During the holidays, Americans are a bunch of weirdos. We eat desserts that jiggle, leave carbs out for a bearded stranger to consume after a hike down our chimney, and don’t bat an eye when a party-goer pours us a glass of liquefied, spiked eggs from a crystal punch bowl.
Fortunately, we’re in good company. There are plenty of other countries that have strange traditions rooted in consumption during the winter months.
If you’re Scandinavian or live in Madison, Minnesota, you might share a Lutefisk dinner with your family. Lutefisk is a cod fillet preserved in lye, an industrial chemical commonly used to unclog drains and decompose murder victims. The cod is caught, dried, and later revived in a lye marinade. But don’t be too alarmed: the fish is rinsed an unspecified number of times before being served! Nevertheless, toxicity levels remain high enough for the dish to be exempt from state laws that govern edible food additives.
In Japan, little boys and girls press their noses up against the glass of KFC chain locations, eager to get their mittens inside a bucket of “Christmas Chicken.” Even though Japan doesn’t celebrate Christmas as a national holiday, the tradition of eating Colonel Sanders on December 25th has become a countrywide pastime. The origins of Japan’s white meat merry-making comes from a highly popular “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!” (Kentucky for Christmas!) marketing campaign from 1974. Besides regular sides like biscuits, mashed potatoes and gravy, a full KFC Christmas Chicken Dinner comes with cake or champagne, bringing the price to $40. Customers are known to order their Christmas meals weeks in advance in order to avoid massive lines.
Germans are responsible for inventing the initial concept of the modern-day Christmas tree, so it’s appropriate that they would shape our views on decorations as well. Germans don’t just eat pickles; they hang a pickle-shaped ornament called Die Weihnachtsgurke on their trees. The pickle ornament is hidden inside the tree. Then, the first person to find it on Christmas morning receives an extra present or treat. Second and third generation Germans have perpetuated the tradition more than natives, as there is much controversy about its origins. Still, the decoration has become synonymous with kitschy decor and fun, making the pickle available for purchase practically everywhere.
What are some of your own wacky holiday meal traditions? Let us know in the comments!