I am a Christian. I do not know how much of a believer but a Christian in terms of traditions. I was raised in Romania in a mixed Hungarian-Romanian family with many customs that did not fit one norm but rather straddled the two cultures.
Food tradition, like in any celebration everywhere in the world, is a significant part of Christmas. After many, many years of pure immersion in one way of doing things, once I had emigrated, I learned of the other ways this tradition can be cherished through culinary delights and table top decor. Here are a few:
Hungarian Bejglis with poppyseed and walnut
The walnut ones were my all-time favourites! A rolled dough wraps a deliciously sweet mix of sugar and walnut (or poppy seed, of course…) backed to golden-brown perfection. A heaven for breakfast, main-meal dessert, or night-time snack. Adding fruits to a simple board presentation brings just a bit of accent to the already beautiful cut of this traditional sweet dish.
Italian fish with coals and candy decor
The seven-fish dishes of Christmas Eve, which may be linked to the seven hills of Rome, are a tasty opportunity for culinary inventions. Marked by the abstinence from meat until Christmas day, the Eve night feeds on fabulous-looking feasting ideas!
Here is a meaningful way to decorate that table: The gifting of coals at Christmas originates from the beautiful legend of the smiling Befana. She comes to children through the chimney to give them candy if they are good and coal if they are bad. Decorating your table with Befana amulets and coal is a beautiful way to rekindle the tradition and share it with new generations. And the coal reminder keeps those kids from misbehaving!
Romanian pork chops and potatoes
For some reason, the pork in Romania tastes differently than in Canada. I do not know why; maybe it’s just the cooks. Still, I remember the juiciness of the delicious meals and the potato sides, which are a staple of every household. It is bewildering how many recipes can come out of this root veggie. And those golden potatoes always look so good with minimal aesthetic effort.
The Swedish Smörgåsbord
Fish, of course, is part of the spread, as well as an assortment of cold cuts and cheeses. The beautiful advantage of a multi-dish tradition is that decor can go through the roof just by simply arranging the foods in an aesthetically appealing way.
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