Washington's Coptic Christians don't find it hard to stock up on holiday provisions: They celebrate Christmas with a 40-day fast. Some Copts, most of whom come to the area from Egypt, eat no food during the day; others cut out all meat and dairy products.
"You eat a lot of french fries," said Michael Meunier, an information technology specialist in Fairfax County who was born in Egypt. "At night, you can have a little wine. At least, I do."
At the end comes a massive feast in the wee hours after midnight mass Jan. 7, the traditional Coptic Christmas.
"It may be 3 a.m., but it's the biggest meal you want to see," said Meunier. "You can't wait for the next day."
Copts celebrate on Dec. 25th as well, Meunier said. On both Christmas Eves, his church, St. Mark Coptic Orthodox in Fairfax, Va., will hold mass in English, Arabic and Coptic. On both mornings, kids open presents.
"We tell our children, 'You are lucky. You get two Christmases,' " Meunier said. "The tree stays up and the gifts come back."
Cecilia Browning's children get no presents until they've eaten at least a bite of lutefisk, the gelatinous, pungent, lye-soaked whitefish that has come to mean Christmas to Swedes around the world. (Norwegians spell it lutefisk; Danes spell it ludfisk.)
Browning, who runs the House of Sweden cultural center in Washington's Georgetown area, orders her fish online. But there are abundant local shopping options for Swedish expats; Ikea sometimes carries Christmas hams. And Klaradal shop in Olney, Md. does a brisk December business in vanilla sugar, Marabou mork choklad and the spices for glögg, the Scandinavian winter drink of mulled wine and brandy.