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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By Sara Lindberg
Whether you've hit a workout plateau or you're just ready to turn things up a notch, adding more strenuous exercise — also known as high-intensity exercise — to your overall fitness routine is one way to increase your calorie burn, improve your heart health, and boost your metabolism.
However, to do it safely and effectively, there are some guidelines you should follow. Keep reading to learn more about the benefits of vigorous exercise and how to safely dial up the intensity of your workouts.
What Is Considered Strenuous Exercise?<p>When it comes to exercise, the intensity of how hard you work out is just as important as the duration of your exercise session. In general, exercise intensity is divided into three categories:</p><ul><li>low</li><li>moderate</li><li>vigorous or strenuous</li></ul><p>For an activity to be vigorous, you need to work at 70 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate, according to the<a href="https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/target-heart-rates" target="_blank"> American Heart Association</a>. Examples of vigorous exercise include:</p><ul><li>running</li><li>cycling at 10 mph or faster</li><li>walking briskly uphill with a heavy backpack</li><li>jumping rope</li></ul><p>Low to moderate exercise is easier to sustain for longer periods since you work below 70 percent of your maximum heart rate and, sometimes, well below that level.</p><p>To reap health benefits, the <a href="https://www.hhs.gov/fitness/be-active/physical-activity-guidelines-for-americans/index.html" target="_blank">Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans</a> recommends that people age 18 and older get one of the following:</p><ul><li><strong>150 minutes</strong> of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week</li><li><strong>75 minutes</strong> of vigorous aerobic activity per week</li><li><strong>combination of both types</strong> of activity spread throughout the week</li></ul>
Strenuous Exercise Vs. Moderate Exercise<p>Increasing your exercise intensity is fairly simple to do. You can still participate in your favorite activities — just at a more vigorous pace.</p><p>One of the benefits of more strenuous exercise is that you can reap the same rewards as moderate-intensity exercise but in less time. So, if time is of the essence, doing a more strenuous 20-minute workout can be just as beneficial as doing a slower 40-minute workout session.</p><p>Here are some examples of <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/physical/pdf/pa_intensity_table_2_1.pdf" target="_blank">strenuous vs. moderate exercise<span></span></a>.</p><table><tbody><tr><th>Moderate intensity</th><th>Strenuous intensity</th></tr><tr><td>bicycling at less than 10 mph</td><td>bicycling at more than 10 mph</td></tr><tr><td>walking briskly</td><td>running, or hiking uphill at a steady pace</td></tr><tr><td>jog-walk intervals</td><td>water jogging/running</td></tr><tr><td>shooting baskets in basketball</td><td>playing a basketball game</td></tr><tr><td>playing doubles tennis</td><td>playing singles tennis</td></tr><tr><td>raking leaves or mowing the lawn</td><td>shoveling more than 10 lbs. per minute, digging ditches</td></tr><tr><td>walking stairs</td><td>running stairs</td></tr></tbody></table>
Benefits of Vigorous Exercise<p>Besides being more efficient, turning up the heat on your fitness sessions can benefit your health in a variety of ways. Let's take a closer look at some of the evidence-based benefits of a higher intensity workout.</p><ul><li><strong>Higher calorie burn.</strong> According to the <a href="https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/professional/expert-articles/5008/7-things-to-know-about-excess-post-exercise-oxygen-consumption-epoc/?utm_source=Rakuten&utm_medium=10&ranMID=42334&ranEAID=TnL5HPStwNw&ranSiteID=TnL5HPStwNw-hYlKnAcfzfixAUsvnO6Ubw" target="_blank">American Council on Exercise</a>, working out at a higher intensity requires more oxygen, which burns more calories. It also contributes to excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) or the "afterburn effect" that allows you to continue burning calories even after you finish working out. This means your metabolism will stay elevated for longer after a vigorous exercise session.</li><li><strong>More weight loss.</strong> A <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/interval-workouts-will-help-you-lose-weight-more-quickly" target="_blank">higher calorie burn</a> and an elevated metabolism will help you lose weight more quickly than doing low- or moderate-intensity exercise.</li><li><strong>Improved heart health.</strong> According to a <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16377300" target="_blank">2012 study</a>, high- and moderate-intensity exercise appears to offer low chance of cardiovascular events, even in those with heart disease. Cardiovascular benefits may include improvements in:<ul><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/diastole-vs-systole" target="_blank">diastolic blood pressure</a></li><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/15-ways-to-lower-blood-sugar#TOC_TITLE_HDR_1" target="_blank">blood sugar control</a></li><li>aerobic capacity</li></ul></li><li><strong>Improved mood.</strong> High-intensity exercise may also boost your mood. According to a large <a href="https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jpts/27/4/27_jpts-2014-736/_article" target="_blank">2015 study</a> that analyzed the data of more than 12,000 participants, researchers found a significant link between strenuous exercise and fewer depressive symptoms.</li><li><strong>Lower risk of mortality.</strong> According to a 2015 <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25844882" target="_blank">study</a>, researchers found that vigorous activity may be key to avoiding an early death. The study, which followed 204,542 people for more than 6 years, reported a 9 to 13 percent decrease in mortality for those who increased the intensity of their exercise sessions.</li></ul>
