Holiday food traditions around the world

From jeon 전 to escudella, mince pies to black eyed peas, in this article, we'll dig into traditional holiday meals around the globe!

Fa-la-la-la-la’s, family, friends and food

The holidays. A time for family, gratefulness, giving, and food. 

Whether you’re celebrating with family, friends, or solo, in Spain, Canada, Korea, UK, France, Mexico, or the United States, you’re likely looking forward to your holiday meal. While in Spain people enjoy tapas including Iberian ham and cheeses, in the UK people enjoy mince pies and mulled wine! Have you ever considered mixing up your traditional plate with some new global favorites? In this article, we’ll dig into the quintessential holiday meal in countries around the globe to inspire new traditions. Want to stick to your usual? We’ll also highlight Otter restaurants serving up your local holiday favorites whether you’re in Korea, Canada or somewhere in between.

Mixing up the quintessential holiday plate with some global favorites

Spain: A never-ending array of food

Spaniards get a lot of opportunities to gather during the holidays, including Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and the Three Kings' Day. Traditional dishes vary according to the region, but these festivities have something in common: big family lunches or dinners that can last the whole day. Meals usually start with world-famous tapas: Iberian ham, cheeses, seafood, and canned goods. Then comes the first course, a soup or stew that varies per region: escudella in Catalonia, puchero in Andalucia, and garlic soup in Castilla-La Mancha are some of their holiday staples. The main dish consists of roasted meat or fish, ideally prepared using firewood. Next, traditional Spanish sweets include nougat, polvorones and marzipan.
The most famous dessert in Spain is the King Cake or Roscón de Reyes; a bagel-shaped cake served during the Three Kings’ Day. The main highlight? Two figurines are baked inside the cake for eaters to find: whoever gets the bean must pay for the cake next and whoever gets the figurine is the king of the day! If you’re in Spain and looking to try a traditional Roscón de Reyes, consider visiting Otter customer El Molí Pan y Café in any of their stores at Alicante, Tenerife, Barcelona, Girona and Cantabria.

France: Seafood, poultry, cheese, and a good wine

Food is a serious topic for French people, so it’s not a surprise that they put a lot of thought into their holiday meals. In France, one of the main events is Le Réveillon de Noël; an elaborate dinner served after midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. The meal starts with fancy appetizers: foie gras on brioche toast and seafood are a must, especially oysters, lobster tails, and escargot. The main dish is usually poultry accompanied by vegetables and mashed potatoes or chestnuts. The French love to serve capon on this occasion: a flavourful, juicy, roasted rooster reserved for the holidays. And for dessert? A fine cheese board followed by Bûche de Noël, and a chocolate rolled cake shaped like a log and filled with whipped cream.
It goes without saying that the whole culinary event is often enjoyed with a glass or two of good French wine. If you’re spending the holidays in Paris and looking for great seafood and wine, consider dining with Otter client, Bulot Bulot. Beloved for their wine selection, lobster rolls, oysters, and bulots – traditional French snails served with homemade lemon mayonnaise.

Otter restaurant partner Bulot Bulot in France

UK: Mulled wine, mince pies and more

Did someone say mulled wine? Paired with seasonal mince pies, the warm beverage signals the start of Christmas across the UK. In fact, it’s considered good luck to eat a mince pie every day of December—so by the end of the year, most people are stuffed with a mixture of dried fruits and spices called "mincemeat" that make up the pies. For a Christmas main course, the menu goes as follows: smoked salmon, turkey (which replaced Goose years ago), chipolatas (sausages wrapped in bacon), potatoes, Brussels sprouts and bread sauce (yum). Next, a Christmas pudding, which is best started months before Christmas—a highly impressive commitment to dessert.
Looking to try the first mince pie of the season? Head over to Otter customer Wenzel’s, a London bakery chain with over 60 stores across the city.

Otter restaurant partner Wenzel's in the UK

US: Green bean casserole, dessert-like drinks, black eyed peas and latkes

Did you know that the traditional main holiday dish for Americans is a roast goose? Long considered a delicacy for both Christmas and Hanukkah in the United States, today Americans have traded one bird for another with ~90% serving turkey as their holiday main dish. When it comes to sides, there’s arguably nothing more quintessentially Americana than green bean casserole which is served by ~30% of all American households over the holidays. One of the only “branded” dishes, green bean casserole was created by Dorcas Riley, a Campbell’s Soup Company employee, in 1955. She found the inspiration for the dish by looking at what most Americans had lying around their cabinets – green beans and Campbell's® Cream of Mushroom Soup. Another holiday favorite enjoyed mainly by Americans who celebrate Hanukkah in December, is the latke. Since Hannukkah is an "8 day festival commemorating the Miracle of Oil," people celebrate by cooking grated potatoes fried in it (yum). When it comes to beverages (that double as desserts if we're being honest), lots of Americans indulge in eggnog. Traditionally served at holiday parties, and often mixed with alcohol, eggnog literally means “egg inside a small cup.” The beloved rendition contains eggs, sugar, milk and rum or brandy. And once the December holidays have come to a close, some Americans begin the new year by dining on black eyed peas and collard greens. According to Southern folklore, black eyed peas represent coins and greens represent paper money – a mix of which is said to bring luck and prosperity.  

