Hungry Girl Lisa Lillien shares how people around the world celebrate with food

By Lisa Lillien
Updated December 05, 2016 07:32 PM
Lussekatter - swedish saffron buns
Credit: Getty; Inset: Courtesy Lisa Lillien aka Hungry Girl

Lisa Lillien is the author of the popular Hungry Girl website and email newsletter, featuring smart, funny advice on guilt-free eating. She is also the author of eleven books, six of which debuted at number one on the New York Times Best Sellers list. Read her blog every Monday for slimmed-down celebrity recipes and more.

American traditions are second nature to us but how do other people around the globe celebrate in December? I did a little research and found some interesting stuff. Here are a few of my favorites.


For St. Lucia Day on December 13, girls wear long white dresses with red sashes and wreaths (some with candles) on their heads. They wake up their families, singing and bringing them coffee and sweet saffron buns. I’m sold on any tradition that involves breakfast in bed. Hmmm, wonder if my dog Lolly could balance a wreath on her head.


On Boxing Day (December 26) and New Year’s Day, a street parade called Junkanoo sweeps through the Bahamas. The festivities feature dancing, music, and costumes linked to southern Nigerian culture. Could your holiday season use a bit more dancing? It is a great calorie-burning opportunity!


Wanna set yourself up for a lucky year? The Spanish tradition dictates that eating 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight — one each time the bell tolls — will lock down 12 months of good fortune. I’m in! Grapes are a lot healthier than most foods served at New Year’s Eve parties.


Wigilia is a family meal that takes place the night before Christmas. To start, each person is given a piece of the traditional Christmas wafer, which they then break into smaller pieces and give to the rest of the group along with wishes for luck and joy. This is also a chance to settle any disputes from the year that’s ending. The meal features fish, fruits, and salad. Sounds like an all-around healthy holiday celebration!


December 23 in the city of Oaxaca is the Night of the Radishes. One does not simply eat a bunch of radishes, though. Three days beforehand, the carving begins! Massive radishes are grown specially for this purpose, and elaborate designs are carved into them. There’s a big competition featuring more than 100 participants from the area. The only bummer: The radishes used for carving are chemically treated and not suitable for eating.


In Caracas, citizens get up early on Christmas morning and roller skate to church! Streets get closed off, people sip coffee and hot chocolate, and everyone (young and old) straps wheels to their feet. Why aren’t more of us roller skating on Christmas?

‘Til next time… Chew the right thing!