During the month of December we like to take a break from our typical homeschool routines to focus on celebrating the holidays.
One of our favorite traditions is to expand our Geography lessons to include learning about holiday customs and activities around the world. We use crafts, field trips, and of course FOOD to bring our learning to life!
We have tried many different dishes from around the world and today we would like to share a few of our favorites. Here are 5 holiday foods from around the world your teens can make to explore and enjoy the season.
1 – Germany – Gingerbread
Though our studies of German holiday traditions we have learned about Christmas Markets, the Nutcracker, and gingerbread.
The origins of German gingerbread cookies, or Lebkuchen, date back to the Franconian monasteries in the 1300’s. In the early days these tasty cookies were available only in the German cities of Nurnberg, Ulm, Cologne and Munich.
Although the basic ingredients of honey, flour, sugar, eggs, spices, and nuts are common to all Lebkuchen recipes, each region created a slightly different version of the cookie based on the ingredients readily available in the area.
Each year we make gingerbread cookies using cookie cutters, but our favorite creations are usually gingerbread houses. The photo above is our first gingerbread house of this holiday season, we made it on our recent Disney Cruise.
Your teens can try several different gingerbread recipes to compare tastes and find their favorite – find German Lebkuchen recipes here.
2 – Italy – Pizzell Cookies
Megan grew up with a tasty family tradition – they made pizzelle cookie every year during the Christmas season. She has enjoyed continuing this tradition with her own girls.
Pizzelles are flat Italian cookies that resemble a waffle. They are slightly sweet and usually have the flavor of anise.
Originating from mid-Italy, they are the oldest known cookie. Pizzelles can be served crisp or left soft like a waffle to be rolled and stuffed with creme or berries.
You make them by placing dough into a special iron. Centuries ago, families would have the blacksmith make them an iron, containing the family crest or a personalized pattern that would transfer on to the cookie. They would place the iron into the fire to cook the cookies.
You can find a family friendly pizzelle recipe here and maybe start a new tradition with your family!
3 – Japan – Mochi
A traditional Japanese New Year’s food Megan’s family was recently introduced to is mochi, a rice cake made from sticky rice that’s been pounded into a paste and molded into shapes.
In Japan, the most celebrated holiday, Oshogatsu, or New Year, is observed during the first three days of January. It’s a time of prayer, special meals, and family.
Dishes to be eaten during the first three days of January are called, osechi-ryori.
The food is prepared ahead and stored in a nest of boxes, so no one will have to spend their time cooking during the holiday. The containers are full of traditional foods such as boiled seaweed and fish cakes. Every dish that is eaten is believed to bring about specific benefits, like prosperity and long life.
Mochi is often prepared during this holiday season. It can be made to be sweet or savory and is often shaped into balls, stuffed with a bean paste filling.
Your teens can explore this Japanese tradition with the sweet mochi recipe found here.
4 – Mexico – Three Kings Bread
January 6th is an important day during the holiday season in Mexico. This day is knows as El Dia de los Reyes or the day of The Three Kings. Families gather on this day to celebrate the the Three Wise Men who brought gifts to the baby Jesus. Their celebrations often include sharing Three Kings Bread.
Known as Rosca de Reyes or Three Kings Bread this holiday dessert includes a great deal of symbolism.
The bread is round in share to signify a king’s crown. This unique bread also includes a very special surprise. Baked inside is a small plastic doll which represents the baby Jesus. Whoever finds the doll in their slice of cake has to cook for the family on Dia de la Candelaria (Candlemas Day) which occurs on February 2nd.
Your family can learn more about the history of Rosca de Reyes and find a wonderful recipe here.
5 – New Zealand – Pavlova
In New Zealand, Christmas day is normally a time for family gatherings with everyone making food to share. A favorite dessert for many families is Pavlova!
Pavlova is a light and festive dessert popular in New Zealand, especially during the holiday season.
Pavlova is a tasty meringue dessert topped with cream and berries. We are very happy to have a family friendly Pavlova recipe available here on our site, with photos, from our homeschool friend Leigh from New Zealand.
Wherever your culinary travels take you this holiday season we hope your family has fun exploring interesting holiday foods from around the world and the traditions behind these special dishes!
Join us all week as we share some of our favorite fun and simple Christmas ideas for families with teens.