Many major holidays, like Hanukkah, Christmas, and the New Year are celebrated in nations across the globe, but food traditions vary from place to place.
Christmas is a major affair in Greece, and there are many ways in which people celebrate. Many religious Greeks fast before Christmas. When feast day finally arrives, it's a time to go all out. One traditional sweet that still has a place at festive holiday tables is melomakarona, a sweet, honey-soaked cookie topped with ground walnuts and eaten on Christmas Day after breaking the fast.
One of several popular holiday desserts in Poland, babka, a kind of sweet bread, is ubiquitous during the Christmas season. Other treats, like cookies made with honey and poppy seeds, are also common, but bread is essential to the Christmas meal in Poland. Traditionally this festive meal is eaten on Christmas Eve, starting with breaking bread after a long day of fasting. Many Polish families set an extra place for a lone wanderer who might happen to pass through during this special dinner, which is usually meatless and composed of other staples like beet soup, boiled potatoes, and herring with sour cream.
SWEDEN: SAFFRON BUNS
On December 13, the official start of the Christmas season in many Nordic countries, citizens of Sweden and other Scandinavian nations celebrate St. Lucia's Day. Tradition dictates that the eldest daughter dress in a white gown tied with a red sash and a crown of lit candles, then wake her parents with hot coffee and a tray of saffron buns, like the one pictured here. Swedes also elect a national Lucia every year, and many towns and villages across the country choose a Lucia to represent them as well.