When I was a kid it seemed like everyone celebrated the holidays just like me. I thought all children must open presents on Christmas morning and that Santa is a real person who wears a red suit and has flying reindeer. And hey who could blame me? Because every movie or TV show I watched didn’t tell me otherwise. Luckily around the age of 7 I was quickly shown that this is not the case because our babysitter whom happened to be from Germany decided to share her customs with us. To say the least my mind was blown but it was probably the best thing to happen to our Christmas traditions since. Today we still incorporate German traditions into our holiday season and we are ever the better for it. So if you are looking to switch up your traditions or to just see how others celebrate during this time of year here is a little guide to holidays from around the world.

Germany: The first tradition I learned was St. Nick or Nicholas day. Essentially all you do is put your shoes out by the fireplace on December 5th and St. Nick will come and put candy in your shoes in the morning if you are good. There are different variations throughout Europe but it basically just means more presents and candy before Christmas, what kid doesn’t love that? The other tradition seems a little odd but is surprisingly fun. Hide the pickle is a German tradition where one person hides a glass green pickle in the Christmas tree and the first person to find it gets a prize. It is not as easy as you think though because the pickle perfectly blends in with the tree and is concealed by all the lights and ornaments. It is a fun thing to do on Christmas Eve or after you have set up your Christmas decorations.

Red undies for good luck?

Ukraine- If you can’t find a glass pickle then dig out some old Halloween decorations and use a spider web instead! In the Ukraine it is said that if one finds the spider web you’ll have good luck all year.

Israel: Although this tradition I learned from a Jewish family and I do not know if it is celebrated in Israel it is a fun tradition that can be used to entertain restless children at any dinner. Basically the eldest male hides a present somewhere in the house. It is the task of the children to find the present by bribing clues out of present hider. It is a great game that is used during longer Jewish holiday day dinners in order to keep the kids entertained but engaged in the lessons the eldest male is teaching.

Spain: For New Year’s Eve the Spanish have a tradition to wear red underwear in order to bring good luck (or to get lucky) in the New Year…An entire city in Spain takes it to the next level by wearing just red underwear on the day! Oh and make sure you have twelve grapes to gulp down when the clock strikes midnight otherwise you’ll have bad luck for the coming year…

Mexico: Red is also an important color in Mexico for the New Year. Mexican families use this color in their decorations as a wish for overall improvement in their love life and lifestyle. Other important colors are yellow for a job promotion, green for financial success and white for health.

France: if you are wanting to make a delicious dessert for any holiday dinner then take it from the best pastry chefs in the world and make a yule log cake also known as a Buche de Noel.  It is basically a chocolate sponge cake with layers of whip cream rolled into a shape of a log. However it does involve some time and skill because French pastries are not meant to come easy. Here is a good recipe to follow: Ingredients:

Cake batter:

4 eggs (room temperature)

2/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon Grand Marnier (orange liqueur)

2 teaspoons orange zest

3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup cake flour

Chocolate buttercream:

7 egg whites

1 1/3 cups granulated sugar

6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled

1 teaspoon instant espresso powder

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 cups plus 3 tablespoons butter, softened

Preparation:

 

How to make buche de Noel:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 10-inch by 15-inch baking pan with a 1-inch lip (jelly-roll pan) and line it with parchment paper. Butter the parchment or spray it with cooking spray. Set the pan aside.

Beat the eggs for 5 minutes, until they turn thick and foamy. Add the sugar, orange liqueur, orange zest, vanilla extract, and salt to the eggs and continue beating for 2 minutes. Fold the flour, a few tablespoons at a time, into the whipped egg mixture. Once the flour is incorporated into the batter, stop mixing. Do not overmix!

Gently spread the batter into the prepared pan. There will be peaks of batter; gently smooth over them, but do not press the batter down. Bake the cake for 10 minutes, until the cake is just set. Invert the baked cake onto a clean, dry kitchen towel and peel off the parchment paper. Wait 3 minutes and then gently roll the cake, still in the towel, starting at the 10-inch end. Allow it to cool completely.

 

To make the chocolate buttercream:

In a clean, completely dry bowl beat the egg whites on high until soft peaks form. Set them aside for a moment.

In a small saucepan, bring the sugar and 2/3 cup water to a boil. Allow it boil until it has reduced into a slightly thickened syrup. Begin beating the egg whites on high speed again, and pour the hot sugar syrup into the eggs in a slow, steady stream. Pour the melted chocolate, espresso powder, and vanilla extract into the egg whites and continue beating them until the meringue has cooled completely, about 5 minutes.

Add the softened butter to the meringue, 2 tablespoons at a time, while beating on high speed, until all of the butter is incorporated into the frosting. If the buttercream becomes runny at any time in this process, refrigerate the meringue until it has chilled through and continue the process of beating the butter into the meringue.

To assemble the buche de noel:

Unroll the cake and set aside the towel. Evenly spread 2 cups (or desired amount) of the chocolate buttercream on the inside of the cake and following its natural curve, gently form it into a cake roll. Cut off the ends of the cake roll on the diagonal and reattach them in the center of the cake with a bit of buttercream to fashion a “branch” coming off the main Yule log.

Spread the exterior of the buche de noel with enough chocolate buttercream to cover it and gently pull a butter knife or small, offset spatula through the frosting to give the appearance of rough tree bark. Add a Pere Noel figure and meringue mushrooms to complete the festive look.

Chill the cake before serving it, and refrigerate any leftovers.

This Yule log recipe makes 14 servings.

Courtesy of http://frenchfood.about.com

About The Author

Food and Booze Editor
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Brittany is an avid NPR listener, history buff, amateur photographer and a collector of exotic spices. When she is not in Denver you can find her traveling all over the globe in search of the perfect bite. Her favorite travel designation right now? Aqaba, Jordan. But she hopes to go to Sudan and Singapore next. Follow her on all of her adventures by going to her Instagram and Twitter

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