a group of friends drinking beer

Celebrate German Oktoberfest at Home

German Oktoberfest is a time-honored tradition that celebrates food, beer, and good times. It’s a festival of epic proportions, with millions of people from all over the world converging in Munich, Germany, in late September and early October. It’s a 16-day festival that takes place on a massive fairground and is one of the largest festivals in the world. The first Oktoberfest was held in 1810 to celebrate the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. The festival was such a success that it became an annual event, and it’s been going strong ever since.

The main event is the beer tent, where over 6 million liters of beer are consumed each year. There are also dozens of food stalls serving up traditional Bavarian fare, like sausages, pretzels, and roasted pork and chicken. No Oktoberfest would be complete without live music and dancing as well.

If you’re looking for a fun and festive way to celebrate the fall, then an Oktoberfest celebration is for you. If you want all the drinking, food, and dancing without the travel and massive crowds, you can throw your own Oktoberfest party for all your friends using recipes from my Hungry Traveler, traditional music, and, of course, tons of German beer. Just be sure to make sure everyone comes with an appetite!


The World of Hot Dogs

Its summer, which is peak hot dog consumption time. Hot dog culture continues to evolve as the beloved American treat is enjoyed at home and across the world. There are endless ways to serve a hot dog.

Americans love a good hot dog—so much so that, according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, about 20 billion of them a year, which works out to about 70 hot dogs per person. While you might expect Midwestern grill-masters to buy the most hot dogs, the actual top consumers are Los Angelinos at 34 million pounds (154 million kilograms) a year.

The first recorded hot dog eating contest was in 1972. In that event, the winner ate 14 hot dogs in 12 minutes. In 2021, Nathan’s Famous champion Joey Chestnut won by polishing off 76 hot dogs (and buns) in 10 minutes.

There is even a list of the correct way to eat a hot dog, including: no ketchup if you’re over the age of 18, no wine pairings, no utensils, and it should take exactly five bites to consume a proper hot dog. More on hot dogs below:

Who invented the hot dog?

It’s hard to say definitively who invented the hot dog, but credit has gone to Emil Reichel and Sam Ladany (the co-founders of Vienna Beef) and Johann Georghehner, a German butcher. No one is entirely sure.

Why are they called franks or wieners?

Hot dogs are called franks, short for frankfurters, because they may have begun in Frankfurt, Germany. Hot dogs are called wieners because they may have begun in Vienna, Austria, which is wien in German.

When was the hot dog invented?

Sausages date all the way back to ancient times, but the hot dog is first found mentioned in print in the late 1800s.

Where was it invented?

There is no definitive answer, but Frankfurt, Germany and Vienna, Austria both take credit for the invention. The modern day hot dog was allegedly created in Brooklyn, NY at Coney Island.

How did it get it’s name?

There are several myths about how the hot dog got its name, but the most likely origin is 19th century college humor, when students would make crude jokes pertaining to the questionable origin of the meat in hot dogs.

Hot dogs are red because sodium nitrite is added to cure the meat, add flavor, and prevent the growth of bacteria. Sodium nitrite is also added to bacon, cold cuts, and Spam.

Hot dog history continues to evolve, as the beloved American treat is enjoyed at home and across the world. Regional versions have arisen from the endless ways to serve a hot dog. In Seattle, top your hot dog with cream cheese. In Alaska, look for reindeer dogs accompanied by Coca-Cola grilled onions. In Iceland, lamb hot dogs (pylsur) are served with onions, ketchup, sweet brown mustard, and remoulade. In Chile, the wildly popular el completo is a hot dog that’s twice the size of the American version, served with chopped tomatoes, avocados, sauerkraut, and a huge dollop of Americans sauce (mayonnaise and ketchup). 

Every region in America has its own take on the hot dog based on local ingredients, history, and preferences. Here’s a few:

The classic New York City hot dog is produced by Sabrett, Nathan’s, or Hebrew National. Never topped with ketchup, these hot dogs are usually finished off with brown mustard and sauerkraut, and/or sweet onions in a tomato-based sauce.

