“We wish you a merry…oh God what are you putting in front of us? You want us to EAT that?”
~Greenland residents during Christmas
We’re just a few short days away from Christmas, a time for reflection, forced familial-interaction in the guise of gift giving and, above all else, feasting, American-style. Every family has their own different tradition for Christmas, ranging from “it’s pretty much like a second Thanksgiving” to “my family died in a fire and the holidays are a cold reminder of how I’m alone in the world, oh God now I’m crying in public again, thanks a lot assholes” but generally, an American Christmas feast falls well within the definition of “normal.” Ham? Sounds delicious. Turkey? Sure! Egg nog? Booze it up and we’ll talk.
But we were recently informed, much to our surprise, that countries other than America also celebrate Christmas, which is insane to think about because America is the only country that actually makes good Christmas movies. But it’s true, we’re not alone in celebrating Christmas. However, less surprisingly, most other countries get real weird about it. So we decided to cast our xenophobia aside (reluctantly) in the spirit of Christmas, and look at some traditional Christmas dishes around the world. And since it’s the holidays, we’re not going to say that all of these are gross and must be set on fire, and instead are just focusing on Christmas meals that are…weird.
The Weirdest Christmas Dishes From Around the World
Christmas isn’t really a holiday that’s centered around food, but the meal at the end of the day is still an important part of almost every Christmas tradition. As important as family and presents and presents (did we say that already?) are to the holiday, food still plays a pretty integral role. This isn’t limited to America, and honestly, all kidding aside, we know that. No one in America eats Figgy Pudding, but we still sing about it in our carols just to be nice to the British.
And, if we’re being honest, Figgy Pudding is a weird Christmas dish to eat. But it seems normal as hell when compared to these dishes from around the world.
Lampreia de Ovos (Portugal)
Look at that goofy fucking thing. It’s a sweet egg cake that’s shaped to look like a sea lamprey, for reasons that can’t be explained without the aid of hallucinogenics. The Portuguese tend to eat a lot of heavy sweet cakes for Christmas, which is a delicious and acceptable approach to Christmas. Less acceptable, and much weirder is their decision to take sugary egg yolks and shape them into a fucking sea monster designed to give you diabetes.
We tried in vain to find why this cake exists in this shape, but every attempt to find answers resulted in Google telling us to “shut up and eat your sugar egg mush.”
Vitel Toné (Argentina)
Argentina’s contribution to a traditional Christmas is a pile of cold meat mush that actively sounds like something you would see in one of those nightmare cookbooks from the 50s. Vitel Toné is Argentina’s take on vitello tonnato, a cold northern Italian dish served in the summer. The late 1800s and early 1900s saw a pretty large influx of Italian immigrants to Argentina, taking this dish with them, where it is now a Christmas staple.
But what is it, exactly? It looks like caper mush in the picture above, which is not that far from correct. Sliced veal is covered with a creamy tuna sauce (um) which is topped with capers and then socked in a fridge for up to five days to let the flavors “develop.” We understand that it’s summertime in Argentina during Christmas so the typical hearty dishes that we associate with the winter aren’t as well suited for the holiday, but you’ve got to do better than “cold veal with mushy tuna mayo” guys, come on.
Listen, we all knew that Russia was going to be depressing with their approach to Christmas meals. So it shouldn’t be a shocker that zakuski, a type of Russian hors d’oeuvres that largely features cold cuts, pickled vegetables, and cured fish would be how Russia “celebrates” surviving to another winter. The flavors are generally sour and salty, which are two flavors that don’t really ring as “festive”, though to be fair we’re pretty certain that there is word in the Russian language for festive. Or joy. Or living life without regrets. The least depressing part of this dish, which is still weird but at least is very on-brand for Russia, is that it’s typically served with iced vodka, because of course it is.
Japan is not a Christian nation by any stretch of the imagination, and we’ve already established that their approach to most food is terrifying, so when we heard there was a pretty popular Christmas tradition in that country, we were frankly worried. But as it turns out, it only is “weird in a kind of funny way” and not “terrifying and involving tentacles.” Apparently, in the 1970s, KFC ran a Christmas ad campaign that really took off, and now on Christmas day millions of Japanese flock to their nearest chain location and order their fill of fried chicken as a holiday meal.
Now, going to a fast food joint for some fried chicken on Christmas is definitely a delicious, but strange, idea. Japan takes it a step further by selling special Christmas meal packages, complete with champagne, that set you back $40 a pop. That’s right, not only is KFC absurdly crowded on Christmas in Japan, it’s absurdly crowded with people who are spending more money for their meal than you spent the last 6 times you’ve gone to a KFC. Merry Christmas?
Janssons Frestelse (Sweden)
Sweden makes a casserole for their traditional Christmas dish, and if you’re thinking, “Let me guess, there are like, 3 normal ingredients and one really fucking weird one here, right?” you would be absolutely correct. The dish is made of potatoes, onions, and cream, usually topped with bread crumbs. Oh, and they also add pickled sprats (though many English recipes incorrectly call for anchovies) to it, because when you have a delicious bowl of baked creamy potatoes, why not make it taste like pickled fish that makes your breath reek. We’re not fans of making wild assumptions about entire ethnic regions based on our own opinions of how food should taste (hahaha who are we kidding that’s literally our favorite thing in the world to do) but Christmas dinner in Sweden must be wholly depressing and disappointing.
Though one saving grace for this dish is that it’s been featured on an episode of Archer. Granted, it was poisoned, and killed an agent in that episode, but hey, any press is good press, right?
If you find yourself in Greenland for Christmas, you’re likely to be served some traditional Inuit or Eskimo dishes. In fact, you’ll see two specific dishes, both of which made this list because, Jesus Christ, Greenland, you cray. The “sane” dish is just, sigh, frozen whale skin and blubber. Eaten raw. That is a very strange thing to eat on Christmas! But, Greenland’s real “ummm are you a serial killer?” Christmas dish is…
Listen, we’re just going to list a description of this dish from Wikipedia and let you decide for yourself what you think about it. The important things to remember is that auks are a species of bird—specifically, the “little auk” is native to Greenland. Also, keep in mind that when you hear “seal skin” that is talking about the carcass of a whole, hollowed-out seal. And finally, that noise you are hearing, and will continue to hear as you read the following description, is you screaming as your soul tries to escape your body through your mouth.
“About 500 auks are packed into the seal skin intact, including beaks, feat and feathers. As much air as possible is removed from the seal skin before it is sewn up and sealed with seal fat, which repels flies…Over the course of seven months, the birds ferment, and are then eaten during the Greenlandic winter, and there is no escaping the darkness none can flee the terror it will consume us all.”
Okay, so we might have tweaked that description just a little bit. For example, we left out a sentence about how it’s weighed down with heavy rocks as everything ferments, and the existential dread of the human existence described at the end was merely implied by the rest of, you know, that whole thing.
But woof. Yeah. Don’t go to Greenland for Christmas. Just, don’t do it.
Anyway, when you sit down with your family in just a few days, remind yourself that though the turkey you’re eating is a bit drier than you like, it’s definitely not the worst meal involving birds being consumed at that very moment. So consider yourself lucky there. And Merry Christmas!