The second Festival of Light this month is Christmas on December 25, however, in Orthodox Christianity it’s celebrated on January 7, observing Christ’s birth according to the Julian calendar. But, did you know that in many cultures, Christmas Eve is a celebratory holiday as well, complete with unique foods and traditions?
For Christians around the globe, this celebration includes attending communal religious ceremonies. These liturgies may include special ceremonies such as burning frankincense to commemorate the visit of the 3 wise men or lighting a small fire of blessed palms.
Secular celebrations include stringing colorful lights in and outside the home, decorating the Christmas tree with favorite sentimental ornaments and, of course, a visit with Santa! For those of Swedish descent, it’s a visit from Jultomten, Father Christmas, on December 24. Italian children eagerly await a visit from La Befana, a witch who delivers gifts to good children on January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany which is known as Three Kings Day in America.
Food plays a special role in many December holiday celebrations around the world including eating Buche de Noel in France, lussekke: saffron buns in Sweden on St. Lucia Day, and Christmas pudding in England. In America, traditional foods eaten by our ancestors “in the old country” are often included with our modern traditions.
The tamale, stuffed masa dough, is a Christmastime staple in many Latinx families, with the tradition of making the tamales passed down from the abuela, grandmother, to the next generation. In Eastern orthodoxy, the traditional Christmas eve meal includes sochivo porridge and kozulya, cookies in the shape of deer, goats or sheep.
I grew up celebrating festa dei sette pesci, on la Vigilia – the Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve. I looked forward to it every year at my grandmother’s house in South Philadelphia. Fried smelts and baccala, dried salted cod that is rehydrated, were a tradition on my family’s table but these days, many Italian-Americans celebrate with fish dishes made with a modern twist. We have recipes for 10 amazing seafood dishes on our website that you might include in your 7 Fishes Dinner this year.
However you celebrate the holidays, Gersky’s is here to help with planning and food prep – it’s not too late to call us to prepare a few of your favorite dishes or to start a new tradition by trying a few of ours. Call us at 845-621-0696