Chicago dogs are made with Vienna Beef. They are steamed and are then tucked into a steamed poppy seed bun and joined by yellow mustard, neon green sweet pickle relish, chopped white onions, sliced tomato, a dill pickle spear, pickled sport peppers, and a dash of celery salt. No more, no less.

In the Detroit area, Coney dogs are a major regional specialty, except that they’re eerily similar to the West Coast chili dog. Natural casing beef or beef and pork German-style wieners are topped with a slightly soupy, flavorful beef heart-based chili sauce, yellow mustard, and raw white onions. 

Mexican Sonoran Hot Dog can be found primarily in Arizona and neighboring Sonora, Mexico. This hot dog burrito is a bacon-wrapped hot dog that’s cooked on a grill or griddle before being tucked into a bun and topped with a combination of beans, grilled and fresh onions, tomatoes, mayonnaise, mustard, jalapeno salsa, and crema.

Seattle DogGriiled hot dogs a served in soft buns coated with cream cheese and topped with caramelized onion, and mustard. Sauerkraut or sliced jalapeno peppers are sometimes added.

Red Hot (Texas Pop Open) or White Hot (White Pop Open) – Upstate New York’s city of Rochester serves a unique hot-hot dog. A spicy all-beef frank in a natural casing is steamed, loaded in a steamed split-top bun, doused in minced meat chili, and garnished with chopped raw onion and mustard.

Corn Dogs are a staple of state and county fairs throughout America. They are hot dogs on a stick, encased in a sweet-and-savory cornmeal batter and deep-fried to golden-brown perfection

Pukka Dog – Hawaii’s contribution to the world of interesting (and tasty) hot dogs is made with a hole toasted lengthways in a got dog bun with the frank stuffed down the hole along with pineapple relish.

Ball Park Dogs – It doesn’t get any more American than hot dogs and baseball. In Los Angeles, Dodger Dogs are skinless, foot-long pork hot dogs, steamed or grilled, and cradled in a foot-long steamed bun. Boston’s Fenway Franks are steamed beef hot dogs in a soft steamed bun and wrapped so they may be tossed long distances by ballpark vendors to hungry fans. Small packets of relish, mustard, and ketchup accompany them.

Kansas City dog – If a Reuben sandwich met a New York hot dog in a dark alley, you’d end up with this flavorful variation. A pork-based hot dog is nestled in a sesame seed bun and then topped with melty Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and mustard or Thousand Island dressing.

Southern Slaw Dog, you’ll find a fresh twist on the classic chili dog. Creamy, crunchy coleslaw helps cut through the hearty dish. An all-beef dog in a soft sesame seed bun is smothered in chili and then topped with creamy coleslaw, chopped raw Vidalia onion, and optional yellow mustard. In parts of the south, coleslaw is replaced by a chopped pickled vegetable relish called chow chow.

Most every cuisine has it’s own take on the hot dog. Here are a few:

Røde Pølse (Denmark) – The popularity of this hot dog is not only everywhere in Denmark but throughout Europe as well. Tasting one can help explain this phenomenon. A long, bright red pork grilled hot dog, sticking out of both sides of its soft bun, is garnished with chopped onions, large slices of pickled cucumbers, Danish remoulade, ketchup, mayonnaise and fried onions.

Completo (Chile) – Not to outdone by anyone, Chileans’ created this beloved monster with an oversized bun holding an oversized hot dog that is then covered in too much sauerkraut, diced tomatoes, mashed avocado, ad mayo.

Chung Chun (Korea) – This dog is all the rage in Korea and the American west coast. Although it looks similar to the American corn dog on a stick, this interesting hot dog is very much Korean in taste. A hot dog on a stick is rolled in a flavored panko batter with small cubes of potato and deep fried the served sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Perro Caliente (Colombia) – Salchitas, hot (“caliente”) dogs (“perro”) are boiled, tossed in a soft bun and topped with coleslaw, pineapple sauce, ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise and finished with crumbled potato chips.

