15 Unique Holiday Foods From Around the World
Food is the cornerstone of the holiday season. It brings friends and family together to share memories, cultural traditions, and great flavors.
From figgy pudding to fruit cake, many foods may bring on the holiday cheer — or a foul taste in your mouth. Depending on where you live, foods that are considered a normal part of the holiday feast to some may seem downright strange to others.
Here are 15 unique holiday foods enjoyed around the world.
1. Bûche de Noël (France)
Also known as Yule log, bûche de Noël is a sweet dessert served in France during the Christmas season.
Though there are many variations, one of the most common types is made with heavy cream, cocoa powder, eggs, sugar, and vanilla extract. It's commonly decorated with icing sugar and fruit.
Bûche de Noël commemorates the tradition of cutting and burning a specially selected log known as the Yule log. This pagan tradition was introduced to the Christian holiday many centuries ago.
Most enjoy this dessert between Christmas Eve (December 24th) and New Year (January 1st).
2. Shuba (Russia)
While most countries celebrate Christmas on December 25th, Russia is one of the few countries that celebrates this holiday on January 7th in accordance with the Orthodox Julian calendar.
Colloquially known as "herring under a fur coat," shuba is a popular dish served during the holiday season in Russia. Its main ingredients include pickled herring, hard-boiled eggs, mayonnaise, and grated vegetables like carrots, beets, potatoes, and onions.
The dish gets its name from its top layer, which is usually made of mayonnaise or a beet dressing that resembles a warm winter coat.
While this may seem like an unconventional dish, it's an excellent source of protein, potassium, antioxidants, and vitamins A and B.
3. Yebeg Wot (Ethiopia)
Similarly to Ethiopia's national dish, doro wat (chicken stew), yebeg wot is a popular lamb stew served during the holiday season.
Weeks prior to the holidays, farmers feed lambs a high calorie diet. This leads to fatty, tender meat, which is added to a stew made of onions, tomatoes, garlic, kibbeh (Ethiopian butter), berbere spice mix, and various spices.
Many serve yebeg wot with injera, a popular flatbread.
This dish is a rich source of protein, carbs, and antioxidants.
4. Spiced Hot Chocolate (Peru)
If you think you know how to make the best hot chocolate, you may want to give Peru's spiced hot chocolate a try.
This creamy hot chocolate with a kick is made with chocolate, condensed or evaporated milk, and a combination of spices, such as cinnamon, chili powder, cloves, and nutmeg.
In fact, this beverage is so popular that it has its own event known as la Chocolatadas, during which people gather and serve spiced hot chocolate with a popular cake known as panetón.
5. Mince Pie (England)
Also known as mincemeat or Christmas pie, mince pie is a widely popular and historical holiday dessert.
Despite its name, most modern mincemeat pies are meatless. Traditionally, mince pies were made of shredded beef or mutton, suet, dried fruit, and spices.
However, most varieties today simply consist of pastry dough, dried apples and raisins, distilled spirits, vegetable shortening, and a spice mixture containing nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon.
Interestingly, the pies used to be oblongly shaped to represent a manger, although most mince pies served today are circular.
6. Bibingka (Philippines)
During the holiday season, bibingka is a common breakfast item in the Philippines.
Bibingka consists of rice flour or sticky rice, coconut milk, sugar, and water wrapped and cooked in banana leaves. Eggs, cheese, and coconut flakes are sometimes added as a garnish.
This dish is usually served for breakfast or after Simbáng Gabi — a nine-day series of Filipino Catholic masses leading up to Christmas.
In fact, it's common to have food stations set up outside of church for churchgoers to buy bibingka and other popular sweets, such as steamed rice cakes known as puto bumbong. Many enjoy these treats with a hot cup of tea or coffee.
7. Butter Tarts (Canada)
While a typical Canadian diet is similar to that of a typical U.S. diet, it has a few classic treats of its own.
Butter tarts are a Canadian dessert that's served during many holidays, but mostly during Thanksgiving and Christmas.
They're small pastries with a sweet filling made of butter, sugar, maple or corn syrup, eggs, and sometimes walnuts and raisins. Enjoy these tarts with a cup of coffee for the ultimate treat.
8. Latkes (Israel)
During Hanukkah, latkes are a delicious staple on most dinner plates. In Hebrew, the dish is known as levivot.
Fried in hot oil, latkes are symbolic of the oil that, according to a text that serves as the central source of Jewish religious law, lit the menorah for 8 days despite only having enough oil for 1 day.
Made of the simplest of ingredients, you can make latkes with shredded potato and onion, eggs, and breadcrumbs or matzo. Deep fry it in hot oil, and you have yourself some delicious latkes.
Other popular Hanukkah treats include sufganiyot (jelly donuts), challah (braided bread), and beef brisket.
9. Hangikjöt (Iceland)
Served during Christmas, hangikjöt is one of the most popular Icelandic holiday foods.
