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S8 E6 –Are you missing out on a better Christmas?

Do we have Christmas traditions we stick by every year? Are those traditions actually still good or are we duped by nostalgia and are we missing out on other traditions as a result?

Best soundbite: “On Christmas day, in Japan, it is customary to eat KFC. ACTUAL KFC!!”-Mike

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  1. Beefloh

    Hey y’all, a German here
    just listened to this episode of feast your ears and I realised how many people can struggle with being away for christmas. I’ve recently been away for christmas in Paraguay, I was planing on staying a whole year there, but since this virus is happening it got aborted and we were brought home.
    So anyway, I don’t think that is is that big an issue being away for christmas, however, there are a few thing that made me feel that way. First of all, i was with very god friends. I didn’t know these people at the beginning of the year (August 2019), but by the time christmas came around we were very close friends. So we (4 people) decided that each of us should do one part of a 3 course christmas meal. I ended up doing the main course together with one of the others, and we had a really lovely evening. We even bought each other a gift, or paired up to buy bigger things. My mate and I ended up making burgers 🙂 but they were amazing!
    And I think the second thing is that I was kinda happy for being not home. In hindsight I think I did the year also to get away from my family, so yeah, if you are not that close to your family then it really might be a relief not seing them (but we video-called, so we did see eachother).
    And to the Karp thing that was mentioned in the podcast: it is more the northern bit of Germany which does that. I know that the South, especialy in my state (Baden-Württemberg) and the neighbourstate Bavaria one of the most popular thing to eat on Christmas eve (thats when we have the presents) is potatosalad (our way, not with mayo) and frankfurter sausages (funny thing: we say Wienerle, so sausages from Vienna). But in my family we have a different food, we eat every single christmas eve, I think since the beginning of time, a fish salad with herring.
    Have a lovely weekend and stay save you people!

  2. tjmarskbb

    We’ve always been pretty flexible in our house about what we serve for Christmas dinner, we just decide on it at Thanksgiving and plan accordingly. We stopped doing gifts and only do stockings now that we’re all older. The only one that used to get gifts was my daughter, but last year she turned fifteen and asked her if she was okay just getting a stocking of stuff and she was. Mostly, its very hard to get us together for Christmas and often don’t know until after thanksgiving if it will happen, so our focus is just on getting family together and worry less about the food and the gifts.

  3. pamdick58

    The one food that makes it Christmas for me is decorating cookies. Growing up in a family with nine kids we made loads of them. Once on the first day of school I had a teacher tell me she was glad to have me in her class because she was looking forward to getting her tray of cookies at Christmas! Even now, fifty-some years later I make the same cookies with the same cutters, except I use butter, a luxury my mom could not afford. The dinner menu is always changing, this year it is baked rigatoni, but the cookies are always a constant. Merry Christmas!

  4. ThomasEdwards

    I live in New Zeland and my christmas involves going to one set of grandparents for the big christmas lunch and then going to the other set for dinner where we have leftovers from their christmas lunch or a BBQ as we usually have sun and we swap each year who we go to for lunch and dinner. It is a great way to see the family as most of my family on both sides who live in other cities visit for christmas.

    • ThomasEdwards

      For us it isn’t about the food more about getting a good feed than anything specfic sometimes we have turkey, sometimes chicken and/or ham or some other roast.

  5. Annie1962

    ooooooo some more coments here – good stuff!

    Well being from Diyoown undah (say it out phonetically) you can imagine us Skips would do it a little differently.
    Silly thing is that some of us actually cook a turkey (!) while it’s 35 deg C outside making our aircons work ten times harder and driving up our lekkie bill. I’d like to just make stuffing balls and have it with the roast chook which only takes a quarter of the time to cook. Free range of course. I was gifted a ham and I opened it up.. my two teen sons didn’t want to eat it so..I did. Yep it’s gone. Straight to my arse cheeks.

    For me, I’m missing out on your white Christmas i.e your snow, and the cold so to make it up, I’m making the dish. It involves white chocolate, copha, rice bubbles , desiccated coconut, and bits like chopped nuts, sultanas , dried apricots , pistachios, to make a slice you chuck in the fridge.