MHT Hot Dog Recipes:


Surprising Birthday Celebrations From Around the World

Birthday celebrations vary depending on where you are in the world. From beheading a cake in Denmark, dressing in drag in Germany, and getting your nose “greased” with butter in Canada, birthday traditions around the world are celebrated with more than just a cake with candles. Memorable foods join with unique traditions to make for a real good time, wherever you may be in the world.

Checkout these unique birthday traditions. Many of the great recipes for many of these dishes can be found below:

United States – All About YOU

Birthdays in America are pretty self-centered affairs. Everybody comes to your party to bring you presents, watch you open them, sing “Happy Birthday to you,” while you blow out the candles and make your secret wish. Every family has their own special cake for this occasion.

Canada Nose Greasing

This is an Eastern Canadian tradition. Anywhere and anytime, a parent or sibling will surprise the birthday boy/girl by slathering butter all over their nose. According to legend, a greasy nose makes it difficult for bad luck to stick to the birthday boy/girl in the year ahead.

AustraliaFairy Bread

Birthdays in Australia all include that 3 ingredient culinary masterpiece made from white bread slathered in butter and covered in colorful rainbow sprinkles, known down under as fairy bread.

EnglandFind the Coin

British birthday parties are similar to Americas (or is it the other around?). In England, however, it’s common to place coins inside of the cake as a symbol of future wealth.

IrelandHead Bumps

On a child’s birthday, several sturdy adults hold the birthday boy or girl upside down by their ankles and gently bump the top of their head on the ground for each year they’ve lived plus one for good luck.

Denmark Flags and Heads

Kids celebrate their birthdays with a cakemen (Kagenand) or cakegirls (Kagekone), small highly decorated cakes shaped like a human. To begin the birthday celebration, the birthday kid lops the off the head of cake to the screams and cheers of their family and friends. If you’re not married by your 25th birthday, you’ll be doused with cinnamon, if you are not married by 30, pepper mixed with eggs it is.

GermanyDress in Drag

An old tradition in parts of Germany, men not married by 30 are to sweep the steps of city hall dressed in drag and look for a virgin to kiss. A birthday cake is made for guests by the birthday person for this occasion.

Hungary – Ear Tugging

A relative or friend tugs the birthday kid’s earlobes for each year they’ve been alive. As the tugging is taking place, a simple birthday rhyme is recited or sung.


Kids’ birthdays in Mexico revolve around smashing a paper mache animal to free all the candy inside for all the other kids to feast on. Tres Leches cake or Chocoflan is usually served.

Argentina – Sandwiches

Party food, especially for birthdays, is Sandwiches de Miga. this popular sandwich is made with 3 thin slices crust-less white bread, mayonnaise, slices of ham, cheese, and lettuce. Chocotorta is a fan favorite that is found at most kids’ birthday parties.

Brazil Ear Tug and Egg Tossing

In an ear tugging ritual similar to Hungary, the accompanying Hungarian birthday rhyme is replaced by tossing eggs and eating brigadeiros.

Ghana Communal Breakfast

Birthdays are an excuse for the whole community to get together for brunch and to share bowls of Oto, mashed yams and caramelized onions topped with a hard boiled eggs.


Birthday tradition is to have people doused with flour from head-to-toe on their birthday. The end result is folks looking like a dusty antique statue. A tri-colored cake in black, green, yellow (Jamaican flag) is proudly served at birthdays.

India – Head Shaving

On a child’s 1st and 3rd birthday, the tradition is to shave their heads. Birthdays are also special days where kids get to wear new, colorful clothes to school in lieu of a uniform. Birthday parties have balloons filled with confetti, and foods like biryani and payesh or kheer rice pudding are served. Departing guests are each given a sweet by the birthday boy or girl.

China Two is the New One

The Chinese celebrate a child’s date of birth as their 1st birthday. On their “second” birthday bash (other’s 1st), it’s tradition to layout toys in front of the toddler to select one. The first toy selected is supposed to reveal an aspect of their personality or future interest.

Foods served have important symbolism for the youngster, Longevity noodles are always present, symbolizing a long and healthy life. Eggs symbolize birth or a new start, so it is of paramount importance for red eggs to be served to guests during an important birthday. The color red symbolizes prosperity and good fortune.

