One of the elements that best characterizes any culture is its gastronomy. The foods express the customs of the peoples, as well as the natural features of the environment in which they develop. We Venezuelans claim the arepa as a national symbol and the hallaca, although there are versions of this dish throughout Latin America, is the emblem of our Christmas.
The center of the December festivities is at the table and Venezuelans from all regions identify with a typical Christmas dish, which is generally made up of hallaca, ham bread and chicken salad. But variations can be found depending on the region and the customs of each home. For example, in many cases pork leg is added to the described dish. There are families that eat hallacas both on December 24 and 31, but this is not necessarily the case in all cases. There are those who prepare the pork only for New Year's dinner and there are those who eat it only on Christmas Eve. The traditional black roast substitutes for pork leg on a few occasions. Also in many cases the same dish is repeated on both dates.
A very European tradition is to eat lentils at New Year's dinner, as a prosperity ritual. There are those who instead include a chicken or fish broth on the menu.
"The hallacas are the masterpiece of Venezuelan cuisine, and constitute the coat of arms of a cook or a housewife," wrote the philologist Ángel Rosenblat. Certainly, they are the stars of the season. However, other preparations are also highly coveted by us as soon as December approaches, such as ham bread, a genuine creation of Caracas at the beginning of the XNUMXth century. These dishes could easily be prepared at any time of the year, but their stellar moment is invariably during the Christmas celebrations.
The same goes for alcoholic beverages. Although the most popular thing in Venezuela is beer, as we demonstrated in a previous job of Data ÚNWhen Christmas arrives, purchases of wines and sparkling wines increase. But without a doubt, another protagonist of the December traditions arises here: the cream punch. Whether it's the famous commercial brand or prepared with one of the various homemade recipes, this sweet drink steals the show every December.
We decided to make a digital polling Join our audience to obtain an overview, a photograph of the proportions of the different traditional elements present on the Venezuelan Christmas table. We asked the participants which dishes are always present at Christmas Eve and New Year's dinners, in order to determine the order of the most frequent.
Between Friday the 9th and Thursday the 15th of December 2.036 people participated and the results are as follows:
The survey brought no surprises. The vast majority of homes include all the elements of the Christmas plate. Our survey consisted of people selecting several boxes from a list of options and thus we were able to measure the frequency with which each of the dishes is present. Let's go first with the answers about Christmas dinner:
Of course the hallaca is the main character of this story. 93,7% of the participants said that they eat hallaca on Christmas Eve at home. That means that there was a rare 6,3% who denied it. In second place is ham bread, present in 89,4% of cases, and in third position we have chicken or chicken salad, with 88,1%. We can say, then, that in almost nine out of ten homes these three elements are present on the Christmas plate.
In fourth place, and with some distance points, we have the ham. 73% of those who answered our survey said that their Christmas dinner includes roast pork leg. These four elements, hallaca, ham bread, salad and pork, are what we traditionally find in the description of a Venezuelan Christmas dish and, according to our data, it can be found complete in at least seven out of ten Christmas Eve tables.
Then come the sweets. In fifth place was milky sweet. Half of our sample (49,9%) said that this delicacy can be found at home in December. 40,1% stated that they eat black cake and 35% consume panettone.
It is striking that the traditional Christmas buns are present only in 27,4% of the cases.
We can also highlight that the houses where black roast is served for Christmas, normally in substitution of the leg, add up to a little less than a quarter, that is, 24,5%. We include turkey among our options because we have seen that some people claim to eat it in December, although this custom is much more frequent in other cultures, such as the American one, for example. Here this practice reaches only 7,8%.
Shall we repeat the 31st?
A notable aspect of the results of our survey was that when we asked about the items that are present in the New Year's dinner, we obtained that the list of frequencies, from highest to lowest, was exactly repeated in the first eight items in relation to Christmas Eve dinner, with slight variations in the percentages. The hallacas reached 85,8% of the cases, a decrease of eight points with respect to the Christmas dinner. Ham bread reached 78,8%, showing a drop of more than ten percent. Chicken salad was found in 77,1% of the cases, down 11%. The ham, on the other hand, dropped only three and a half points to settle at 69,4%. The milky sweet fell 4,6 points to 45,3%, the black cake dropped 4,2 points to 35,9% and the panettone fell 4,9 points to 35,1%.
Christmas buns are present at New Year's dinner for 25,9% of the population, showing a drop of only 1,4 points in relation to Christmas night.
The items that increased their frequency for New Year compared to Christmas Eve were: lentils, with 25,4% compared to 22,4%; boiled chicken or chicken with 12,1% compared to 10%; and turkey with 8,3% compared to 7,8%.
The unbeatable punch
We now turn to the drinks. Our survey found that the type of drink that is most consumed during the Christmas festivities is soft drinks, that is, carbonated drinks. They are present in 73,3% of homes. It is logical because they are drinks consumed by both children and adults and they are very popular to accompany meals. But then come the alcoholic beverages. As we mentioned above, on another occasion we did a survey on the alcoholic beverages most consumed by Venezuelans. The champion there was the beer. However, when it comes to Christmas there is an undisputed monarch: the cream punch.
59,9% of our participants said that they drink cream punch at home during the December holidays. Beer, of course, is the drink that followed, with 49,3%. Sangria and wine were not far behind, with 36,7% and 35,9% attendance at the celebrations, respectively. Then come rum with 34,2% and whiskey with 33,3%.
Juices, another option for the whole family, are in 27,8% of cases and sparkling drinks (champagne, etc.) reach 27,2% of homes. The rest of the options appear with a small proportion: vodka 5,1%, aniseed 4,6%, cocuy 3,7%, miche 2,6% and cana clara 2,5%.
This is how, with the data in hand, we can firmly affirm that the Venezuelan Christmas dish is a firmly rooted custom in the vast majority of homes. The variations are few, so this December tradition could be considered as a unifying element of Venezuelanness.