Each holiday comes with a special set of traditions that are unique to each culture and place in the world. Winter holidays, like Christmas and New Year’s celebrations, have their own rites and rituals that help bring light and life to the dark winter months.
As a food company, we’ve been fixated on learning about the food and beverage traditions around the world more than ever. The global soccer buzz has inspired us to take a look at the delicious and time-honored food traditions of the home countries represented by members of FC Barcelona squad, including Spain, France, Poland, and the Netherlands.
Fresh off an impressive appearance on the world stage, Barça’s Spanish squad members — Pedri, Gavi, Sergio Busquets, Eric García, Jordi Alba, Ferran Torres, Alejandro Balde, and Ansu Fati — are sure to be spending their holidays enjoying Christmas sweets as is tradition in their home country of Spain.
Nochebuena (Christmas Eve) is a really big deal in Spain. The festivities are centered around an evening-time family feast, often accompanied by music and dancing. The meal consists of numerous sumptuous dishes, which change depending on the region. But one thing that you’ll find at pretty much every Nochebuena meal is an array of Spanish Christmas sweets, including:
- Turrón: a sticky sweet nougat candy, usually made from honey, sugar, and egg whites, studded with toasted almonds, pistachios or other nuts.
- Marzipan: A confection made of sugar, honey, and almond meal. Marzipan candies are often shaped into fruits and vegetables, or covered in chocolate.
- Polvorones: Crumbly, soft shortbread cookies made of flour, sugar, milk, and nuts. The region of Andalusia makes most of the Polvorones in Spain; there are over 70 factories that produce these cookies there!
You may have caught Ousmane Dembélé and Jules Koundé playing for France over the last few weeks. And now along with their countrymen, they will enjoy a Bûche de Noël along with a wide range of decadent food options during the Christmas season.
It’s no surprise that the French go hard during the holidays. Oysters, raclette, foie gras, lobsters, and plenty of wine are just some of the delicacies you’ll find on French tables around the holidays. But perhaps no food is as quintessentially Christmas as the Bûche de Noël. This yule log-shaped cake is an impressive creation: a light sponge cake is rolled with buttercream in the center, frosted on the outside to resemble a log, and decorated with powdered sugar, fresh berries, and marzian or meringue mushrooms. Some versions include real tree branches for an extra lifelike look! There will no doubt be vin chaud served as well — the French version of mulled wine. Traditionally, it’s made with fruity red wine, spices like cinnamon and cardamom, and sometimes raisins. It’s served hot and steamy, and enjoyed by shoppers at outdoor Christmas markets and après-ski.
Polish striker Robert Lewandowski has had an amazing season so far, punctuated with a strong global performance His many accomplishments on the pitch will no doubt be great things to be thankful for during this Christmas season.
In Poland, Wigilia, or Christmas Eve, is the occasion for an epic feast. Traditionally, 12 dishes are served; the number signifies the number of Apostles as found in the Bible. The dishes vary between families, but often include dishes such as Barszcz Czerwone z Uszkami (red beet borscht with mushroom dumplings), Kapusta z Groszek (cabbage and split peas), baked or fried carp, Gołąbki (cabbage rolls stuffed with rice), and Pierogi z grzybami i kapustą (mushroom and cabbage pierogi). For dessert, there’s Pierniki (Polish gingerbread), Sernik (Polish cheesecake), Makowiec (poppy seed cake) and so much more!
Dutch players Memphis Depay and Frenkie de Jong have been making sports fans happy with their many accomplishments. Their holiday break is well earned and is sure to include many Dutch treats including beignets and cookies.
Oliebollen are large, yeasted spherical beignets filled with raisins and showered with powdered sugar. During the Christmas season, you’ll find hundreds of street vendors and food trucks popping up around the Netherlands to sell these treats. Oliebollen are also commonly enjoyed on New Year’s Eve, when they are munched with champagne.
The Dutch love their sweets too, and are famous for a wide variety of cookies, which are on full display during the Christmas season. A few highlights include:
- Speculaas: Spiced shortbread cookies, similar to gingerbread, often stamped with charming Dutch imagery, like windmills, birds, and houses, or Christmas trees.
- Jan Hagel Cookies: Flaky, cinnamon-scented shortbreads topped with slivered almonds and sugar.
- Kerstkranjes: Wreath-shaped cookies that come in several variations. No matter the flavor or toppings, there’s always a hole in the center, so you can tie a ribbon through and hang it on a Christmas tree!
Check out the ZENB blog for more articles about global cuisine, as well as kitchen tips and cooking inspiration. To keep dinnertime fresh and exciting, dive into our collection of over 150 plant-fueled recipes, and don’t forget to follow us on Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook!