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A world of flavours: how Christmas food unites us


Food at the heart of Christmas

Working in the diverse #bmFamily💜💚 has showed me that regardless of what or where, sharing food at Christmas unites us. When we recorded our #bmFamily💜💚 Christmas card greeting, we counted over 30 languages between us. That got me thinking about the united nations of the #bmFamily💜💚 and our Christmas food traditions. Meng-Hsuan, from our design team, did lots of research for our Christmas card. She illustrated traditional Christmas foods from across the globe that our #BMfamily eats. What a treat it was to learn about them all.

Spirit of togetherness

The dining table is at the heart of the Christmas Dinner in the UK. But it doesn’t all happen at the table in the rest of the world. In Puerto Rico, the national dish is a roasted suckling pig known as lechón, carefully turned from midnight! I have lived in the USA, where one year, we deep-fried the turkey on the patio. Nothing scared me more than this cauldron of boiling fat.

How big must the table be in Lithuania, where I believe it’s traditional to have a 12-dish Christmas Eve feast? In the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches, no meat, eggs or milk are allowed on the table for the Nativity Fast. Traditions in South Africa vary by region and culture. Still, families gather outside for a braaing (BBQ) of steaks and boerewors (sausages) on Boxing Day.

In Australia, who hasn’t heard about the barby on the beach on Bondi!? While dining customs are unique around the world, from Puerto Rico’s lechón to Lithuania’s 12-dish feast, the essence of these traditions remains the same: the joy of coming together, sharing a meal, and creating memories.

Christmas Turkey and all the trimmings?

Looking at well-known Christmas dishes and their origins, the roast turkey arrived in England in the 1500s. The mince pie was originally enormous and packed with meats, prunes, dates, raisins and beef fat. As a veggie, thank goodness it morphed during Georgian times into the sweet version we eat today. The traditional Christmas lunch as we know it was established in the Victorian era. Large turkeys replaced goose and roast potatoes, and stuffing with all the trimmings came to the Christmas dinner table. Did you know that Christmas cake started as plum porridge, designed to line people’s stomachs after a day of religious fasting?

Global festive flavours from the #bmFamily💜💚

We asked #bmFamily💜💚 team members to share their family’s less familiar, but equally tasty Christmas traditions.

  • I like the sound of the Philippines, where Emma said breakfast is Bibingka, a rice and coconut baked cheesecake. What a delicious way to start the day!
  • No-one sweats for hours over a turkey in a hot kitchen in Japan. Following (allegedly) a very successful advertising campaign in the 1970s; the national Christmas dish is KFC (coined as Kentucky for Christmas!)
  • Ethiopian staple Doro Wat is a very spicy chicken stew served with hard-boiled eggs on a flatbread called Injera. The Injera bread is used to scoop up the stew (instead of utensils), and everyone eats from one giant communal dish. I have tried this and it certainly minimises the washing-up!
  • Once upon a time, Czech tables were graced with plates of buttery garlic snails, an old-world delicacy that has since given way to a new tradition—feasting on carp. Petra, our head of finance, shared a delightful tidbit: it’s customary to tuck away a carp scale in your wallet, a charm believed to bring financial prosperity throughout the coming year. She also recounted the charmingly quirky practice of housing the Christmas carp in the family bathtub prior to its culinary destiny. However, this tradition is increasingly met with a heart-warming challenge, as the carp often swims its way into the family’s hearts, sparing it from becoming the festive meal and turning it into an endearing aquatic ‘pet’ instead!
  • In China, younger generations carve ‘peace’ apples with a caring message and wrap them in colourful paper to give to loved ones.
  • A Swedish Christmas food smorgasbord is called Julbord, which translates as Christmas table. It’s full of dishes that are only available at Christmas. A classic Swedish Christmas sweet is Lussekatter – Saffron buns. They are especially served on St Lucia’s Day (the festival of lights). #bmFamily💜💚 team member and Masterchef contestant Katrin has shared her recipe here.

From kitchen to community

Feeding the soul: Food can unite us and bring joy and hope in the most challenging times. Sunil Varma and his family have volunteered with charities, including Crisis at Christmas, for over ten years. Sunil said, “Christmas is about giving. It’s good to do something positive and use the gifts I have been given to make someone else feel cared about; I cannot recommend volunteering highly enough. You need to sign up for a few sessions, and the shifts are long, but there is training. It’s sad to see the tough lives people have. But I get joy from seeing the happiness a bowl of warm food can bring and all the other services the charity provides. I cannot think of anything better to do with my time around Christmas.”