From KFC to Hallaca: How to give Christmas traditions from around the world a HK twist


We bring you five Christmas traditions from around the globe, along with ways to put your own Hong Kong twist on them.

Joanne Ma |

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Lighting advertisement and Chritmas display are seen in the waterfront of TST (Tsim Sha Tsui) East and Hung Hom. 19DEC17 SCMP / Dickson Lee

No matter which corner of the Earth you live in, Christmas is a time when loved ones get together and enjoy each other’s company. So we thought it would be interesting to look at the different ways people celebrate the holiday around the world. Here is a list of festive traditions and suggestions on doing them the Hong Kong way.

British mince pies are typically filled with dried fruit.
Photo: SCMP

Britain’s mince pies
A mince pie is a sweet delicacy that comes from Britain. The pie is made up of dried fruits and spices. It is traditionally dished out during the Christmas season in a lot of Western countries, including parts of the United States.

The pie’s filling can be traced back to the 13th century, when European crusaders returned with Middle Eastern spices that are the key elements of the festive staple.

While it’s difficult to find mince pies outside Marks and Spencer in Hong Kong, the city boasts a wide range of egg tarts. To make them a bit more Christmassy and make up for the fact that there won’t be any snowfall here, simply dust some powdered sugar on top of your store-bought tarts.

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Cooks make a 120-metre-long hallaca.
Photo: AFP

Venezuela’s Hallaca
Hallaca is not only the national dish of Venezuela, it is also the go-to dish for Christmas dinner in the country. It is corn dough stuffed with meat, seafood, and other ingredients like raisins and olives. Similar to Mexican tamales, they are typically wrapped in plantain or banana leaves.

It’s quite common for families to come together and make Hallaca around the holiday.

There is a similar dish in Hong Kong called zongzi which is typically eaten during the Dragon Boat Festival. They are made of sticky rice and other savoury ingredients such as meat, egg, and mushrooms, and are usually wrapped in bamboo leaves. Perhaps you can start your own tradition of making zongzi with your family this Christmas.

Thousands of candles light up the country on Little Candles Day in Columbia.
Photo: AFP

Colombia’s Day of the Little Candles
Little Candles Day is celebrated in Colombia on December 7, and marks the unofficial start of the Christmas season for the locals. At night, people all over the country will light candles on their window sills, balconies, porches, and around streets and parks. Other events held on the day include fireworks, games and competitions.

Although we can’t go lighting candles around the city, we do, however, have a lot of amazing light displays during this time of year. So why not visit the Spirit of Christmas light installations down Lee Tung Avenue in Wan Chai that mimics the iconic light displays down Regent Street in London, or the neon signs lighting up the facades of buildings around Tsim Sha Tsui.

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This type of lantern is known as a parol in the Philippines.
Photo: Wikipedia

The Philippines’ Giant Lantern Festival
The Giant Lantern Festival is an annual event held in mid-December in the City of San Fernando, nicknamed the Christmas Capital of the Philippines. The festival involves a competition of giant lanterns locally known as parol.

Many families around the Philippines will hang a parol on their door during Christmas. Rather than decorating your home with electronic lanterns, you can make your own paper lanterns, similar to the ones you see during the Mid-Autumn Festival. And to add a touch of Christmas flair, you can use left-over scraps of gift-wrapping to create your lanterns (Yay, recycling!).

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Japan’s KFC Christmas Meal
According to a BBC report, eating Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) for Christmas dinner is a thing in Japan. The tradition allegedly started in 1974. Not long after the first KFC opened in the country, the store’s manager had the idea of offering a “party barrel” over the holiday season.

At first, he only wanted to create a fried chicken dinner option to substitute turkey for foreigners who missed home. But when the meal was launched, it immediately took off on a national scale. People in Japan still eat KFC to celebrate Christmas.

You could have KFC for Christmas in Hong Kong, but we have a better suggestion if you’d like to add a local twist to the tradition. A very common local way to cook chicken is with Coca-Cola and ginger. This super simple dish has a rich sour-sweet flavour, and would make a great addition to your Christmas dinner spread this year.

Edited by Nicole Moraleda