    What YOU’RE missing out on as you freeze your British bollocks off is the beautiful beaches here in Perth – barbeques and drinking beer (not poofy prosecco) ………… I KID!!! and salads whilst our kids play with their new pool toys and end up fighting because ‘Johnny took my new water blaster!!”
    So us here are missing out on ‘chestnuts roasting on an open fire’ as it’s too bloody hot and open fires are banned here.
    On a very serious note –
    This summer has been our worst ever in history for fires. The East coast of Aussieland is burning.. and how. Dry windy conditions have made it so hard. Our firies are exhausted from working non stop to put out the fires and our vollie firefighters are struggling too.
    Some peeps have died so RIP
    Thousands won’t be celebrating Christmas and hundreds won’t have a home to tide them over Christmas
    If anyone has a couple of pounds to donate it’d be appreciated.
    Promise we won’t take a holiday to Hawaii (sorry a dig at our PM)

    Merry Christmas..stay warm , stay cool (to our Southern Hemispherists) and be kind
    Love you boys x big hugs and kiss on cheeks

  6. ceecee

    Growing up, I never felt like I missed out on something being an only child and having most of my parents’ families live several states or countries away.

    Now, since my spouse is Jewish (and also an only child) we usually do the Jewish thing of having Chinese food and then going to the movies.

    Oh, our friend includes us in his Kidmas tradition – completely made up, of course. He has shared custody of his kids and doesn’t have them on Christmas day. So, we celebrate Christmas early – about a week before. They come over, I have a big breakfast for everyone and then we open our presents in the stockings before our big presents. And then we all just hang out, playing with our presents – board games always included – and just being together.

    This year, my spouse has to work on Christmas. We haven’t decided if we’re exchanging our gifts tomorrow night or on Friday.

  7. mel.tsai

    That is really interesting to hear about Japan and KFC. I’m not sure what the tradition in Taiwan is but most households don’t have ovens to roasted food is often out of the question.

    Growing up in Canada, we always had turkey but we never had stuffing of cranberry sauce. We but Taiwanese sticky rice in the turkey so the rice soaked up all of the turkey fat and it’s delicious.

    Since our family isn’t in Canada, we ja our our friends over and get them to bring food from their culture or Christmas tradition. Would love to try actual stuffing though.

    • VixReviews

      My sister is currently living in Japan, and she didn’t have an oven in her flat either for years, which was pretty normal among her friends. She has one for the first time this year and is cooking a British-style Christmas dinner for what appears to be all of Tokyo (seriously, she’s invited like 30 people just for Christmas dinner itself!)

      I was over there for a month a few years ago, and it was quite interesting seeing the differences in not just what they ate, but where they ate it. My sister was living right in the centre of Tokyo, so rent prices were absolutely astronomical. This meant that kitchens were minute, like, my sister’s was literally just a hob, and a sink, a shelf with a rice cooker, and a small overhead cupboard. Absolutely no surface space, no draining board, no walls, it was a sort of galley kitchen in the hallway. Eating out was therefore much more common, and so it was much cheaper than the UK. Erm, I’ve forgotten where I was going with this…

  8. lmeacco

    Firstly, congrats Mike on the wedding!

    My Christmas changes every year. My mum is a nurse who worked as a nightshift nurse throughout my childhood, and now my sister does the same, so the day is never a consistent thing. What has ended up happening though is that on Christmas morning is that we have a family breakfast (or dinner if they just got home).

    Another thing that happens for our family as a Christmas tradition is getting together with a couple other families for a get together on a day surrounding Christmas. I live in Australia, and we’re super lucky to have fresh seafood around at this time of year – I would say that prawns are our equivalent of turkey! You spoke about theming in a previous episode and my mum decided that this year we’re going to be theming the whole dinner white and green with few other proteins, but this means we’re eating way more veg this year (even taking some recipes from the Hero Veg book).

    You also spoke about Japan eating KFC for their dinners! I remember being a little kid and when I went to my Nona’s house for Christmas we always ordered KFC.. I think it was because it was convenient, but we always had some sides of green salad and potato salad.