It translates to "hung meat" and involves smoked lamb or mutton. Its name originates from the traditional practice of hanging smoked meats in a smoking shed for weeks to develop a smoky, salty flavor.
Hangikjöt is commonly served with green beans, potatoes that are coated in a white béchamel sauce, and side of pickled red cabbage.
10. Bahn Chung (Vietnam)
Bahn chung is a beloved rice cake enjoyed during Tết (Vietnamese New Year).
This dish is made using sticky rice, pork, mung beans, green onions, fish sauce, and spices like salt and pepper.
In addition to its great flavor, it's placed in front of family altars to pay tribute to ancestors and prayers for the upcoming year.
11. Pasteles (Puerto Rico)
Pasteles are a classic Christmas dish in Puerto Rico.
Making pasteles requires time and patience. The inner portion of the pasteles consists of a mixture of ground pork and an adobo blended spice sauce. The outer portion is made using a special masa dough made of grated green bananas, yautía, and spices.
After allowing the dough to sit for a few hours, the masa is placed on banana leaves, the pork filling is added, and it's wrapped.
Traditional Puertorican pasteles are boiled in hot water and served with rice, meat, fish, pigeon peas, and hot sauce for a delicious holiday feast.
12. Eggnog (United States)
Eggnog isn't a holiday treat around the world. In fact, it's mostly enjoyed in the United States and Canada.
This drink is made from milk, cream, whipped egg whites, egg yolks, and sugar, resulting in a creamy, smooth texture.
Most people enjoy eggnog as an alcoholic beverage by adding rum, bourbon, or brandy.
13. Kutia (Ukraine)
Kutia is a traditional Christmas Eve dish that is popular among members of the Ukranian Orthodox Church. As part of the Julian calendar, Christmas Eve falls on January 6th.
It's usually the first dish served as part of Sviata Vecheria — a 12-dish vegetarian feast to commemorate the 12 apostles.
Made from cooked wheat berries, poppy seeds, dried fruit, and honey, this dish is packed with nutrition, which is an important focus of this Ukranian feast. In fact, this dish is so important to the meal that all guests are expected to have at least one spoonful.
However, it's customary to wait until the first star in the sky appears before digging in.
14. Janssons Frestelse (Sweden)
Also known as Jansson's Temptation, this casserole dish is made from potatoes, onions, heavy cream, breadcrumbs, and sprats — a small, oily fish similar to sardines.
It's usually accompanied by a smorgasbord of food known as the "julbord," which translates to "Yule table" or "Christmas table." It's enjoyed with foods like baked ham, meatballs, fish, boiled potatoes, cheeses, and various cooked vegetables.
The origin of its name is controversial, though many believe it originated from a popular opera singer known as Pelle Janzon.
15. Christmas Cake (Global)
Christmas cake is a popular dessert around the world.
It's a type of fruit cake made of flour, eggs, sugar, spices, candied cherries, dried fruit, and brandy. Traditional Christmas cake is made at least 2 months ahead to allow adequate time to slowly "feed" the cake with brandy every 2 weeks. Finally, it's topped with a marzipan icing.
While it's mostly known as a British dessert, many countries serve Christmas cake during the holiday season. In fact, South Koreans are well-known for their beautiful, artistic Christmas cake decorations.
The Bottom Line
Many cultures celebrate the holiday season for different reasons. Whether it's Christmas, Hanukkah, or New Year, food plays a central role in celebrations around the world.
From savory main dishes to sweet desserts, each culture brings a unique twist to this jolly season.
With the holidays just around the corner, remember to enjoy all the delicious food and memories they will bring.
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Since even moderate-intensity workouts offer a slew of benefits, walking is a good choice for people looking to stay healthy.
