Christmas is the grand festival celebrated globally. But, the tradition of celebrating Christmas varies from country to country to country. Just like the tradition of gifts, Christmas food tradition is also different around the world. Here, in the USA, the traditional Christmas feast consists of a turkey or a roast, a glass of eggnog, and festive cookies. But this tradition will be quite different when you step outside the United States.
If you want to try something different this holiday season, BBC Food brings you numerous traditional Christmas food recipes and menus you can try.
And, in dessert, try holiday dessert recipes collected from top chefs across the United States.
Before that, have a look at the popular Christmas food tradition around the world.
Italy has many regional traditions regarding the Christmas feast. If you are an Italian-American, you must be familiar with the Feast of Seven Fishes. The tradition, though it came from Southern Italy, became popular among the Italian-American households. The feast consists of seven fishes, a symbolic number, which is the most repeated number in the bible.
Sweden, celebrate Christmas dinner Smorgasbord-style, which is called Julbord. This traditional feast is supposed to be reminiscent of the celebration that follows a fasting period from the commencement of advent until midnight on Christmas Eve. The feast consists of pickled herring, cured salmon, meatballs, and traditional items like bread, liver pate, red beet salad, cheese, and cabbage.
Japan usually didn’t have any Christmas tradition until 1970, when the first KFC opened in Japan. Interestingly, about 3.6 million Japanese love to consume KFC fried chicken on Christmas Eve. Even they need to reserve their place up to two months in advance.
Christmas dinner in France is a grand affair. The main dish includes roasted meat—capon, turkey, guinea fowl, or pheasant—especially stuffed with chestnuts. But the biggest treat of the night is Buche de Noel, the French version of Yule log. This rich cake is often decorated with meringue mushrooms and prepared in Chestnut flavor.
The crucial Christmas tradition in Germany is Weihnachtsgans or ‘Christmas Goose.’ There is a debate on the origin of the tradition. Some say it was an English tradition, while others say it’s originated from a tradition of fasting. Medieval Christians would like to fast between St. Martin’s day and Christmas, and their dinner after used to be a goose. The goose is roasted and is served with German foods like Spaetzle, Knodel, and red cabbage. And, for dessert, there is Lebkuchen, a soft gingerbread cookie.
One of the famous British Christmas traditions is the Mincepie. According to BBC, the tradition has its origin in the 13th century, when Knights came from the crusades with new spices like nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon. These were made into a big pie with a dried fruit mixture known as ‘Mincemeat’ and named ‘Christmas Pie.’ Christmas pudding is another Christmas tradition made with raisins, nuts, and cherries.
Christmas feast is a grand tradition in Greece, and the religious people of Greece usually fast before the feast to make it extra grand. Their traditional feast includes avgolemono, a chicken and rice soup with an egg yolk and lemon base, taken as a first meal of the day; followed by pork, stuffed cabbage, Christopsomo (Christ’s bread), and Baklava. For dessert, they bake Melomakarona, also known as ‘Christmas Cookie.’ The cookie is made with cinnamon, cloves, and orange, dipped in a light syrup, and garnished with shredded nuts.
Roast suckling pig is the main dish of Christmas feast in Peru. The feast also includes apple sauce, tamales, potato puree, and rice dishes. The popular sweet dish Paneton, which had its origin in Italy, is a sweet bread loaf made with raisin and candied fruits. The dish is paired with another popular Peruvian Christmas tradition—spiced hot chocolate.
Christmas in Australia is quite different from other parts of the world because it’s summer during Christmas in Australia. So, barbeques, grilling, and sitting outside around a cozy fire with a roast is common during the holiday. Australian Christmas feast includes ham as a main dish, and grilled seafood, especially shrimp on the barbeque. Another popular traditional dish is White Christmas, a sweet dessert like Torrone, made of desiccated coconut, dried fruit, and breakfast cereal. Christmas pudding and Mince pies are also popular in Australia.
It’s a tradition in Mexico to eat late at night with family on Christmas Eve. The meal includes tamales, bacalao (dried salt cod), pozole (a soup made of pork or chicken with garlic and chile), and bunuelos (fried dough with sugar). On January 6th, they celebrate El Dia de Los Reyes, the height of the Christmas season, also known as The Three Kings’ day. On the day, families enjoy a special cake called Three Kings cake or Twelfth Night cake. There is a figure of baby Jesus hidden in the cake, and whoever finds it became the godparent of Jesus that year.
Christmas feast in Spain Includes a very long dinner consisting of dishes made from traditional family recipes. They start their meal with various tapas, then move on to seafood soup as the first course. The second course includes fish and lamb. Dessert options are boundless, but Terron, a kind of nougat, is their tradition. The dessert is usually made of honey, sugar, egg whites, and almonds.