South Korea Pregnant Moms

Miyeok-guk is a seaweed soup served for breakfast on birthdays. It is said to replenish nutrients so mothers eat it daily during pregnancy. It continued during the child’s birthday to ensure a healthy life.

Vietnam One Birthday for All

Birthday days are not recognized in Vietnam. Instead, everyone’s birthday starts on Tet, the Vietnamese New Year. Banh Chuoi (Vietnamese Banana Cake) is a birthday favorite.

North Korea and Saudi Arabia – Prohibited

They’re not allowed to celebrate birthdays in these countries…

New Orleans Jazz Fest Feast

“Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler”

(Let the Good Times Roll)

Since 1970, The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, more commonly known as Jazz Fest, has brought thousands of music lovers to the Big Easy. Under George Wein’s (founder of the Newport Jazz Festival and Newport Folk Festival) guidance, the vision of a large daytime fair with multiple stages featuring a diverse range of music styles, Louisiana cuisine food booths, Louisianans arts and crafts booths, and an evening concert series throughout the city was realized. In addition to local customs, he emphasized African, Caribbean, and French culture, and was able to present the music, cuisine, and crafts of various cultures to the world through Jazz Fest in a way that was both enjoyable and exciting.

Acura Stage

The 350 people who attended the first Jazz Fest has grown to an average of 70,000 visitors per-day over the seven days of the Festival held annually on the last weekend in April and the first weekend in May. Here’s 2023’s music lineup for both weekends and each of the 13 stages and music styles spread around the huge fairgrounds.

As exciting as all the fantastic music is, it’s the food that makes Jazz Fest so special. With its official food policy of “no carnival food”, there are more than seventy food booths that include local dishes like Cochon de Lait, Andouille Sausage, Soft-shell Crab, and Oyster Po’Boys, Cajun Jambalaya, Crawfish and Sausage Jalapeño Stuffed Breads, Muffulettas, Creole Red Beans and Rice, Pralines, Bread Pudding, Beignets, and the mother of all Jazz Fest dishes, Crawfish Monica. All food vendors are small, locally owned businesses. To check out this year’s list of food booths and what they’re serving, CLICK HERE.

If you can’t make to New Orleans this year, my Hungry Traveler has complied the best recipes from Jazz Fest that you can make at home. So, crank-up the music, grab something to drink, cook-up some amazing dishes for a big party…and let the good times roll!

Listen to Jazz Fest music while you’re cooking:

MHT’s Jazz Fest Recipes:

A Muslim Festival of Sweets (Eid al-Fitr)

Eid al-Fitr translates to “Festival of the Breaking Fast”. It is a three day celebration that takes place at the end of Ramadan, Islam’s holy month, during which Muslims around the globe fast between sunrise and sunset. After an entire month of fasting, Eid al-Fitr is a welcome indulgence that is deeply appreciated by those who partake.

During this event, family and friends come together to enjoy each other’s company over an elaborate and exquisitely prepared feast. Muslim communities across the globe gather with their own unique dishes and food traditions. Check some of these great recipes enjoyed on Eid al-Fitr from the Middle East, Asia, and Africa- sweet and otherwise.

Mix and match the below recipes to create your own Eid al-Fitr feast:

A Special Greek Easter Party (Pascha)

The country of Greece is 97% Christian, so it makes sense that Easter is the biggest holiday. The celebratory Easter Sunday meal is truly special- full of tradition, religious symbolism, and of course, incredible food.

Whether your Christian or not, it’s always fun to throw a family dinner that replicates how other countries celebrate holidays around the world, like a Jewish Passover seder or Christmas in Scandinavia. Here are some great recipes to share with friends and family to make your own Easter dinner, Greek style. Don’t forget the Easter egg hunt…

The traditional Greek Easter table consists of roast lamb, appetizers like Saganaki or Spanakopita, a soup called Magiritsa (made with a lamb’s head), red Easter eggs (symbolizing the blood sacrifice of Jesus), a sweet Easter bread called Tsoureki, and Greek butter cookies called Koulourakia. The recipes below represent traditional Greek foods that are served at many Greek tables on Easter. You can replace the lamb’s head soup with orzo and lemon soup, red eggs with multiple colored eggs, and have orange flavored cheesecake or baklava instead of cookies. The juicy roast lamb with crunchy-soft lemon potatoes is the centerpiece, don’t skip it!