How to Rock Your Walk<p>Walking isn't just fun and healthy. It's accessible.</p><p>"Walking is cheap," says Dr. John Paul H. Rue, a sports medicine doctor at <a href="https://mdmercy.com/" target="_blank">Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore</a>. "You can do it anywhere at any time; [it] requires little to no special equipment and has many of the same cardio benefits as running or other more intense workouts."</p><p>Want to up your walking game? Try the tips below.</p>
Use Hand Weights<p>Cardio and strength training can go hand-in-hand when you add weights to your walk.</p><p>A <a href="https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2019/03000/Associations_of_Resistance_Exercise_with.14.aspx" target="_blank">2019 study</a> found that weight training is good for your heart, and <a href="https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(17)30167-2/abstract" target="_blank">research</a> shows it reduces the risk of developing a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/nutrition-metabolism-disorders" target="_blank">metabolic disorder</a> by 17 percent. People with metabolic disorders have a higher chance of being diagnosed with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.</p><p>Rue suggests not carrying weights for your entire walk.</p><p>"Hand weights can give you an added level of energy burning, but you have to be careful with these because carrying [them] over a long period of time or while walking could actually lead to some overuse injuries," he says.</p>
Make It a Circuit<p>As another option, consider doing a circuit. First, put a pair of dumbbells on your lawn or somewhere in your home. Walk around the block once, then stop and do some bicep curls and tricep lifts before walking around the block again.</p><p>Rue recommends <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/running-with-weights" target="_blank">avoiding ankle weights</a> during cardio workouts, as they force you to use your quadriceps rather than hamstrings. They can also cause muscle imbalance, according to the <a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/wearable-weights-how-they-can-help-or-hurt" target="_blank">Harvard Health Letter</a>.</p>
Find a Fitness Trail<p>Strength training isn't limited to weights. You can get stronger by <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/bodyweight-workout" target="_blank">simply using your body</a>.</p><p>Often found at parks, fitness trails are obstacle courses with equipment for pullups, pushups, rowing, and stretches to build upper and lower body strength.</p><p>Try searching "fitness trails near me" online, checking out your local parks and recreation website, or calling the municipal office to <a href="https://calisthenics-parks.com/" target="_blank">find one</a>.</p>
Recruit a Friend<p>People who workout together stay healthy together.</p><p><a href="https://bmcgeriatr.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12877-017-0584-3" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that older adults who exercised with a group improved or maintained their functional health and enjoyed their lives more.</p><p>Enlist the help of a walking buddy with a regimen you aspire to have. If you don't know anyone in your area, apps like <a href="https://www.strava.com/" target="_blank">Strava</a> have social networking features so you can get support from fellow exercisers.</p>
Try Meditation<p>According to the <a href="https://www.nccih.nih.gov/research/statistics/nhis/2017" target="_blank">2017 National Health Interview Survey</a>, published by the National Institutes of Health, meditation is on the rise, and for good reason.</p><p>Researchers <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29616846/" target="_blank">found</a> that mind-body relaxation practices can regulate inflammation, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/biological-rhythms" target="_blank">circadian rhythms</a>, and <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/glucose" target="_blank">glucose</a> metabolism, as well as lower <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/high-blood-pressure-hypertension" target="_blank">blood pressure</a>.</p><p>"Any form of exercise can be turned into a meditation of some type, either by the surroundings you are walking in, like a park or trail, or by blocking out the outside world with music on your headphones," Rue says.</p><p>You can also play a podcast or download an app like <a href="https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app" target="_blank">Headspace</a> that has a library of guided meditations to practice while you walk.</p>
Do Fartlek Walks<p>Typically used in running, fartlek intervals alternate periods of increased and decreased speed. These are <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-hiit" target="_blank">high-intensity interval training (HIIT)</a> workouts, which allow exercisers to accomplish more in less time.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0154075" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that 10-minute interval training improved <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/metabolic-syndrome" target="_blank">cardiometabolic</a> health, or lowered the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, just as well as working out at a continuous pace for 50 minutes.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0111489" target="_blank">Research</a> also shows that HIIT workouts increase muscle <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fast-twitch-muscles" target="_blank">oxidative</a> capacity, or the ability to use oxygen. To do a fartlek walk, try walking at an increased pace for 3 minutes, slow down for 2 minutes, and repeat.</p>
Gradually Increase Pace<p>A faster walking pace is associated with a lower risk of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/copd" target="_blank">chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)</a> and respiratory diseases, according to a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30303933/" target="_blank">2019 study</a>.</p><p>Still, it's best not to go from a stroll to an Olympic-worthy power walk in a day. Instead, increase your pace gradually to prevent injury.</p><p>"Start by walking at a brisk pace for about 10 minutes per day, 3 to 5 days per week," Rue says. "Once you've done this for a few weeks, increase your time by 5 to 10 minutes per day until you get to 30 minutes."</p>
Add Stairs<p>You've likely heard that taking the stairs instead of an elevator is a way to add more movement into your daily routine. It's also a way to step up your walking. Stair climbing has been shown to <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211335519301123?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">decrease the risk of mortality</a> and can easily add a bit more challenge to your walk.</p><p>If you don't have stairs in your home, you can often find them outside a local municipal building, train station, or at a high school stadium.</p>
Is Your Walk a True Cardio Workout?<p>Not all walks are equal. A walk that's too leisurely may not provide enough burn to qualify as cardio. To see if you're getting a good workout, try to <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-check-heart-rate" target="_blank">measure your heart rate</a> using a monitor.</p><p>"A target goal for a good walking workout heart rate is about 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate," Rue says, adding that maximum heart rate is <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/fat-burning-heart-rate" target="_blank">typically calculated</a> by 220 beats per minute minus your age.</p><p>You can also monitor how easily you can carry on a conversation while you walk to gauge your heart rate.</p><p>"If you can walk and carry on a normal conversation, that's probably a lower intensity walk," says Rue. "If you are slightly breathless but can still have a conversation, that's probably a moderate workout. If you are out of breath and can't talk normally, that's a vigorous workout."</p>
Takeaway<p>By shaking up your routine, you can add excitement to your workout and reap even more rewards than a basic walk provides. Increasing the pace and intensity of a workout will make it more effective.</p><p>Simply pick your favorite variation to add some spice to your next walk.</p>
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