World Traditions: Holidays Around the Globe

by Elizabeth Rose

So often, food is central to celebrations, and when the holidays roll around, people across the world eat for their health and luck for the coming year - and for self-indulgence.

Winter Solstice:
Though not celebrated with the enthusiasm as other holidays in the U.S., around the world the winter solstice is a party for the masses and, in some countries, marks the beginning of the Christmas celebration. Finland, Sweden and Norway's indigenous people, the Saami, cover their doors with butter and thread meat onto sticks for Beiwe, the sun goddess of fertility and sanity. In Pakistan, they feast on goat tripe, and in Korea, revelers make balls of glutinous rice for a sweet red bean porridge - the balls symbolize reunion.

In Germany, the Christmas Markets are an essential stop for shoppers, and much of the food for sale is intended to keep the customers warm and filled with the Christmas spirit. To keep them warm, Germans consume Eierpunsch, which means egg punch, an adult beverage made with white wine, eggs, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, cloves, tea and lemon. In Austria, gingerbread is a more common Christmas market snack, falling in line with ever-popular Christmas cookies consumed throughout December.

New Year's Eve:
In Spain, standing on a chair while popping 12 grapes into your mouth at midnight is a tradition also repeated in Venezuela, followed by drinking a glass of champagne - one grape for each chime of the clock, and champagne to toast friends and family. Throw on your red underwear on New Year's Eve and then yellow underwear for New Year's Day, and you'll be set with good luck for the coming year. The French celebrate with Le Reveillon de la Saint-Sylvestre, feasting on foie gras, oysters and champagne. On New Year's Day, they indulge in ice cream. - ER