Monday, January 14, 2013


   Christmas is a time of presents, anticipation, excitement and goodwill virtually anywhere in the world. In different parts of the world, however, the specific traditions used to celebrate Christmas can vary widely.

United States

   Here in America, a typical tradition at Christmas time is to leave a tray of cookies and a cup of milk out for jolly old Santa Claus. Santa makes his list of the boys and girls that have been either naughty or nice, and comes to their home on the night before Christmas. Santa will leave the good children a gift made by the elves at the North Pole, and he will leave the naughty children nothing but coal in their Christmas stockings.

Venezuela 1790280I

   During Christmas time in Caracas, Venezuela, from December 16 to December 24, the streets are closed for the roller skating mass. Yes, that is exactly what it sounds like: a mass of people roller skating together through town. Frustrating for those trying to make their way through traffic around the streets that are closed for the holiday tradition? Perhaps, but this is a very well-known tradition in the area, and many people love to participate in it each year.


   In Australia, Christmas is hot like a summer day in the U.S. In Australia, the Christmas dinner is much like the American Thanksgiving dinner. The Australian Christmas dinner typically consists of turkey, ham, pork, plum pudding, and mince pies. Australian tradition is to have Christmas dinner on a beach in the middle of the day. Perhaps the most important part of Christmas in Australia is the “Carols by Candlelight.” This event takes place on Christmas Eve, with thousands of people gathering to light candles and sing their favorite Christmas carols.


   In France, Christmas time is all about the light show. Imagine that – the nation that is home to Paris, the “City of Lights,” steals the show during the most lights-focused time of the year. Examples can be found all over the country during the Christmas season; for example, during the Fête des Lumières from December 5 to December 8, Lyon features over 70 light shows that are simply breathtaking.

766 M

   Christmas in Brazil is the most celebrated holiday in the country, since about 90 percent of the population of Brazil consider themselves to be Christians. Christmas is a big deal in Brazil! Because Brazil is in the southern hemisphere, it is summertime during the holiday season; temperatures can reach well above one hundred degrees Fahrenheit. December 24 is the day that begins the official Christmas celebrations. It starts with Christmas cooking, which traditionally includes codfish and turkey with beer or juice as a beverage. Because pine trees are rarely found in Brazil, households that have a Christmas party will often feature a fake tree with Christmas lights and decorations. There can be several families at each gathering, with over seventy people attending one Christmas party. The night often starts with Bingo, then comes the singing and eventually a “Secret Santa” exchange. Just before midnight, all the lights in the house are shut off (with the exception of the Christmas tree lights, of course) and the children lie in bed and await the arrival of Santa Claus.

5. Japan
Abc Abc Kfc Xmas 101220 Wg

    At Christmas time in Japan, people are getting ready to order buckets and buckets of fried chicken. Rather than celebrating Christmas with a ham or turkey, as is traditional in many other parts of the world, Japanese families usually celebrate the holiday by eating loads of fried chicken. Although only about one percent of the Japanese population follows the Christian religion, ads have made it a tradition anyway to eat at Kentucky Fried Chicken during Christmas. After filling up on fried chicken, it is also traditional to enjoy a heaping plate of cake for dessert.

4. Italy
Labefanafest Urbania

   Perhaps one of the most unique ways to celebrate the Christmas season is found in Italy. In Italy, on January 5, children await the arrival of a magical figure to bring them candy and other goodies. But it is not Santa Claus they are waiting for; no, these children are waiting for a witch named La Befana. She is portrayed as coming down the chimneys of various homes and delivering gifts, all while holding a broomstick. Instead of leaving milk and cookies for jolly old Saint Nick, Italian children leave wine and crackers for this mystic witch. However, in Norway, it is said that you must hide all of the brooms in your house or the witches will steal them and ride them off into the night. Perhaps they are headed to Italy.


   In Finland, the Christmas celebrations primarily extend from December 24 to December 26. Fir trees are set up in each household on Christmas Eve. Much like during Christmas in America, people in Finland bake gingerbread cookies and other yummy treats. Finnish Christmas dinner begins on the night of Christmas Eve, at the spotting of the first star in the sky – usually between five and seven o’clock.


In Mexico, Christmas is known as La Posada. It is a tradition to carry a picture of Joseph and Mary from house to house in the search of “shelter” before the birth of Jesus Christ himself. In Mexico, Santa Claus is not usually used to symbolize Christmas like he does in America. Instead, the people of Mexico choose to use the striking red flower called the poinsettia as a symbol of the season – a tradition that has begun to catch on in other parts of the world as well.


3047101540 34Aa06F556 O

   In Germany, the Christmas celebration begins on December 6 and continues non-stop until after Christmas Day. On December 6, the baking and decorating begins. It all starts with the spiced cookies and cakes, then comes the home-made cards and gifts. One of the more well-known Christmas traditions – and one that originated here in Germany – is the creation of beautiful gingerbread houses. Christbaumgeback is the name of a German dough that can be shaped like clay before it is baked and used to decorate the Christmas tree. Although gingerbread and gingerbread houses are certainly a part of Christmas celebrations elsewhere in the world, none can match those created in Germany.


    Visitors from all over the world will be playing in the snow and enjoying the winter festivities at one of the biggest winter celebrations that Canada has to offer. Quebec, Canada has been host to the winter wonderland known to locals as "Carnaval de Quebec", for more than 50 years and shows no signs of slowing down anytime in the near future as this year's carnival will see more than 400 unique activities. It has been dubbed as the "The coolest Part in the World", and why not? It has all of the offerings that you would expect form traditions Nordic culture, only they have went all out and included events for people of all generations, tastes, and backgrounds.

