Fantastic Feasts

Who’s hungry: Fantastic Feasts from around the world

It’s Thanksgiving in the USA today, plus Christmas is getting closer and closer, so that can mean only one thing: food, and lots of it. With that in the forefront of our minds (who else is hungry now?), we thought we might take a little look at other feasts, festivals and food based events from around the world.

1) The Christmas Eve carp moves into the bathroom in Slovakia

Not a carp
We're not sure this is really a carp. Image source: Getty Images

In Slovakia, as with many nearby countries such as Poland and the Czech Republic, Christmas Eve sees families sit down for a meal where the carp is the star of the show. However, if Christmas traditions are adhered to, it’s not as simple as getting a fish from the supermarket and straight onto the plate.

The traditional way of doing things does in fact involve the Christmas carp living in the family’s bathtub for at least a day, if not 2 or 3, before being killed, cleaned and prepared. The idea here is that any dirty river water will be filtered from the fish’s digestive tract by the clean water in the bath (even though in reality, a few days wouldn’t really be long enough).

The other origin of keeping the fish in the bathroom could be a lot simpler: the bath was a convenient place to keep the fish before refrigerators were widely owned. Regardless of why, talk to many people from countries where this tradition continues and you’ll doubtless hear stories of children trying to set free what they perceived to be their new pet, before the day of the meal could arrive.

2) Don’t forget to Address the Haggis in Scotland

Haggis
Haggis with neeps and tatties. Image source: Getty Images

We know you probably don’t need us to tell you that Burns Night exists. The celebration of Scotland's most famous poet Robert Burns takes place every year on January 25th with a Burns supper. Haggis (a savoury pudding containing sheep’s heart, liver and lungs) and scotch are on the menu, as the life and work of this legendary bard are celebrated

However, unless you’ve attended a Burns supper yourself, you might not be familiar with some of the individual components of this celebration. The most well known part of the night is after the haggis is brought in (or piped in, as it should be), the host or a chosen guest will recite the Address to a Haggis, a poem written by Burns about the soon-to-be main course.

Proceedings also involve a toast to the Immortal Memory of Robert Burns, along with an “Address to the Lassies,” which was originally a short speech given by a male guest in thanks to the women who’d prepared the meal - although more modern versions of this involve a speech to all women present in general. Don’t worry, everyone gets a turn, the “Reply to the Laddies” is next, where a female guest gets an opportunity to reply. These speeches are amusing, witty and often bawdy, and honestly seem like the hardest part of the night to us. Serve us a load of scotch and then have us be eloquent? Not going to happen.

3) Get in line for KFC in Japan this Christmas

Jingle bells, turkey smells, get fried chicken instead!

It’s Christmas in Japan, and it’s time to get in line for your Kentucky Fried Chicken. Thanks to a national marketing campaign in 1974 that was called “Kurisumasu ni wa Kentakkii” (that’s “Kentucky for Christmas”), KFC’s ‘Party Barrel for Christmas’ quickly became a national phenomenon that’s simply has not gone away.

It’s estimated that 3.6 million Japanese families tuck into this fast food staple during the Christmas season, and often you can expect lines out of the door on December 23rd, 24th and 25th. In an attempt to beat the queues, pre orders for KFC Christmas meals can start as early as November 1st! We’re not sure if we’re ready to replace our Christmas turkey just yet, but all this talk of fried chicken sure is enticing. KFC didn’t put us up to this FYI, we’re just big fans of anything that’s deep fried and comes with chips. 

4) Head to Mexico and find Jesus in a cake for Three Kings’ Day

King Cake
An American version of King Cake from Louisiana. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Epiphany or 'El Dia de los Reyes,' meaning The Day of the Kings, is celebrated in Mexico on January 6th and commemorates the arrival of the Three Wise Men who came bearing gifts for Jesus.

Children receive gifts from the Three Wise Men themselves on this day, and King Cake is enjoyed. These round cakes represent crowns, and are often decorated with dried and candied fruits. The real party piece however awaits inside the cake, in the form of a hidden Baby Jesus figurine. There’s a few different versions of what happens when the baby is found, such as that person having to buy next year’s cake, them being given a crown and declared king for a day, or even the lucky winner having to look after the Baby Jesus figure until next year. Other versions of the tradition dictate that the finder must take the baby to church on Candlemas so it can be blessed.

Puts bog standard Christmas crackers to shame a bit, doesn’t it?

5) In Wales, rap battle a horse skull or she’ll eat all your food

Taken around the village between Christmas Day and Twelfth Night, the Mari Lwyd or ‘Grey Mare’ has its roots in Pagan traditions, and is coming to raid your pantry.

Take one horse’s skull, decorate with colourful reins, bells, ribbons and bauble eyes, place on a pole and add a white sheet. Now you’ve got your Mari Lwyd, you go from house to house, trying to gain access by performing rhymes (called pwnco) at the residents, who must rhyme back to you. The battle can go on until either party runs out of rhymes, but in the end defeat is good natured and the result is always the same: the Mari and it’s procession are let inside and rewarded with food and drink, which brings your household good luck for the year ahead.

So this Christmas, if you should see a skeletal horse head making its way towards your home, reach for your rhyming dictionary and maybe get the good biscuits out.

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All that’s left to say is happy Thanksgiving to our friends in the USA (and worldwide) that are celebrating today. We hope you've learned something new from our little selection of customs. If not, head over to Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, and let us know what feast or celebration we should have included!

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