Here’s to a cheerful (and delicious) holiday season! Whether you’re near or far from home, culinary traditions can make Christmas a very special day. These are some of our favorite Asian holiday foods from around the world:
Christmas isn’t an official holiday in China so it’s mostly celebrated in large cities. However, those who do partake in the seasonal festivities will feast on dishes such as barbecue pork, noodles, dumplings, spring rolls, and Tangyuan, sweet rice balls.
Photo: East West Bank
Hong Kong & Macau
Hong Kong and Macau celebrate Christmas in a much more European fashion. It’s an official holiday followed by Boxing Day— which is just the second day of Christmas (sort of the opposite of Christmas Eve), and is the commercial equivalent of our Black Friday. Many families use the occasion to celebrate at restaurants serving Western-style dishes such as honey-glazed ham, potatoes, and red wine gravy.
Photo: The Daily Meal
We thought we were full of Christmas spirit here in America, but truth be told Filipino Christmas traditions may put ours to shame. The Christmas countdown starts in September in the Philippines with shops playing carols and selling merchandise. The big feast, known as Noche Buena, takes place on midnight on Christmas after church service, and it’s a big, open house celebration where guest stay up all night with food and drink. Typical dishes include lechon (roasted pig), kare-kare (oxtail stew), embutido (meatloaf), spaghetti, and crispy pata (fried pig trotters).
Photo: Geeky Pinas
The only way to do Christmas in Japan? KFC! Christmas in Japan is mostly viewed as a romantic holiday for couples than a religious event, but these days even families will partake in the “spreading of cheer.” In 1974, KFC made use Japan’s lack of holiday food traditions and started a marketing campaign to make the fried chicken chain a signature household Christmas meal. Every year, the fast food chain prepares Kentucky Christmas dinner packages with options to choose from fried, or whole-roasted chicken with sides. Orders are taken weeks in advance, and people will get up at the crack of dawn to pick up their meal. All in all, this joyful holiday meal will only cost you about 3,500 yen, or $30.
Christmas is an official holiday in South Korea, but unlike in the Philippines or the U.S., festivities start much closer to Christmas Day, with gift exchanges and Christmas celebrations starting the day-of. Families might celebrate with homemade meals consisting of kalbi-jjim (braised short ribs), rice cakes, and kimchi which hits its flavor-peak during the holiday season. Christmas in Korea is also considered a romantic event with many people opting to dine at restaurants and holiday buffets with their significant others.
Photo: The Spruce