LET IT SNOW, LET IT SNOW, LET IT POUR…
CHRISTMAS TIME IS HER
Christmas drinks time is here. Come and celebrate the best time of the year… Hmm well, I beg to differ. I don’t like the Holidays that much, they have an atmosphere of sad nostalgia surrounding them that not always leave a pleasant feeling in me. I am not going to say they are the worst time of the year; when you have children, little by little you learn – if not to love Christmas – at least to live with the Holiday Season, and appreciate a bit of its magic experience. So, why not add some sparkling to it all? All over the World… LET IT SNOW, LET IT SNOW, LET IT POUR.
That’s why I thought about writing this post, for those of us who are still doubtful about the joyful season, and might need a drop or two to go through this time with some extra joy. So raise your glasses… and cheers!
Traditional Drinks for Christmas Season in some countries around the World
Christmas time falls under very hot weather in South America, so Christmas drinks are served fresh and normally contain fruit or have a taste of it
In ARGENTINA, besides some good quality wines, you can raise your glasses at twelve o’clock with sidra, an alcoholic drink similar to cider, – made from the fermented juice of apples – but not exactly the same, it is sweeter than the cider produced in Europe. Sidra has always been associated to the drinks used by lower classes to celebrate Christmas and New Year, while upper classes drink Champagne. People also drink a variety of sidra called Ananá Fizz, which is basically sidra with a highly concentrated pineapple juice. Another popular drink is clericó, prepared either with wine or sidra, just by simply chopping pieces of fruit, putting them into a jug, adding a generous amount of sugar and the desired alcoholic drink. Salud! or Chin chin!
BRAZIL has an extremely hot weather during this season so the traditional Christmas drinks are very refreshing. It is common to dine with beer and fruit juice. Another popular Brazilian drink is caipirinha, made with sugar cane liquor (cachaça), sugar and lime. In cachaça, the alcohol results from fermenting of fresh distilled sugarcane juice. Along with their meals, Brazilians also drink champagne, wine, and fruit punch. Superstitions are strong and curious, one of them takes place during New Year’s Eve, when they jump backwards three times in a row, holding a glass of champagne without spilling a drop of it. Afterwards, they throw it off their backs. Á vossa!
The Christmas celebration in MEXICO is much connected to religious representations and family reunions, but people also enjoy the amazing taste of tamales and drink different typical beverages. Here the weather is colder, so drinks get more caloric; for instance, atole is a thick drink, served hot, made from hot corn and milk, sometimes with strawberries. Another drink on the Christmas tables is the ponche navideño, made with sugarcane, spices and local fruit such as plums, tejocotes, and guavas. Tejocotes are small, orange fruits tasting like apples. Ponche is typically served in Mexico at Noche Buena (Christmas Eve) and during the nine-day celebration leading up to Christmas: the Posadas; a representation of Joseph and Mary trying to find lodging in Bethlehem and being turned away. During the Posadas, there is always a steaming pot of ponche ready for guests in every house. Saludcita!
Speaking of Christmas in ITALY without mentioning food is insulting, even reductive. And I have lived in this country long enough to know how important food is for the Italian Christmas tradition. The Cenone di Natale lasts for hours, and its only purpose is eating till you cannot even move. When it’s time to raise your glasses Italians largely appreciate Spumante (sparkling wine). Italy proudly produces this wine with excellent quality and in premium varieties. The most famous ones are Franciacorta, Lambrusco, Prosecco and Asti. Asti is slightly sweet since it is produced from Moscato grapes. There is a variety of it called Moscato d’Asti, it is sweeter but with a lower level of alcohol. Salute! or Cin cin!
In UKRAINE they celebrate Christmas on 7th January, following the Orthodox Church rite after the old Julian calendar. The main Christmas meal is the Sviata Vecheria, eaten on the Eve. Traditionally people fast all day, but some start the day drinking holy water blessed in church. Their dinner is the famous twelve-dish Christmas Eve supper (traditional in many Eastern European countries), a symbol of the twelve Apostles. Most Orthodox Ukrainians are only allowed non alcoholic drinks such as kvas, a sweet and sour sparkling beverage brewed from sugar and rye bread or juice and even tea. Other people, instead, make their Christmas toast with vodka or peperivka, a type of vodka spiced up with pepper. Boodmo! [Здоров’я!]
Even if the country follows the Orthodox tradition, the Greek celebrate Christmas on 25th December, just as the Catholic and Protestant Churches. In GREECE this is a solemn, season. For Greece, the season is in full swing by December 6th, when they exchange presents. It ends on the Epiphany, on January 6th. On the day and evening before Christmas and New Year’s, children sing kalanda, accompanied by metal triangles and little drums. They receive sweets and dried fruits as a reward. Greece has a well gained fame for its liquors: ouzo, raki and retsina. Their wines have an excellent quality as well. For Christmas dinner: wine, sometimes Spanish sangría, and a toast with champagne. Stin iyĭá mas! [Στην υγειά μας!]
Christmas is also celebrated in AFRICA by Christian communities, since there are over 350 million Christians in the continent. On Christmas, they sing carols from GHANA down to SOUTH AFRICA.
Also in some of Africa’s Muslim countries, like SENEGAL, Christmas is still considered as a celebration. Of course, each African nation has its own unique way to celebrate, no matter how small their Christian population.
The midnight toast has a less symbolic value, and gatherings are more spiritual and related to religion. In South Africa, while children enjoy the old-fashioned gemmerbier (South African ginger beer), adults make their toasts with sparkling wines and champagne. Gesondheid!
Let’s end up this quick tour around some countries of the World in Asia. The PHILIPPINES, the only Asian country with as many as 80 % of Christians in their population. They combine some traditions from Western countries with local Christmas rituals. The Eve is as important as Christmas day, in fact, they spend all night awake waiting for the morning to arrive. This midnight feast is the Noche Buena, a Spanish name with a reminiscence of Colonial times. When it comes to drinking, there is a strong tradition of having tsokolate (drinking chocolate), ginger tea or salabat. They make their toast with the national alcoholic beverage, the lambanóg or lamabanog, normally described as a coconut vodka or coconut wine. This liquor is distilled from the sap of coconut flowers and is specially strong, with an alcohol content of up to 83 % after the second distillation. Lambanóg is also produced in a variety of colors and flavors, going from a traditional taste such as grape up to a more audacious one, for instance bubble gum! Mabuhay!
Let’s say Cheers… globally!
in French… Santé!
in Hebrew… Le Chaim!
in Turkish… Şerefe!
in German… Prost!
in Japanese… Kampai!
in Russian… На здоровье! [Na zdorov’ya!]
in Czech… Na zdraví!
in Chinese… Ganbei!
I want to specially thank people and friends from all over the world who helped me write this post. It started as a challenge, a fun challenge. It then turned into a serious research from which I learned a lot writing and reading… with a glass of red wine next to me. My special thanks go to:
Xam from Infinity and Beyond, for her immense help with the Filipino culture, but also for her availability and amazing generosity. A terrific blogger and writer you will hear from a lot. Trust me!
Fragiskos, a Greek friend whose patience with me could only be rewarded with Heaven. Greek customs are a breeze thanks to you.
Corc, for always being there, for encouraging me when I wanted to give in and for always supporting and believing that this idea was not that bad after all.
Friends (together with family) are, after all, the true gift of Christmas. Let’s make a toast on their behalf too: Cheers, my friends, Merry Christmas!
The Tiny Book wishes you all a Happy Holiday Season, and as we say in my native country,
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