Deep-fried caterpillars in South Africa.
Deep-fried caterpillars in South Africa.

3 strange Christmas food traditions from around the world

By Lutho Pasiya Time of article published Dec 25, 2020

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Walk down any South African street in December and you will know exactly what to expect: dazzling Christmas trees, strings of lights, statues of Santa and shops full of delicious food.

But what’s normal locally will seem unusual elsewhere. Every culture has its unique traditions, many of which are deeply ingrained in their way of life. Christmas is a time of celebration and a time for giving.

People celebrate the birth of Christ all over the world but their traditions and folklore make their celebrations unique in themselves. That said, you don't need to take a trip around the world to see how Christmas traditions vary from continent to continent. Below we look at some of the strangest Christmas food traditions around the world.

Eating Christmas KFC in Japan

Meat is a popular part of most Christmas meals, but you won’t find turkey or goose on the table in Japan. Unusually, fried chicken is the meat of choice on Christmas Day. According to Culture Trip, Japan’s Christmas KFC tradition began in 1974, when the company launched a new holiday marketing campaign. It’s thought that it was inspired by the Western Christmas tradition of a turkey dinner.

They mention that back then and still today, turkey is virtually impossible to find in Japan. So when Japan’s foreign Christian population couldn’t get their hands on any come December, they settled on the familiar fried chicken brand instead – the next best thing to turkey.

Deep-fried caterpillars in South Africa

Christmas Day meals vary around the world, but it doesn’t get more unusual than our country. Emperor Moth caterpillars are harvested around Christmas time and preserved so they can be eaten during the winter. At Christmas, many South Africans will eat deep-fried caterpillars as part of the feast, and they are proven to be a great source of protein.

Pudding for the elf in Denmark

In Denmark, a bowl of rice pudding or porridge is left for a mischievous elf called Nisse on Christmas Eve. If Nisse doesn’t get his pudding he will steal the presents Santa leaves for the children. He wears grey woollen clothes, a red bonnet, red stockings, and white clogs.

Pickles in the tree in Germany

In Germany, on Christmas Eve a pickle is hidden somewhere on the Christmas tree and the first lucky child to find it receives a surprise gift. According to Good Housekeeping, during the 1880s, the department store Woolworths began selling blown-glass ornaments imported from Germany, some of which were shaped like fruits and vegetables.

Around that same time, a story began circulating that German people hung a pickle on their tree as the last ornament. But when Americans checked in with the Old Country, most Germans had never heard of the tradition. They reveal that common wisdom has it that some savvy salesman made up the tale to sell more pickle ornaments, and if today's trees are any indication, it seems to have worked.

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