Holiday Celebrations from Around the World
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St. Lucia's Day, Scandinavia
Scandinavian countries celebrate the Festival of Lights during what is typically the darkest time of the year. Traditionally the eldest daughter or selected woman serves St. Lucia bread (a yeasted, braided loaf), saffron buns (lussebullar), gingerbread cookies and Swedish glogg to the family as well as visitors.
Teri Tsang Barrett
The New Year's Eve feast celebrating the African-American holiday of Kwanzaa is known as Karamu. Traditional dishes served often have a Southern, Caribbean or Pan-African slant and may be categorized as soul food. Common ingredients include black-eyed peas, okra, collard greens, and yams or sweet potatoes. Popular dishes include jerk chicken, fish cakes, peanut-based soups and rice dishes such as gumbo. Kwanzaa comes from a Swahili phrase meaning "first fruits," which makes a first dessert course of fruit salad a popular way to begin the sweet end to Karamu.
Boxing Day, United Kingdom
The day after Christmas, the United Kingdom observes Boxing Day, a holiday with roots based in the medieval custom of preparing boxes of food for the less fortunate. Honor the charitable roots by spreading holiday cheer with cookies for a neighbor or volunteering at a food bank. Boxing Day meals are typically comprised of Christmas feast leftovers such as a ham or holiday roast — think Christmas Day cooking, just a bit less formal.
St. Basil's Day, Greece
Typically celebrated on New Year's Day, the feast for St. Basil is recognized for its abundance — the more plentiful, the more luck to follow in the new year. Some families will leave an empty seat and place setting at their table for St. Basil. Pork is often a mainstay, though many counterpart dishes depend on the region of the celebration. A staple at most St. Basil's feasts is the vasilopita, or St. Basil’s Cake. The cake is often cut with the first three slices going to Christ, the Virgin Mary and St. Basil, before being cut for the remainder of the household. A coin is hidden in the cake, and whoever gets the slice that contains the coin is bound for luck in the new year.
Russian Christmastide (Svyatki), Russia
A two-week holiday celebration between Orthodox Christmas (Jan. 7) and the epiphany (Jan. 19) may begin with fasting on Christmas Eve until the first star appears in the sky. A Christmas porridge, called sochivo, is often made using kasha, dried berries and honey; some families may serve the sochivo from a single bowl, symbolizing unity within the family. Some traditional dishes served at the Christmas meal include borscht (beet soup), sauerkraut, and vegetable pies made using cabbages, potatoes or mushrooms.