Make your own Easter dinner with these wonderful recipes and you’ll be glad you did.

Key Ingredients
Cooking Method

One Passover – Three Menus

“Why is this night different than all others?”

First of The Four Questions

Every spring (April 5th this year), Jews around the world observe Passover, the Jewish holiday that celebrates the Exodus from enslavement in ancient Egypt. There are many timeless Passover traditions that are shared by Jews everywhere, but the food served at this holiday varies by region.

The reason for these different foods is the majority of Jews (80%), called Askenase (Hebrew for “Germany”), initially settled in Eastern Europe and Germany. The Sephardic (Hebrew for “Spain”) Jews were exiled from Spain and Portugal during the Inquisition of the late 15th century to northern Africa and parts of the Mediterranean. The dietary rules for Passover and in general of the Ashkenazi Jews are very rule bound, especially when eating Kosher and “Kitniyot” (no grains and seeds, rice, corn, and peas). Sephardic Jews have no such restrictions and as a result, their Passover Seders reflect the exciting cuisines of their home countries. In addition to some of the more interesting Passover customs shown below, three different Passover Seder menus are offered here. You can experience these tasty recipes at home for the holiday, Jewish or not.

Matzoh (Mott-zuh)- Matzoh is one of the most iconic elements of Passover. During the Exodus from Egypt, the Jews fled so quickly that there was no time to waste waiting for bread to rise Instead, they ate unleavened matzah in their desperate escape from slavery. Jews eat matzoh in honor of their ancestors, and to celebrate their freedom. This special unleavened bread is kept on a separate matzah tray.

Finding the Afikomen – At the start of the seder, three pieces of matoh are piled next to the seder plate. The middle piece is removed and broken in two. The larger piece, called the afikomen, and is meant for desert after the seder. It is wrapped in a cloth and hidden in the house as a game for the children to find.

Elijah – An extra wine glass is set on the table as an offering to the prophet Elijah, whose spirit visits homes on Passover. At the end of the Seder, it is customary to pour wine into Elijah’s glass and open the front door so his spirit can visit the home.

Cleaning the House – Before Passover begins, it is customary to clean the house. The idea is to go into the holiday with a clean slate to ensure a successful Passover.

Telling the Passover Story – The Jewish people, led by Moses, asked the Pharaoh to free the Jewish slaves, and were denied. As punishment against Egypt, God sent ten plagues to convince the Pharaoh to release the Jews (Blood, Frogs, Lice, Flies, Pestilence, Boils, Hail, Locusts, Darkness, and Killing of the firstborn). The pharaoh repeatedly refuses Moses’ pleas to “let my people go”. With each denial, God unleashes a different plague on the Egyptian people. As a result, God sent the last plague, which would kill the firstborn male in each household.

The Jews were instructed to mark their doors with the blood of a sacrificed lamb so that the Angel of Death would pass over their homes. With this last plague, the Pharaoh finally relented, and the Jews were free to began their exodus from Egypt. The holiday of Passover commemorates these events.

Recognizing Persecution Today – The Jewish people have a long history of being persecuted. Passover is seen as a holiday to not only reflect on that persecution, but to recognize the oppression of people everywhere.

Hosting a Seder – The Seder is the foundation of Passover. Jewish people around the world gather on Passover to have a Seder. A typical Seder is comprised of a dinner as well as reading through the Haggadah (Passover prayer book), which includes the story of Passover and various prayers to recite during the Seder. In addition to a multicourse meal, it includes acknowledging each of the plagues set upon the Egyptians. The Passover Seder Plate is the centerpiece of the Passover meal. The symbolic foods placed on the plate are integral to the telling of the Passover story. .

