As the holidays draw near, the team at Quattro HQ is taking an international look at celebrations across the globe. How is Christmas marked by different cultures? Not everyone does Santa, stockings and stuffing. What are the fascinating, unique ways other cultures celebrate? Traditions vary, but one thing everyone seems to have in common is a focus on food – this is music to our ears!
To most Britons, Christmas lunch means turkey and stuffing, roasties, cranberry sauce and mulled wine, but let’s cast our minds further afield and explore the most amusing and fascinating international rituals.
Why do the Japanese eat KFC at Christmas? Brazilians fill up on fresh fruit and the Spanish concoct exotic fish dishes. But where did these diverse traditions originate?
Merry Christmas, from KFC
Is this a thing? Yes, it’s been a tradition since 1974 when KFC used ‘Kentucky for Christmas’ as a slogan in its marketing campaign, and now every year around 3.6 million Japanese people sit down to eat KFC at Christmas. Orders for bargain buckets are booked weeks in advance and KFC outlets get decked out in red and green. KFC’s mascot, Colonel Sanders, can be seen on the streets of Japan dressed up as Santa Claus. The campaign was created to tempt tourists and expats with Christmas Day KFC in the absence of turkey, and little did Takeshi Okawara, the manager of the first KFC in the country, know that his idea would spark a long-standing national tradition. Okawara has said that the idea came to him in a dream, where he imagined people eating KFC at a Christmas party.
Okawara went on the radio to explain that the custom of Kentucky Fried Chicken for Christmas instead of turkey was a popular tradition in the West, and it stuck. The Japanese Christmas ‘barrel’ sells out every year and contains original recipe chicken, a side salad and a chocolate gateau style cake, as well as a collectable plate. Only 1% of the Japanese population is Christian, and the holiday are often marked with non-traditional festivities, with little or no religious symbolism but December has become a busy month for KFC in Japan, with sales 10 times their usual take.
Festivities marked with fruit in Brazil
Ever heard a of Chester chicken? It’s the central dish of Brazilian Christmas lunches – a special chicken that has been bred with a high percentage of breast and thigh meat and is served in a boneless oval shape, with a variety of fresh and dried fruits.
Christmas falls in the summer, which could explain why the Brazilians eat so much fresh fruit as families gather together and celebrate with a delicious, two-day tropical-coloured feast.
Passionfruit mousse is a traditional Brazilian Christmas dessert and is served ice cold.
A Spanish Christmas
Christmas lunch, or dinner, is celebrated in Spain with oven-baked fish, such as bream or sea bass, as the central dish. No expense is spared on fish and seafood, from the freshest, finest prawns or lobster, either fresh or in a seafood soup or stew. Celebratory gatherings go on into the wee hours and include plenty of sweets and flowing wine.
As you tuck into your turkey, imagine how they’re celebrating around the world, and visualise the colourful traditions that make this day so special, for everyone, everywhere.