How to Measure Exercise Intensity<p>So, how do you know for sure that you're exercising at a strenuous level? Let's look at three ways to measure the intensity of your physical activity.</p><h3>1. Your heart rate</h3><p>Monitoring your heart rate is one of the most reliable methods for measuring exercise intensity. Exercising at 70 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate qualifies as vigorous exercise intensity.</p><blockquote><strong><strong>WHAT IS YOUR MAXIMUM HEART RATE?</strong></strong>Your maximum heart rate is the fastest your heart can safely beat. To find out what your maximum heart rate is you need to subtract your age from 220. For example, for a 40-year-old person: <ul><li>220 bpm (beats per minute) minus age</li><li>220 – 40 = 180 bpm</li></ul>To work out at a vigorous pace, you'll want to exercise within 70 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. For example: <ul><li>180 x 0.70 (70 percent) = 126</li><li>180 x 0.85 (85 percent) = 153</li></ul>For a 40-year-old person, a vigorous training range is 126 to 153 bpm.<br></blockquote><p>You can check your heart rate while you're working out by wearing a heart rate monitor or <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-check-heart-rate" target="_blank">taking your pulse</a>.</p>
How to Add Vigorous Activity to Your Workout<p>Adding strenuous activity to your weekly workout routine requires some careful planning. Fortunately, many of the activities that you do at a moderate level can easily be performed at a higher intensity.</p><p>One way of incorporating vigorous aerobic activity into your routine is to do a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-hiit" target="_blank">high-intensity interval training (HIIT)</a> workout. This type of workout combines short bursts of intense activity — typically performed at 80 to 95 percent of your maximum heart rate — with recovery periods at 40 to 50 percent maximum heart rate.</p><p>To sustain this level of training, consider following a 2:1 work to rest ratio. For example, a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/treadmill-weight-loss#hiit" target="_blank">treadmill workout </a>or outdoor running session could include:</p><ul><li>running at 9 to 10 mph for 30 seconds</li><li>followed by walking at 3 to 4 mph for 60 seconds</li><li>alternating this work-to-rest ratio for 20 to 30 minutes</li></ul><p>Playing a fast-paced sport like soccer, basketball, or racquetball is another effective way to add strenuous activity to your fitness routine. Participating in <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/benefits-of-a-spin-class" target="_blank">cycling classes</a> or swimming laps are other ways to build more strenuous exercise into your workouts.</p>
Safety Tips<p>Before you turn up the intensity on your workouts, it's important to keep the following safety tips in mind.</p><h3>Check with your doctor</h3><p>If you have a health condition or you haven't been active in a while, make sure you talk to your doctor before you start a high-intensity exercise routine. Your doctor can advise you on a safe level of exercise or how to become more active in the safest way possible.</p><h3>Build up the intensity slowly</h3><p>Going from low- or moderate-intensity workouts to vigorous exercise requires time and patience. While you may be ready to jump in with both feet, the safest way to add more vigorous exercise is to do it in bite-size increments. Pushing yourself too quickly can result in injuries and burnout.</p><p>For example:</p><ul><li><strong>Week 1:</strong> Swap out one moderate-paced cardio session for a HIIT workout.</li><li><strong>Week 2:</strong> Swap one moderate-paced session with a HIIT workout, and also add a circuit strength training session to your weekly routine.</li><li><strong>Week 3 and 4: </strong>Repeat weeks 1 and 2 before you start adding more high-intensity exercise to your weekly routine.</li></ul><p>It's also a good idea to space out your vigorous workouts throughout the week. Try not to do two strenuous sessions back-to-back.</p><h3>Don't forget the recovery time</h3><p>Your body requires more time to recover from a vigorous workout compared to a low- or moderate-intensity session.</p><p>To help your body recover, make sure to always include a cooldown and <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/static-stretching" target="_blank">stretch routine</a> after strenuous physical activity.</p><h3>Stay hydrated</h3><p><a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/7-health-benefits-of-water" target="_blank">Staying hydrated</a> is especially important when you're exercising hard. Not drinking enough fluids can affect the quality of your workout and make you feel tired, lethargic, or dizzy. It may even lead to <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/dehydration-headache" target="_blank">headaches</a> and <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/pain-relief/how-to-stop-leg-muscle-cramps" target="_blank">cramps</a>.</p>
The Bottom Line<p>Turning up the intensity of your workout sessions can be an effective way of boosting your overall health and fitness. It's also an easy way to save time when trying to fit a workout into your day.</p><p>To play it safe, always start slow and pay attention to how your body feels.</p><p>While vigorous exercise offers many health benefits, it's not appropriate for everyone. If you have a health condition or you haven't been active in a while, make sure to talk with your doctor before working out at a more strenuous level.</p>
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By Jeffrey Miller
In January 2015, food sales at restaurants overtook those at grocery stores for the first time. Most thought this marked a permanent shift in the American meal.