    Aaaand when it comes to presents as an adult, I much prefer to not give or get, but instead to be the host and to cook for the people I love in an intimate setting… so if I wasn’t allowed to give presents, I feel that a few people would go hungry!

    Merry Christmas all!

  9. nosoytonta

    I can’t speak for all Peruvians, as some regions might have different celebrations, but my family live in the capital city, Lima. The celebration is on Christmas eve, at night. You have the dinner and the idea is to be awaken by midnight and hug each other right after. We eat roasted turkey and some side dishes, mainly potato based: mashed, sweet and a salad with the spuds, mayo, boiled mixed vegetables and beets that -weirdly enough- it is called ‘Russian salad’. For the life of me, I can’t remember if we also put boiled eggs on the salad.

    It is pretty standard to also have hot chocolate and panettone.

    Both the turkey and panettone are only available for the holiday, so its consumption is highly anticipated, or at least that’s how I felt.

    As a kid, I would happily trade my whole savory meal for an extra slice of panettone. These days, I don’t live in Peru anymore, but I still eagerly wait for Christmas eve to have my slice(s) of panettone with a decent size cup of hot chocolate. Yes, I know I may find panettone any other time of the year, but it definitely taste different if eaten on December 24, so that’s what I do. I only eat panettone once a year, on Christmas time, and I’m already salivating. 4 days to go.

    Feliz Navidad, everyone!

    Oh, and congratulations on the wedding, Mike. 🙂

  10. Casolo

    I found it interesting the things on Britain’s top 5. Here in western Canada we have turkey, but with mashed potatoes. We have yams and sometimes bean casserole or Brussels sprouts, not so much parsnips.

    In our family we have stockings, breakfast and then family gifts, but a lot of people I know have all the presents come from Santa.

    Since we have a split family, we have 4 separate events. We spend Christmas Eve with my mom and that side of the family. Christmas we spend with my husband’s family. They are of Ukrainian descent so always have pierogies and cabbage rolls with their turkey. Boxing Day is with my father’s side of the family. Now that the grandchildren are grown, it is harder to get everyone together and the celebrations will have to take turns with their spouses families. I am sad to see some of our traditions change as the family grows so large (my dad has 7 kids and 18 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren ). Luckily my grandmother is still with us so we have 5 generations still celebrating together.

    • mel.tsai

      Also from western Canada. What is a bean casserole? Would love to try.

  11. brightside

    This was my favorite episode in this season so far! Such a great listen, and it was so nice to hear about each of your families and traditions. And congratulations, Mike!

    It was also really nice to learn more about typical British Christmas traditions, as well as little tidbits of traditions from other countries around the world. I grew up in the US, but I had a bit of a rough life, so to this day, I’ve actually never had the privilege of a proper Christmas dinner, but I hope one day will! The past 7 years, however, I’ve been so fortunate to be heavily involved in multiple capacities in a homeless organization in my city (year-round), and everyone there has sort of become a family to me. So I spend my holidays working with them, and it’s always such a joyful time for all involved! My org puts on special events and meals for the holidays, and my favorite thing is working in the kitchen to cook for those several hundred people (though definitely not to Ben’s caliber! 😆).

    • brightside

      To clarify, I should have put “proper Christmas dinner” in quotations because I mean a Christmas dinner like how you boys described. But I love all the wonderful Christmases and other holidays I get to spend working at my org with people I enjoy spending time and sharing food with!

  12. alm477

    Christmas dinner in the US varies depending on your family background (and if you even celebrate Christmas at all). While turkey and ham are the most common (especially in ads and media), Italian American families may often have fish and families in states that saw a lot of Scandinavian immigration will often have lutefisk (or at least have it Christmas- adjacent). Actually, I think I even saw a “fun fact” somewhere that the US consumes more lutefisk than the county(ies) where it originated. I forgot what traditional Mexican-American Christmas dinner is, but it was different too. Side dishes and most especially desserts vary. Like, pumpkin pie might make a reappearance but cookies are usually more Christmassy to me (though what TYPE of cookies you make is the question). Actually, a fun question to ask a group of Americans is “What is traditional New Years Day dinner?” because lemme tell you that varies A LOT with region and general family background.