Passover Seder Plate

The different foods on the Passover Seder plate each serves the purpose of retelling the story of Exodus. The symbolic foods of the Seder Plate come together to create an atmosphere which reflects upon, sympathizes, and celebrates the tragedy and triumphs of the Jewish ancestors and their Exodus from Egypt.

NameSymbolRepresentsWhat To Use
ZeroaThe Shank BonePesach or Passover sacrifice: Jews leaving homes in EgyptRoasted chicken neck, leg bone, or lamb shank bone
BeitzaThe EggRepresentative of mourning and tears from being unable to to stop the destruction of the Temple. It also celebrates Spring, renewal, and rejuvenation.Hard boiled eggs or haminados (eggs cooked over low-low heat for 5 -6 hours with water, onion skins, coffee grounds, tea leaves, and a splash of oil and vinegar).
MarorThe Bitter HerbsReminder of the bitter slavery and exile in EgyptGrated horseradish wrapped in lettuce leaf
ChazeretThe LettuceThe bitter enslavement of ancestorsA romaine lettuce leave
CharosetThe PasteSymbolic of the mortar used when being forced to build Egyptian storehouses.The are many variations based on finely crushed fruit, dried and fresh, red wine, and nuts. (See MHT’S Charoset recipe below).
KarpasThe VegetableAlludes to the backbreaking labor forced on ancestorsParsley which is dipped in salt water and eaten.
The Salt WaterThe tears shed by ancestors enslaved for so long1 tbsp salt in 1 cup water for dipping vegetable and egg in before eating

Passover Seder Menus

Below are three separate Passover Seder menus: Ashkenazi, Sephardic, and a “best-of” (in MHT’s opinion) combination of the two.

Askenase Sephardic Suggested Mash-up
Chopped Chicken Liver Syrian MuhammaraChopped Chicken Liver Spread
Gefilte FishIsraeli Chopped SaladIsraeli Chopped Salad
Matzoh Ball SoupFava Bean SoupMatzoh Ball Soup
Braised Brisket with FruitMoroccan Chicken with OlivesChicken with Olives, Garlic and Lemon
Sweet Potato & Carrot TzimmesSpanish Spinach with Raisins & Pine nuts Spinach with Raisins & Pine Nuts
Potato Kugel Persian RicePersian Rice
Ashkenazi Apple CharosetTurkish Date CharosetTurkish Date Charoset
Chocolate MacaroonsTurkish Tishpishti (Walnut Cake)Chocolate Macaroons

MHT’s Passover Recipes

Celebrating the Mighty Sesame Seed

The mighty sesame seed has been an integral part of many important dishes throughout the world for centuries. One of the oldest oilseed crops known, sesame seeds are thought to have been domesticated more than 3,000 years ago.

White sesame seeds, black sesame seeds, and brown sesame seeds. Roasted, crushed, and made in to oils. Sweet or savory dishes…you name it. In the Middle East, the crushed sesame seeds make the creamy tahini that used to make hummus, Israeli halvah, and Tahini sauce for falafel. Roasted sesame oil is an essential component in and over a lot of iconic dishes in Asia. In southern China, black sesame seeds are crushed with rice to make black sesame soup, a staple of dim sum. Roasted sesame seeds are also used to coat “Greek sesame seed bagels” called koulouri, and Italian and Danish bread sticks. They also blend with other seeds to make crunchy seed toppings like Egypt’s dukkah.

Explore this magnificent little seed and its many forms by cooking the dishes that have counted on it to make them famous:

A Scandinavian Christmas Eve Dinner

Scandinavians’ take their Christmases very, very seriously. Home cooks begin cooking and baking a month in advance with everything culminating in a massive feast on Christmas eve. The five Scandinavian (or Nordic) countries of Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Iceland all share a harsh climate, long winters, and strong traditions, especially around Christmas foods

My Hungry Traveler got together for Christmas in 2022 with friends and family and cooked up a Scandinavian feast. Here is a guide on how to through a Nordic feast, either for Christmas or any special occasion:

Swedish Christmas Smorgasbord (Julbord) – The typical Swedish Christmas feast includes a variety of dishes, served in a buffet known as julbord. Held on Christmas Eve, these dinners are filled with traditional Swedish dishes, including warm dishes like meatballs in cream gravy, potato-anchovy casserole, salmon, pickled herring, cheese, and cold cuts. Danish rye bread open face sandwiches (smorrebrod), and a few Finnish starters like beetroot salad, creamed salmon soup, and Karelian pies served alongside Scandinavian schnapps, Aquavit, and mulled wine called Glogg. This is the beginnings of a true Scandinavian Christmas feast.