Craving that crispy, tender, fried deliciousness that is a latke this holiday season? Order from one of the classics, and a beloved Otter customer, Langer’s in Los Angeles (or your favorite local Jewish deli!). 

Otter restaurant partner Langer's in Los Angeles

Canada: Mixing up the traditional turkey plate with worldly sides and desserts

Similar to in the United States and North Mexico, Canadians generally eat turkey as their main dish on the holidays. However, as one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world that’s home to over 195 languages, the sides are where this country's holiday plate gets interesting! The more “typical” side dishes include creamy mashed potatoes, and crisp Brussels sprouts, but what else you add to your plate likely depends on your family background. If you have roots in India, you might have biryani or dosas with your holiday meal, if your ancestry lies in Nigeria, you may finish your meal with a simple, delicious Nigerian donut. If you have a French background, which is true of many residents of Quebec, you might enjoy Bûche de Noël for dessert – a yule log cake made with sponge cake, cocoa powder, and heavy cream. Canada also has its own unique desert, the beloved Canadian butter tarte, a flaky pastry filled with a rich, buttery, caramel center. 

Looking to finish off your holiday meal with a classic, caramel-y flaky pastry treat? Consider ordering your Canadian butter tartes from Otter client, Surreal Sweets!

Mexico: Guajolote, Romeritos, Tamales and Rosca de Reyes

The traditional holiday cuisine in Mexico varies by country. In North Mexico, turkey is the most consumed dish on Christmas Eve. This bird is native to Mexico where we know it as “guajolote.” In South and Central Mexico, the dish of the holidays is romeritos: tender sprigs of seepweed which are boiled and served in a Mole sauce seasoned with powdered shrimp. Served with optional boiled potatoes and nopales shrimp, alongside sliced bread or in tortillas. Romeritos were part of the Aztec diet, although they used ahuautles, water insect egg – sort of a Mexican caviar, instead of shrimp. Across Mexico, there are some key holiday desserts: buñelos, and Rosca de Reyes. Buñuelos are a traditional staple in Mexican desserts. This delicious golden fried fritter is light and airy but still holds a crunch to it. It is often dusted with white sugar and cinnamon. On January 6, when Christmas festivities are officially over, everyone cuts into the famous Rosca de Reyes – similar to the Spanish tradition mentioned above. In Mexico, the hidden figurines are in the shape of a baby, representing baby Jesus. Whoever finds the figurines while cutting the cake has to bring the Tamales to the party of the Día de La Candelaria on February 2.

If you plan on celebrating the end of the Christmas festivities on January 6th, order your famous Rosca de Reyes from Otter client, Lecaroz

Otter partner Lecaroz in Mexico

Korea: Songpyeon 송편, Jeon 전 and Tteokguk떡국

Thanksgiving in Korea is called Chuseok, and is also known as Hangawi. This time of year is huge for Koreans and includes lots of tasty traditions over a three-day period. Songpyeon 송편, a small rice cake, is one of these traditions – filled with red beans, chestnuts, jujubes, powdered sesame, or just brown sugar, this is a classic Korean holiday side. Another traditional dish is jeon 전, savoury pancakes you can customise to include whatever you want—popular options include pa-jeon (scallions), buchu-jeon (garlic chives), gamja-jeon (potatoes), kimchi-jeon (kimchi).
This year, Korea's New Year day/ lunar new year falls on February 1st, 2022. The start of a brand new chapter kicks off with some flavourful traditional dishes including tteokguk떡국 (Korean rice-cake soup). The shape of the rice cakes in the soup are said to resemble old-style coins and symbolise prosperity and riches! To help with digestion on festive holidays, many often drink Sikhye, a sweet Korean beverage/ dessert usually made from rice and often flavoured with ginger and pine nuts.

Dinner’s served!

If you made it this far and you’re not hungry, we can’t relate. But in all seriousness, learning about some of the different food traditions across the globe makes one fact abundantly clear: food leads to human connection and joy. Whether it’s home-cooked, ordered, or somewhere in between, we all deserve to enjoy a delicious meal with our loved ones this holiday season. And to restaurants like yours providing food for families who can’t or are choosing not to cook—we appreciate you and all you do. Cheers!

If you're a restaurant looking for new ways to simplify your delivery business, increase sales, and eliminate tablets, we’ve got just the right gift for you. This holiday season, you can try Otter for free. Simply fill out the form below and someone from our team will reach out.

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