reasons than the global pandemic.

I already need very little excuse to eat pizza, so when I heard that Sicilians have an extra savory pizza for Christmas, I knew we had to try it out. On the First Day of Imported Christmas, we made sfincione.

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Sourdough Onion Rings

So you’ve made a sourdough starter, you’re feeding it daily and making delicious bread. What are you supposed to do with the discard you pull out to make room for the feeding? Make onion rings of course!

Using sourdough starter as onion ring batter makes for crispy, fluffy onion rings with a slightly sour flavor (like buttermilk). We really enjoyed them and will definitely be making them again. Continue reading

Julbock: Sweden’s Flammable Christmas Goat

For many Swedish families, it just isn’t Christmas without a straw goat somewhere on or under the tree. For the families in Gävle, it just isn’t Christmas unless you have to stop arsonists from burning your town’s giant straw goat to the ground. And for their neighbors, there is nothing more Christmasy than a goat bonfire. On the Sixth Day of Imported Christmas, we made a Julbock (Yule goat) of our own. Continue reading