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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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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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

Wassailing: England’s Apple Tree Pep Talk

For most of my life, wassailing was just something that popped up in Christmas song lyrics, like “Love and joy come to you, and to you your wassail too” or “Here we come a-wassailing.” But as long as we’re talking unusual Christmas traditions, we thought that on the Fourth Day of Imported Christmas, we’d share the joy of wassailing in its ancient form. Continue reading

Kentucky for Christmas: Japan’s Festive KFC

Every once in a while, someone has a stroke of marketing genius that influences an entire generation (Ch ch ch chia, Where’s the beef?, Got Milk? etc.) On the Second Day of Imported Christmas, we are celebrating one of the most effective marketing campaigns of all time: the KFC takeover of Christmas in Japan.

In 1974, the fledgling Japanese KFC franchises needed a boost. Takeshi Okawara, the manager of Japan’s first KFC, decided to take advantage of the lack of Japanese traditions for Christmas (which was largely not celebrated at all except by foreigners, who couldn’t get their traditional turkey ). He launched a campaign called “Kentucky for Christmas” and offered a Christmas party barrel that started with chicken and evolved to include sides, cake, and optional KFC wine.

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