Many countries celebrate Christmas with special foods and desserts, as well as traditions and rituals that have been passed down through generations.
In Israel, Christmas is celebrated differently from how it’s celebrated in the United States. All in all, the Isreal Christmas foods cannot be sidelined.
Many traditions are borrowed from other religions in the region and are unique, like Israel Christmas foods and beverages served during this holiday season.
Here’s a list of Israel Christmas foods and drinks so you can experience some of these new flavors during your next holiday celebration!
Israel Christmas Foods
Kugel is the first on the list of Israel Christmas foods. Kugel is one of the most popular Christmas foods in Israel. Kugel is a type of pudding or cake, typically made from eggs, flour, and sugar, with raisins, sometimes added.
The word kugel means round in Yiddish. There are many kinds of kugels, including sweet noodle puddings and savory egg-based casseroles.
A popular dish at Hanukkah is called Kugel, also known as Jewish Penicillin. It comprises noodles, eggs, and plenty of cheese baked together in an oven until it becomes brown on top.
Many people enjoy eating this dish for breakfast on Saturdays because it contains no milk and therefore no kosher violation that might occur if milk were to touch meat products such as bacon which would be served at breakfast time on Saturdays.
Rugelach, the cookie of choice for many a Jewish New Year, is also on the menu for Israel Christmas foods. In fact, two types of rugelach are eaten during the holiday season: one with poppy seeds and one without.
Both versions have cinnamon sugar as a topping. The version without poppy seeds is made using bread dough, and it is rolled into a rectangle before being cut into triangular pieces.
The triangular pieces are then placed on top of each other and rolled up to form a log shape, sliced into cookies.
The second type of rugelach is made using cream cheese dough. And it, too, is cut into triangles before being stacked on top of each other to form a log shape like its bread-based counterpart.
Bourekas is the most popular food eaten during the holidays. Bourekas are similar to croissants but stuffed with meat (usually beef) and cheese. The dough is very buttery, which makes it crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.
On average, there are about ten bourekas in one package, and they come in two different sizes- small and large. A small one costs around three shekels, while a larger one costs four or five.
Cholent is a traditional Jewish dish originating from Eastern Europe. It is usually made of meat, beans, and barley, which are boiled together for many hours and then allowed to slow cook overnight. The result is a hearty stew with a thick consistency.
Cholent has been eaten for centuries by Jews who did not have access to ovens or other cooking facilities on the Sabbath.
So it was always cooked before sunset on Friday and left to cook overnight without any attention during Shabbat while the family rested by Jewish law.
Today, cholent is eaten all year round as a hearty meal that can be served anytime or at night.
5. Schmaltz Herring
Schmaltz herring is a traditional dish served during the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. The dish is made with salt-cured, smoked fish that is rubbed with sugar before being boiled in water.
So the cooked fish is then combined with butter, onions, and applesauce to make the sauce for the dish. In order to get this traditional Isreali dish on your table, you’ll need to purchase schmaltz herring from your local market or grocery store.
Hamantaschen is next on the list of Israel Christmas foods. Hamantaschen are a traditional Jewish pastry that is popular during Purim.
Originally triangular-shaped and filled with poppy seeds, they come in many shapes and flavors.
They are also popular during Chanukah because the dough’s shape is supposed to remind us of the flames from the menorah. Hamantaschen are traditionally eaten on Purim as a dessert or after-dinner treat.
Matzah is one of the most important Israel Christmas foods of the holiday season. It is the bread eaten in remembrance of their liberation from slavery in Egypt and is traditionally served with a sweet syrup called honey.
What many people don’t know, however, is that there are many varieties of matzah; some are sweeter than others. Some are flatter than others.
Some are also thicker than others. All of these differences come down to what type of flour or other ingredients were used to make it and how long it takes to bake it.
The egg and oil-soaked bread, Challah, is an important part of the Jewish observance of Passover. But during the weeks leading up to Hanukkah, it becomes a staple in nearly every Israeli home.
The Jewish Festival of Light begins on the 25th day of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar and lasts for eight days. It falls at about the same time each year as Christmas for those who follow a Western calendar.
So, that’s why challah is often served at both holiday meals. In addition to its festive nature, challah has made it onto many Israelis’ lists of favorite foods because it tastes so darn good!
9. Potato Latkes
Potato latkes are a traditional food that is served during the Jewish holiday Hanukkah. Eastern European Jews also eat latkes as a traditional Shabbat dish.
Potato latkes typically consist of grated potatoes fried in oil or fat and then salted. They may also be made with onion, carrots, applesauce, matzo meal, and seasonings such as pepper or garlic powder.
One popular variation is the apple-potato pancake known as apple latke. It can be served with sour cream or applesauce.
10. Smoked Salmon Bagels
Smoked salmon is one of the top Israel Christmas foods for the holidays. It can be eaten with various things, from cream cheese to egg salad, or just on its own.
The best part about smoked salmon is that there are so many ways to enjoy it, which makes it perfect for any party or get-together this winter season.
When I think about what I want on my bagel this Christmas, smoked salmon is definitely high on my list!
11. Gefilte Fish
Gefilte fish is one of the most popular Israel Christmas foods people eat this season. The dish is usually served with horseradish, chopped onion, and sour cream.
It originated in Eastern Europe as a way to use up leftover fish from the Sabbath meal. Gefilte fish was brought over to Israel by Jewish immigrants from Russia and Poland.
In addition to being traditional for Rosh Hashanah and Passover, this dish is now enjoyed as a staple for Pesach/Passover, Hanukkah, and Purim.
12. Chicken Soup
Chicken soup is a traditional Jewish dish and a staple of the holiday. It is often served on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and at other times throughout the year.
The dish is made by boiling a whole chicken in water with onion, celery, and carrots for about two hours until it falls off the bone.
The broth is then strained and simmered with salt, pepper, and lemon juice until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Jachnun is a traditional Israel Christmas food that is eaten during the eight days of Hanukkah. The dough, enriched with plenty of butter and oil, must be stretched into long strands before being fried.
When it comes out of the frying pan, it is cut up into small pieces and then sprinkled with sesame seeds and sugar. The result is a crispy, sweet treat that will keep you going through those cold winter nights!
Christmas Traditions in Israel
A long-standing custom or behavior that is passed down orally from one generation to the next is referred to as a tradition. A nation’s culture and heritage include its traditions and customs.
The following details some quick, fascinating details concerning customs and Christmas customs in Israel:
- Most people in Israel do not celebrate Christmas because it is a Jewish country. Instead, the Jewish community observes Hanukkah.
- Some small Christian communities celebrate Christmas, particularly in Bethlehem and Nazareth. To commemorate this crucial occasion in the Christian religion, many people come to Israel. Numerous stores offer Christmas decorations and gifts to travelers.
- There are unique celebrations in Bethlehem, where the child Jesus was born. Flags and other decorations are flown over the Church of the Nativity every Christmas.
- It is thought that the Church of the Nativity was constructed on the spot of Jesus’ birth. A set of steep stairs leads to a grotto where visitors can find a silver star designating the location of Jesus’ birth. At this auspicious time, there is a large procession and fireworks display in Bethlehem.
Christmas in Israel is the most festive season of the year. This is with holiday decorations and lights adorning the streets, music being played at every corner, and delicious food to be shared with friends and family. Above, you’ll find a list of Israel Christmas foods you must try this December!