    The Winter Carnival got its start in 1894 and has grown each consecutive year by updating events and festivities to fit every lifestyle. Starting at the end of January and lasting up until the middle of February. Quebec opens its doors for a winter celebration that includes snow baths, glittering night parades, slide runs, ice fishing, concerts, snow rafting, snow sculpture competitions, a canoe race over the frozen St. Lawrence River, horse-drawn sleigh rides, husky powered dogsled rides, and skating.

    Music, dancing, live entertainment, deliciously prepared cuisine, rides and activities are also part of the Winter Carnival. The activities are non-stop throughout the week, but the special events are typically held during the weekend. If this isn't enough to tantalize your taste buds, then the city of Quebec itself might be what you are hungering for. The medieval setting is something straight out of a book as you will delight in seeing everything from the French architecturally designed homes nestled along narrow, winding streets to the colorful and inviting restaurants and shops that demand your attention. It is truly one of the most beautiful destinations that you will ever have the pleasure of laying your eyes on.

    The heart of the carnival is set up at the Plains of Abraham where the French and British once battled, but is now home to grazing cattle and the Winter Carnival. A particular favorite is the St. Hubert Derby that easily draws crowds of people waiting to see the single and double championship drivers of the horse team competition. While other visitors can't wait to chill out in the Ice Palace and see the one of a kind structure made up entirely of ice. Children gather in large crowds awaiting the arrival of Bonhomme the snowman who  plays as Master of Ceremonies during the snow bath event where daring adventurists play in the snow the Eskimo way, in bathing suits.

    The city of Quebec not only offers fun winter festivities, but it also holds the allure of being the only walled city in North America. More than 1.5 million visitors find their way to the Carnival de Quebec, and most of them will eventually find their way to the ancient part of the walled city that houses French neighborhoods that closely resemble a European village of sorts. Brightly lit shops and local cuisine can be found along the heart of the city as well as scenic views of the lake and mountains.


   Here's another great recipe from www.bakersroyale.com .  Another great party treat on your dessert table.

Chocolate Peppermint Roll

Did I tell you I was on a recipe kick with these Andes Peppermint candy? I’m pretty sure I did. If you haven’t heard, I’m sort of crazy for the candy and even more crazy about how it can take almost any recipe from good to great. It’s latest dress-up can be found in this chocolate Genoise recipe. The soft, but denser crumb makes it roll-friendly, so you don’t have to worry about cracks as you coax it into shape. Standing up to the denser crumb is a classic buttercream that spirals its way through for a balanced bite.
Chocolate Peppermint Roll
Chocolate Peppermint Roll
As many of you know I seldom deviate from my favorite Swiss Meringue Buttercream (SMB). But this recipe needed a filling that would not disappear mid-chew while the crumb was left hanging with no counterpart. And since the classic buttercream is slightly heavier in texture than SMB, that’s what I used. With the right textural balance in place and the flavor nailed down it was time to get on my fancy pants on and finish a humble cake roll with an elegant touch that would not require flipping it to a Buche de Noel.  I thought about getting all fussy with maybe piping some swirls on top and finishing with chocolate curls, but I decided against it.
Cake rolls of any sort always remind of the holidays, so I wanted that to dominate the plate. With that I went with a chocolate pour and shaved chocolate for a more quiet but rustic finishing touch.
And if you’ve never made Genoise cake before, it’s so easy-so don’t hesitate. Especially since the recipe I used is from Martha Stewart and really easy to work with.
Peppermint Chocolate Roll Bakers Royale 2 Chocolate Peppermint Roll
A few notes:
  • When heating the eggs and sugar, Martha’s instructions indicate that the mixture is ready once it becomes warm. Since I’ve made this recipe several times, I find for the best results the “warm” should be about 100-110 degrees F. For a non-thermometer gauge, the mixture should feel warm to the touch. That’s warm, not tepid. The time approximation is about 3-4 minutes.
  • Once the egg mixture enters the whisking stage Martha’s instructions includes whisking the mixture until it almost triples in volume. I find what is more helpful is keeping that in mind and looking for the mixture to create ribbons (see picture).
Ribbon1 300x264 Chocolate Peppermint Roll

Chocolate Peppermint Roll

Serves 8 people
For the chocolate genoise recipe, click here.
Peppermint Buttercream Frosting:
  • 12 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • 5 tablespoons of heavy cream
  • 2 cups confectioner sugar
  • ½ cup chopped Peppermint Andes
Chocolate Pouring Sauce:
  • 2/3 cups dark chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons powdered sugar, sifted
  • 4-5 tablespoons water, warm
Peppermint Buttercream Frosting:
1. Place all ingredients in a bowl and beat until smooth.
Chocolate Pouring Sauce:
1. Place chocolate and heavy cream in a bowl over simmering water. Let chocolate and cream sit for 2-3 minutes to melt without stirring. Then slowly stir mixture to combine. Add powdered sugar and mix to combine. Add water 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing after each addition until pouring consistency is reached. Set aside and let sauce cool to warm.
  1. Unroll Genoise and spread filling to a 1/4 inch in thickness. Roll filled cake from end to end. Trim ends as needed for a clean finish.
  2. Place fully assembled roll on a serving plate (or on a cooling rack for a cleaner pouring finish) and pour chocolate on top.
  3. Finish with peppermint Andes shavings.