In the Catholic home, a Christmas celebration is often centered around a table, with family enjoying a traditional meal with specific meaning. We asked a few of our priests from various countries to share their favorite food memories about Christmas.
Where at all possible, we have included links for the various foods and dishes, so that if you are so inclined, you can learn more about them or make them at home.
Argentina: Fr. Juan-Carlos Iscara
Fr. Iscara has been a fixture at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary for nearly three decades, serving as a professor and mentor to scores of future priests.
In the southern hemisphere, Christmas falls in summer – no “let it snow” for us…! Even if our Christmas cards showed it and I, as a child, decorated the crib with abundant amounts of cotton wool to stand in for the never seen snow… Little I knew that I will have my fill of it during my long years in Winona …
When I was a child, Christmas was more Catholic and far less commercialized than it is today. The families attended the Midnight Mass (“Misa de Gallo”), and then went home for a light meal, usually cold meats, salads and sweets, well “watered” by bubbly apple cider (alcoholic, but less than American hard cider).
On Christmas day, usually after another, later Mass, the big celebration followed. Extended families and friends gathered for a long, long lunch. Only small gifts were exchanged, for the great gift-giving day, as far as children were concerned, was the feast of the Epiphany.
The meals of the season – Christmas and New Year – revealed the mixed, immigrant origins of the city population, mostly Spanish and Italian, with the adaptations required by the warmer climate.
Being Argentina, barbecues were unavoidable, but oven-roasted chicken was also common in many tables.
But in those, less “globalized,” Amazon-free, times of my childhood, Christmas was identified with those foods which only appeared in that season – the vitel tonné (the Piedmontese thinly sliced veal with tuna sauce); the pan dulce, panettone, a sweet bread with candied fruits and almonds; and the turrón, a nougat confection with honey, almonds and other nuts, and the garrapiñadas, candied almonds or peanuts.
Lithuania: Fr. Shane Pezzutti
Fr. Pezzutti is an American, but has been stationed in Lithuania, Russia, and Estonia for some time.
The Vigil of Christmas (Dec. 24) is a very important family feast for Lithuanians. It is called Kūčios. The whole family meets together in the evening and they have a very religious meal together consisting of 12 different dishes. They also share together unleavened bread called kalėdaičiai (ka-lay-dye-chay). You can read a little bit about this feast on Wikipedia
Although all the 12 dishes are important, the most important dish is probably this one: Kūčiukai (koo-choo-kay) or sometimes called šližikai, which are bite-sized hard biscuits, served with agounų pienas (a poppy seed “milk”) for dipping.
This family meal together is very beautiful because it is very reminiscent of the Last Supper that Our Lord shared with his Apostles and the ancient Hebrew passover supper.
Austria & Germany: Fr. Jürgen Wegner
Fr. Wegner is the former U.S. District Superior and was born in Germany who now lives in Austria, overseeing the SSPX Priory in Vienna.
The typical German/Austrian Christmas dish is Weihnachtsgans, or Christmas Roast Goose. Goose for Christmas Day has long been a tradition in Austria (as has carp on Christmas Eve). It is usually served with red cabbage and potato dumplings.
Medieval Christians would fast between St. Martin’s Day (November 11) and Christmas. Their dinner of choice before and after was goose, perhaps because—as legend has it—St. Martin was said to have hidden among geese while trying to avoid becoming Bishop (the goose’s honk gave him away).
This is something people will eat once a year: on Christmas! This makes Christmas unique in the Church and unique in the kitchen.
France: Fr. Dominique Bourmaud
Fr. Bourmaud was ordained by Archbishop Lefebvre in 1981, and is currently the Pastor of St. Vincent's in Kansas City, as well as the Managing Editor of The Angelus.
In France, around Christmas, we enjoyed the macarons, which are a typical Christmas small cake/desert with the coffee.
For the Christmas feast, the traditional choice is dinde farcie aux marrons - turkey with chestnuts. Christmas dinners usually meant lots of mouths to feed, so turkey, being the largest of the winged creatures available (even though it was from the New World), eventually became the dish of choice for Christmas feasts. By the nineteenth century, it became customary to stuff the Christmas turkey with chestnuts, and the tradition continues today.
