For many Americans, chocolate is an intrinsic part of the winter holidays; Advent calendars abound, hot chocolate is always at the ready, and national chocolate sales spike right around December. As it turns out, Americans aren’t the only ones who appreciate chocolate more during the holiday season. Here are a few notable ways other countries make chocolate part of their holiday traditions:
On December 6th, Germany and Austria celebrate St. Nicholas’ Day. Children will leave a boot outside their door overnight, and St. Nicholas, much like Santa Claus, will bring them chocolate coins or other small sweets and gifts if they’ve been good. If they’ve been bad, they’ll receive sticks in their boots instead!
Noche Buena in the Philippines is the feast eaten the night before Christmas after midnight mass. A common drink at this feast is Tsokolate, which is a hot drink made from chocolate, milk, sugar, and sometimes, peanut butter whisked together with a batidor.
Noche Buena is also the name of Christmas Eve in other Spanish-influenced countries, including Mexico. It’s also the name of a holiday beer! Only sold from October to February, Noche Buena is flavored with chocolate malt and caramel.
During Hanukkah, children often receive coins called gelt. Adults give children gelt for playing dreidel or as a gift to keep. In Israel, around 74% of parents give their children Hanukkah gelt. There and elsewhere in the world, gelt has also become synonymous with gold-wrapped chocolate coins.
The most popular Christmas dessert in France is the bûche de Noël, a chocolate sponge cake fashioned into the shape of a Yule Log. It is eaten after the Réveillon, the main Christmas meal. In Provence, France, it is tradition to serve and eat thirteen different desserts (lei tretze dessèrts), among them the bûche de Noël.
Diwali is a long Hindu religious festival in India that spans five days during late October/early November. One of its key traditions is the giving and receiving of gifts, which is so popular that even family members abroad will send Diwali gift hampers back to India. Gift hampers can include anything from dry fruits to silverware, but mithai (Indian sweets) dominate the holiday and chocolate sweets have been steadily growing in popularity in the modern era.
Christmas Cakes sold at Japanese supermarket.
Japan does Christmas differently than the Western world, since for the majority of Japanese people, Christmas is more of a festive celebration than a religious tradition. In fact, Christmas Eve is considered a romantic holiday for couples.
Chocolate is just as popular a gift as it is year-round in Japan, but it also often decorates the top of a more traditional Christmas dessert: the Christmas Cake, which is a light sponge cake with whipped cream and sliced strawberries. Another popular Japanese Christmas treat that might surprise you is fried chicken!
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