Danish Main Course – After standing around stuffing oneself, it’s time to sit down at the table to a nice warm soup and to begin the serious eating! The two most common types of meat served at a Danish Christmas dinner are pork roast (flæskesteg) and roast duck (andesteg). Sides almost alway include sweet and sour red cabbage and caramelized potatoes. A gravy made from pan drippings and red currant jelly round out the plate.

Scandinavian Christmas Desserts – Baking is a fine art year-round in Scandinavia. But come late November, the serious Christmas baking begins. Danish and Norwegian home cooks bake at least seven different kinds of cookies — a carryover from the 19th century when the number reflected a family’s wealth and status. Scandinavians’ especially love the ritual of gathering around the living room coffee table to enjoy after-dinner coffee and a dazzling array of cookies, cakes, and rice pudding with whipped cream and cherry sauce.

Celebrating and Feeding Deceased Ancestors

In almost every culture there is a belief that the dead should be honored, be it out of respect or a fear of ghostly retribution. In some cultures, there are holidays set aside specifically to commemorate the dead, which vary from reserved veneration to a killer party. Listed below are some of the major festivals around the world. Scroll down to see the recipes for the essential dishes from four of the major festivals: Mexican (Dia de Los Muertos), the Philippines (Undas), China (Hungry Ghost Festival), and Japan (Obon Festival).

Mexico- Dia de La Muertos (Day of the Dead)

Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday that’s celebrated on the first two days of November. Its purpose is is to celebrate the lives of deceased relatives when their spirits are believed to return to this world. Although similar to Halloween and All-Saints/All-Souls days in time of year and focus on thy deceased, Dia de los Muertos’ is neither rooted in pagan or Christian beliefs. Its origins go back to an Aztec harvest celebration. While American Halloween sees spirits as as scary and something to be warded off, Day of the Dead is based on receiving the souls of dead relatives with joy and hospitality. It is not meant to be ghoulish, but rather a grand celebration of the deceased. Graves are swept and offerings (Ofrendas) of Pan de Muertos (Bread of Dead), foods the loved in life, marigold flowers, and photos of the deceased. The traditional foods of this joyous occasion always include breads and pastry, sugar skulls, and other foods the deceased favored in life.

Dia de Los Muertos Foods


China – Hungry Ghost Festival

Food has always played a big role in Chinese holidays, but during the Hungry Ghost Festival, food takes center stage. Paper money (Joss) is burned at the beginning of the month-long holiday so that the spirits have money to spend while wandering the earth. By the 15th of the month they have mostly run out of money. That’s when the Hungry Ghost Festival occurs. The festival entertains them and provides them with food, supplies, and more money. The festival not only entertains them but wards off the evil intentions of disgruntled spirits by appeasing them with gifts and their favorite foods in life. For the orphaned dead, basic foods like rice, Mantau (steamed buns), fruits (pineapple means good luck), and sweets are left outside of the house. For ancestors, a large meal of their favorites is held on the 15th, the one day they are given a day to visit their living descendants. Their favorite dishes are served and 2-3 empty place settings are set out for them. Paper lanterns are lit and floated away to guide the spirits back to the afterlife. Besides the offerings placed outside the home to appease the wandering souls, the main feast often includes the following foods:

Chinese Hungry Ghost Festival Foods


Japan – Obon

A traditional Buddhist festival, Obon commemorates lost ancestors, whose spirits are believed to come back during Obon to visit living relatives. The Obon festival is not solemn and often involves the Bon Odon dance to welcome the spirits as well asfireworks, games, and feast on traditional foods. It is also one of the few times you can find Japanese street vendors serving up popular Obon foods.

Japanese Obon Festival Foods

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