What is behind each European Christmas tradition? Did you know for instance that the most popular Christmas cake in France dates from 1800? There is nothing better than food to get to know the festive spirit of each country. Turn up the Christmas music, forget about the calories and prepare yourself to travel around the continent. Because every dish hides a nice story, here you have 5 different desserts to help you celebrate this year as a very multicultural Christmas.
Spain: Turrones & Polvorones
If there is something that Spaniards love about Christmas (apart from the presents and the festive atmosphere), it’s turrón, a very old traditional sweet that is made of almond and was created in Jijona, a little town in Alicante (Spain). Whoever visits the country will also see that turrones don’t come alone on the tray, but they are displayed with a huge variety of Christmas sweets. For instance, polvorones are some of the most popular desserts at this time of the year – they are a sort of crumbly little shortbreads that come in a silky paper.
Fun Fact: When eating polvorones, it´s popular to ask people to say “Pamplona”, which is sort of a little challenge. Why? Polvorón gets so dry in your mouth that it’s really difficult to say anything. Feliz Navidad!
Pepparkakor, which are also known as ‘wish cookies’, are one must on the Swedish Christmas menu. According to the tradition, these treats made of gingerbread make wishes come true. The good thing about these ginger cookies (apart from their delicious taste) is that they are also used as window decorations. But be careful, as they are extremely fragile!
Fun fact: Swedish people place one cookie in their palm and then use their free hand to tap it in the middle. If the pepparkator breaks into more than three pieces, the dream will come true…God Jul!
Kerstkrans is a wreath shaped pastry with glazed fruit and filled with almond paste. According to most Dutch people, it’s worth preparing the almond filling as soon as possible and then storing it in the fridge. This dessert is very similar to what Spaniards known as Rosca de Reyes, another ring shaped cake eaten on the 6th January. Will be there a cultural connection between these two countries? Who knows? Apparently, in the Netherlands people think Santa Claus lives in Madrid…
Fun fact: Locals eat this delicious ring while all the family is stood around the Christmas tree, which is also known as the “Paradise tree”. Vrolijk Kerstfeest!
France: Bûche de Noël
This is one the most historical desserts in Europe and it´s a way to carry on with the tradition of the winter solstice of burning a yule log in the hearth (history tells us that this tradition dates from pre-Christian times to honor the God Thor). Today Bûche de Noël is a delicious dessert eaten at Christmas in all the francophone countries; it tastes simply delicious!
Fun fact: In the late 1800s, an innovative French pastry chef came up with this recipe to replace the real “yule” log with a cake. Joyeux Noel!
Who doesn’t like Panettone? Originally from Milan, it’s that kind of dessert that matches with everything. Today this large and yeasted fruitcake (you can also find it with chocolate chips) is available in Italian delis or probably at the largest supermarket of your city. How to eat it? Enjoy it with a sweet wine as a dessert or either with a strong espresso macchiato.
Fun fact: If you travel to Italy at this time of the year, you will prove that everyone says his or her mum makes the most delicious panettone ever! Buon Natale!
If you are still hungry and curious about Christmas dishes in other European countries, have a look at this fun and educational infographic from Expedia. Apparently in Sweden, the popular rice porridge called Risgryngot hides an almond in the mix and whoever finds the almond will marry in the coming year…!