For desert, typical Christmas is la bûche de Noël - yule log cake. Yes, the bûche really defined the Christmas table along with lots of holly/ivy garnishing the table, and with chants de Noël from the "Petits chanteurs à la croix de bois" or stories from Provence with "lou ravi". See link with interesting historical background about the bûche:
Nothing else comes up for the moment except that we had plenty of red wine besides the champagne for Christmas and new year.
Japan: Fr. Thomas Onoda
Fr. Onoda serves the SSPX chapels in his home country of Japan, as well as the Philippines and Korea.
Regarding to the "favorite Christmas food tradition" in Japan, I have to say that there is not really traditional Japanese food for Christmas.
However, in Japan where only 0.3 % of the population is Catholic, we do celebrate Christmas. Usually we have a big fancy cake, special for Christmas - a white cake with whipped cream and with berries. When I was a kid, I remember enjoying it! A cake shop began selling this in 1920's. It spread to the whole of Japan.
Also roast chicken became popular for Christmas, too. In 1970's, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) started to promote this and now it is established as a Japanese Christmas tradition - probably very odd to Americans!
Wishing you a most blessed and merry Christmas!
France (Provence): Fr. Romain Pons
Fr. Pons was ordained in 2007, and spent much of his apostolate in Quebec, now serving as the Pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows in Phoenix
The traditional meal at home was a capon, with chestnut stuffing.
And I love the story of the 13 desserts in Provence! There is an old tradition there that 13 desserts are eaten after the Christmas meal. Everyone should have a little of each to represent Christ and his 12 apostles. Each dessert represents something different but they are all appetizing individually and together, they are delectable. There must be 13 desserts available but exactly which desserts vary from home to home.
Australia & Lebanon: Fr. Kevin Robinson
Fr. Robinson, who was born in Australia and is now an American citizen, shared with us two recipes. Since his mother was Lebanese, many of the Christmas dishes were also Lebanese. Mrs. Robinson's Kibbeh is a comfort food common in Lebanon, with each family's recipe handed down through the generations:
Mrs. Robinson's Kuubba/Kibbe
• Half kg lamb mince
• 300 gm Bourghal crushed wheat (soaked 1 hour & squeezed)
• 2 onions chopped
• 1 cup fresh mint chopped
• Tablespoon salt & pepper
- Mix all and make into small flat hamburgers fried well in small amount of oil
And Father also shared his own personal favorite Christmas recipe - for homemade Irish Cream:
Fr Robinson's Irish Cream Recipe
• 300ml (half pint/small can) sweetened condensed milk (low fat)
• 300ml fresh cream
• 300ml cheap whiskey
• 300ml coconut milk (or 1 teaspoon coconut essence)
• 3 eggs
• 2 tablespoons chocolate topping/syrup
• 1 tablespoon coffee+chicory essence
- Blend all ingredients or whip it up.
- Put whiskey last to taste (or take some mixture out first, for the kids or designated driver).
- Drink in moderation, AMDG.
England: Fr. Paul-Isaac Franks
Fr. Franks is from Nottingham, England, and currently serves as Pastor to the SSPX chapel in Wichita KS, and is Professor at St. Mary's College.
Every year we ate mince pies. They were outlawed by Cromwell for being too Catholic. And no, they don’t have meat in them.
The reason mincemeat is called meat is because that’s exactly what it used to be: most often mutton, but also beef, rabbit, pork or game. Mince pies were first served in the early middle ages, and the pies were quite sizeable, filled with a mixture of finely minced meat, chopped up fruit and a preserving liquid. Over time, the pies turned more sweet, and lost the meat, with the exception of the fat, which is traditionally suet.
We also had a Christmas pudding, covered in brandy and set on fire. It had a “gold” coin hidden in, which one lucky family member would find.
Thank you to our priests who shared their Catholic cultural memories for Christmas with us, and we hope you are inspired to try one or a few of them with your family this Christmas!