A Cultural Look at Christmas Traditions

Posted by on December 15, 2010 in Baking, Holidays, Recipes

As we close in upon the Christmas holiday, I personally become very interested in traditions, specifically when it comes to food. My family has more than our share, even if they have been adapted as years have gone by. Fish on Christmas eve is a well-known tradition for Italian families, and in years past, my family has been no exception. But as time moves on, many families, mine included, have steered away from that traditional fare,  but you will still always find a dish full of calamari (squid) on my grandma’s buffet table.

I have chosen to take this opportunity to explore some holiday traditions from around the world (in no particular order).

Today: Scotland

Photo by "WzDD" via Flickr

Bannock cakes are a very important part of a Scottish diet, which makes them important to Scottish tradition. The dough, made from finely ground oatmeal,  has been around for centuries, and although the methods of preparation have changed with modern kitchen tools, the integrity of the dish has remained very close to it’s origins.

For Christmas, Scots make a version of the Bannock known as Yule Bannock. The bannock is marked the top with a cross, dividing it into four. The tradition was to bake them early on Christmas Day, one for each person who’d be there as a present.

Bannock Recipe:


(Recipe makes two smaller-sized bannocks)

4 oz medium oatmeal
2 teaspoons melted butter
2 pinches of baking soda
Pinch of salt
3/4 tablespoons hot water
Additional oatmeal for kneading


1. Mix the oatmeal, salt and baking soda. Pour the melted butter into the centre of the mixture. Stir well, adding enough water to make into a stiff paste.
2. Cover a surface in oatmeal and place mixture on top. (Work quickly as the paste is difficult to work if it cools.) Divide mixture into two, set one aside, and roll other half into a ball and knead with hands covered in oatmeal to avoid sticking.
3. Roll out to around quarter inch thick. Put a plate which is slightly smaller than the size of your pan over the flattened mixture and cut around it to leave a circular oatcake.
4. Cut into quarters (also called farls) and place in a heated pan which has been lightly greased. Cook for about 3 minutes until the edges curl slightly. Turn over and cook the other side.
5. Repeat steps 1-4 with second half of mixture.

(An alternative method of cooking is to bake them in an oven at 375F for about 30 minutes or until brown at the edges.)

Check back tomorrow for a tradition from somewhere else around the globe!