Technical Platform on the Measurement and Reduction of Food Loss and Waste

Country traditions | Fresh fruit in warm climates and traditional cakes in cool climates to celebrate the holiday season.

©FAO/Viktor Sokolowicz


It is the time of the year again when families and friends get together and celebrate the holiday season. A time to give thanks and share with one another. A time for traditional festivities and joyful celebrations. As we approach the end of the year, we look forward to the new year ahead as well, with all our best hopes and aspirations.

Countries and cultures have different ways of saying goodbye to the old year and welcoming the new year with a bang! People around the world light fireworks and make loud noises at the stroke of midnight, hoping it drives away evil spirits. We open our doors and wear polka dots to attract good fortune but most importantly we want to be with loved ones during the first minutes of the new year and hope to be happy throughout the rest of the year.

Days before the New Year celebration, excitement builds up in many homes in the Philippines and people flock the markets to look for fruits to complete the round fruit basket. No bananas this time!  Only round fruit! Some not-so-round fruit might also make it into the basket. Welcoming the new year with a basket full of round fruit has been a Filipino tradition for centuries. Round fruit symbolize money and are believed to bring prosperity into the home – one fruit for each month of the year – so, better prepare twelve or more round fruit of different types.

During festive celebrations, the short duration of seasonal demand for round fruit creates temporary oversupply, often resulting in high levels of food waste in retail markets due to their inability to manage surplus fruit. Quite often even immature round fruit are harvested to meet market demand. In most cases, these will never ripen and will undergo spoilage over time, contributing further to the quantity of food waste. Meanwhile, at the household level, the custom leads to more food purchased than needed, displayed fruit are then forgotten, spoil and are disposed of in the garbage bin following the celebrations and end up in landfills.

Photo credit @FAO/Pier Paolo Cito

In the northern hemisphere, the holiday season is observed in the wintertime – a period of cold weather and scarce fresh produce. In Italy, a traditional cake, the Panettone is prepared using ingredients such as nuts and dried fruits that were preserved during the previous harvest season. The cake is prepared prior to the holidays and is enjoyed by grown-ups and children alike throughout the holiday season.

The Panettone is a good example of how surplus food from a bountiful season is used and consumed during times of scarcity, such as the winter months. Originally invented in Milan, Panettone is now consumed globally and truly adds to the warm atmosphere of the holiday season.

Family households receive Panettone from friends and relatives as a gesture of joy and abundance. These are often consumed over an extended period, well beyond the end of the holiday season. Constant reinvention of the Panettone through the development of new recipes, has resulted in diversification of the product with new flavours. This new wave of Panettone innovation gives families the joy of creating their own special version of a delicious Panettone.

Food is more than just sustenance. It is an expression of social identity, heritage, and tradition that brings people together. However, amidst the celebrations and indulgence, often becoming over-indulgence, during the holiday season there is a downside that is often overlooked - the needless generation of food loss and waste.

Planning, careful shopping, and smart practices at home are crucial at the consumer level to reduce food waste during the holidays and festive celebrations. Leftover food can be used in the preparation of innovative tasty dishes. And consideration might be given to maximising the use of round fruits by preparing healthy and delicious fruit shakes or even fruit preserves. Food scraps and unavoidable food waste can be composted and used to improve the quality of the soil in flowerpots or home gardens, keeping them out of garbage bins and from ending up in landfills and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

By making smart choices in the way we prepare and utilize our food, we can contribute to reducing food waste, save money, and contribute to generating environmental benefits. Let’s celebrate our traditions and be mindful of our actions when we buy, prepare, serve, and eat food during the festive season and joyous occasions.

Happy Holidays!

More on this topic

Simple tips on how to reduce food waste in the household can be found here.

Discover more ideas from conversations between FAO’s National Goodwill Ambassador for Ireland, Diarmuid Gavin and two famous chefs: Conor Spacey and Rodrigo Pacheco.

See highlights of the fourth observance of the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste (IDAFLW) held in September 2023.