    I will admit to being rather protective over what I have for meals at Christmas because it’s food I don’t get very often. Yes, we’ve had Thanksgiving just the month before but it’s usually only twice a year that I get my mom’s candied sweet potatoes. Christmas Eve morning (used to be Christmas Day) is the only time I get the apple-mascrapone cheese-bread-cinnamon-sugar thing we make. There’s really no reason we can’t have these things at other times of the year–well, except for the calorie count and common sense. But it’s things I like that are labeled Celebration Food in my brain and it can feel weird having it out of season. After all, it Tastes Like Christmas.

    Fried chicken is Christmas dinner in Japan because most home kitchens in Japan do not come with ovens, so roasting a turkey yourself is out of the question. For many western expats living there KFC was the closest you could get. KFC found out about that and has exploited it in ad campaigns ever since.

  13. Eliziebear

    We have a really different Christmas given that its summer here, though we do have a fairly traditional “British” Dinner. Our Christmas doesn’t have to happen on Christmas Day, in fact, we had Christmas with my Parents yesterday as they are travelling today.
    We always go to midnight mass, on Christmas morning we have stockings by the fireplace(which is never lit), with chocolate coins in the toes rather than clementines, though for the same tradition of St Nick leaving Gold. We do presents mid-morning. And have Ham as a main, no turkey. Desert is always the same we have a Pavlova with Lemon curd and cream and strawberries, and a chocolate and cherry trifle.
    I am now learning about Christmas with my Partners family and they have Sausage Rolls for breakfast while opening stockings and don’t sit down and eat lunch together by they just pick at the food and drink, it feels strange.

    I so relate to Barry’s comments about moving Christmas, I have previously made a full “normal” Christmas meal while camping at the beach with a two hob gas cooker and thankfully a hooded BBQ!

  14. Kalashnine

    My family and I volunteered to deliver Meals on Wheels both Thanksgiving and Christmas for probably 10 years, until there were more volunteers than needed. Meals on Wheels in America was run by Red Cross at the time and all of their employees had the two holidays off. So they asked for volunteers to drive food all over town to give people in need a holiday dinner. We started at 9 am and would finish around 2pm or 3pm so cooking ourselves was never an option. We did and still have a tradition of sharing a sweet breakfast together but the rest of the day now is open to accept invitations or have a quiet evening. I am so glad that delivering meals was part of my life.

  15. tlshore

    From New Jersey, USA. Thanksgiving in my family was turkey, Christmas was roast beef, New Years was cold cuts and salads, and Easter was ham.

  16. Powerfulweak

    I love the idea of changing up the Christmas food. Over the last few years, because we were home without family around, we would make lasagne, chili, or some other time-intensive dish for Christmas dinner (I think I actually made James’s rustic bread for the first time last year). Since you have basically the entire day off, it’s a great chance to invest time and effort in something experimental.

  17. VixReviews

    My Christmas this year is utterly depressing, we’ll probably have a ready meal, so I won’t go into that. The main tradition I kept in previous years though was watching the original 1990 version of Delia Smith’s Christmas. My mum recorded it when it was first on, and we watched it literally every year ever since then. We actually did her full seven bird roast one year too! Most years, we did a turkin (a turkey stuffed with a chicken, like a turducken but no duck), which was still a bit of a marathon to get the turkey and chicken de-boned and sewn back sort of turkey-shaped.

    Talking of Christmas Dinner (or Christmas dessert in this case), would anyone be able to answer a custard question? When making a creme anglais, why do you heat the milk up before adding it to the egg/sugar mixture? Why can you not put everything cold into a pan and heat it up together? Would it make the eggs more likely to scramble, more so than pouring hot milk over them? And if so, why would it make them more likely to scramble?

    And another, even less relevant question (sorry about the splattering of only semi-relevant thoughts, I’m about to get a migraine), at 4.50, it kinda looks like Ben has a tongue piercing. Does Ben secretly have a tongue piercing?…

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