Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Liz Waid. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.
Christmas. It is the most celebrated holiday in the world. Around the world, over two billion people celebrate this holiday every year. Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ – an event that happened over 2,000 years ago.
Most people in the world celebrate Christmas on December 25th. However, some Christians from countries like Russia, Egypt and Ethiopia celebrate Christmas on January 7th. Traditionally, the Christmas season lasts for 12 days. However, in many places, people celebrate only Christmas day and the day before, called Christmas Eve.
Around the world, people follow many different Christmas traditions. But no matter how or when people celebrate Christmas, everyone celebrates with food! Today’s Spotlight is on Christmas foods from around the world.
Food is an important part of most holiday celebrations. Large meals, or feasts, bring people together. And often, holiday foods represent what the holiday is about. Join Spotlight as we tell about these Christmas foods.
In the United Kingdom, people eat a large Christmas meal. When they are done, they eat a sweet dessert called Christmas pudding. Christmas pudding contains ingredients like dried fruit, alcohol, butter, sugar, eggs, flour and spices. Many people make Christmas pudding with 13 ingredients. This number has a religious meaning. It represents Jesus Christ and his 12 closest followers, called the disciples.
Traditionally, people begin making Christmas pudding five weeks before Christmas! They begin by combining and steaming the pudding ingredients. Some people only mix the ingredients in one direction – from east to west. They do this to remember part of the Christmas story. The Christian Bible says that a group of wise men came from the east to see the baby Jesus in Bethlehem.
After cooking the Christmas pudding, people let it set for a few weeks. On Christmas day, they cook it again. Often, they pour an alcohol called brandy over it and set it on fire. It is a beautiful thing to see.
Millions of people in the United Kingdom eat Christmas pudding at Christmas. However, today, many people choose to buy it instead of make it.
In northern Europe, many people celebrate Christmas with another kind of pudding. In Iceland, it is called Mödnlugrautur. And in Sweden, it is called Julgröt. This sweet pudding is made from rice, sugar, salt, milk and spices like cinnamon. In Denmark, people call it Risalamande and they serve it with a sweet fruit sauce on top.
This pudding is part of a Christmas game. The person that makes the pudding hides a whole almond nut in it. They serve the pudding to everyone at the end of the meal. Each person eats their pudding and hopes to find the almond in their bowl. Finding the almond means you will have good luck in the coming year. The person who finds the almond also gets a special present or treat. People all across northern Europe celebrate this fun tradition.
Germany also has many wonderful Christmas food traditions. However, the sweetest of these is stollen. Stollen is a sweet bread. People have made stollen during the Christmas season for 600 years! In the 1400s, stollen was not very good-tasting. It was made of only flour, oil, water and yeast – for helping the bread rise. However, over many years, the recipe for stollen has changed and developed. Today, the German people make stollen with sugar, colorful dried fruit, nuts, spices, alcohol and a lot of butter.
People make stollen in the shape of a long bread loaf. Then, they cover it with a sweet, white, sugar icing. The Bible says that after the baby Jesus was born, his parents covered him with white cloth. The stollen’s white icing represents this cloth. And the loaf represents the newborn Jesus.
During the Christmas season, stollen fills Christmas markets around Germany. And there is a famous stollen festival in the town of Dresden!
Next, we travel to several European countries to learn about their Christmas Eve meals. In the country of Italy, many people do not eat red meat in the weeks before Christmas. They are waiting for the celebration of Christmas. On the day before Christmas, they eat a special meal that does not include meat. It is called the Feast of the Seven Fishes. In the Bible, the number seven represents perfection or completion. This meal completes the season of preparation for Christmas.
In Russia and many other Eastern European countries people also celebrate a special meal on Christmas Eve. The meal includes 12 different foods. The 12 dishes are usually fish and vegetables. The number 12 represents Jesus’ twelve disciples and the end of the 12-month year. Many other parts of the meal represent parts of the Christmas story, when Jesus was born. Some people call this Christmas Eve meal the “Holy Supper.”
Our next Christmas food is popular all over the Spanish- speaking world. It is called rosca de reyes. This means “King’s ring”. From Spain to Mexico to South America, people make, buy, and eat King’s ring. They celebrate the end of the Christmas season, called Epiphany.
Like stollen, King’s ring is a sweet bread. However, King’s ring is large and round with a hole in the middle. People decorate the ring with colorful, sweet dried fruits and candies. But, the most special thing about the King’s ring is what is INSIDE it.
Every King’s ring has a small figure hidden in it. It is a symbol of the baby Jesus. Everyone wants to get the piece of the King’s ring with the baby Jesus figure in it. People believe it is a blessing. In some cultures, people bring the figure of Jesus to church with them later in the year. In other cultures, whoever gets the baby Jesus figure must cook the meal at the next holiday! Today, millions of people celebrate the end of the Christmas season with King’s ring.
These are just a few Christmas food traditions from around the world. But there are thousands more! And almost every person who celebrates Christmas has their own particular Christmas food traditions!
What about you? Do you celebrate Christmas? If you do, what special foods do you eat during the Christmas season? If you do not celebrate Christmas, what foods do you make during your special holidays? You can leave a comment on our website. Or email us at email@example.com. You can also comment on Facebook at Facebook.com/spotlightradio.
The writer of this program was Robin Basselin. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, “Christmas Food Around the World.”
We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.
What is your favorite holiday food? When do you eat it?