Solving the Age-Old Problem of Spoiled Cheese<p>People have eaten pasta and cheese together for hundreds of years. Clifford Wright, the doyen of Mediterranean food history, says <a href="http://www.cliffordawright.com/caw/food/entries/display.php/topic_id/16/id/105/" target="_blank">the first written recipe</a> for macaroni and cheese was created in the court of the king of Naples in the 13th century, while <a href="https://food52.com/blog/9916-the-history-of-macaroni-and-cheese" target="_blank">the first reference</a> in an English language cookbook likely appeared in Elizabeth Raffald's 1769 book "The Experienced English Housekeeper."</p><p><span></span>An internet search for macaroni and cheese recipes will turn up over 5 million hits, but many still prefer to get theirs in a box – the kind with pasta that comes in shapes ranging from shells to Pokemon characters, accompanied by a packet of powdered cheese sauce.</p><p>Boxed macaroni and cheese was one outcome of the quest for ways to keep cheese longer. Some cheese gets better as it ages – a well-aged cheddar is one of life's delights – but once most cheeses hit their prime, <a href="https://www.dairyfoods.com/articles/91548-how-to-maximize-cheese-shelf-life" target="_blank">they tend to quickly go bad</a>. Before household refrigeration became common, many retailers wouldn't even stock cheese in the summer because it spoiled so quickly.</p><p>Processed cheese solved this age-old problem.</p>
When Natural Was Nasty<p>Today, food that's simple, pure and natural is <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-was-french-cuisine-toppled-as-the-king-of-fine-dining-66667" target="_blank">all the craze</a>, while <a href="https://apnews.com/c06a1200807c4b82a03452d08d480692" target="_blank">disdain for processed foods</a> is practically a credo among sophisticated consumers.</p><p>But when Kraft's different forms of processed cheese came out, they found widespread acceptance despite their strange textures. The fact that it wasn't natural didn't seem to bother consumers at all. In fact, as international food historian Rachel Laudan <a href="https://online.ucpress.edu/gastronomica/article/1/1/36/93394/A-Plea-for-Culinary-Modernism-Why-We-Should-Love" target="_blank">has noted</a>, back then, "natural was something quite nasty." She describes fresh milk as warm and "unmistakably a bodily secretion." Throughout the history of cookery, most recipes aimed to transform an unappetizing raw product into something delightful and delectable.</p><p>So for most consumers, processed foods were a godsend. They kept well, tended to be easily digestible and, most importantly, they tasted good. Many of them could be easily prepared, freeing women from spending entire days cooking and giving them more time to pursue professions and avocations.</p><p>In some ways, processed foods were also healthier. They could be fortified with vitamins and minerals, and, in an era before everyone had access to mechanical refrigeration, the fact that they kept well meant consumers were less likely to contract diseases from spoiled, rotten foods. Pasteurization of dairy products virtually <a href="https://www.the-scientist.com/foundations/rethinking-raw-milk--1918-65126" target="_blank">eliminated diseases like undulant fever</a>, while foods processed and canned in large factories were less likely to harbor food-borne illnesses that could crop up due to faulty or improperly sanitized equipment used by home canners.</p>
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By Mark Kaufman
Some fires won't die.
They survive underground during the winter and then reemerge the following spring, as documented in places like Alaska. They're called "overwintering," "holdover," or "zombie" fires, and they may have now awoken in the Arctic Circle — a fast-warming region that experienced unprecedented fires in 2019. The European Union's Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service is now watching these fires, via satellite.