Traditional Christmas Foods From Around The World

Prachi Joshi

It’s not just roast and plum cakes.

Christmas is celebrated all over the world with different traditions, and naturally the food that’s eaten during the festival varies as well. Here’s what you can expect at a Christmas feast in these ten countries.

United Kingdom

In the UK the traditional Christmas meal is usually had in the afternoon, and features roast turkey with cranberry sauce, roast potatoes, parsnips, and other vegetables. Dessert is Christmas pudding or plum pudding, which features raisins (in pre-Victorian era these were called ‘plums’) and other dried fruits, eggs, suet (beef or mutton fat), spices, and treacle.

United States

The American Christmas table borrows heavily from that of UK, and usually features roast ham or turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, and vegetables. Dessert is either a pumpkin or apple pie, or a Christmas fruitcake or pudding. All of this is washed down with eggnog or apple cider. 

France

Trust the French to come up with an opulent feast for Christmas! The table is set with oysters, foie gras, turkey stuffed with chestnuts, smoked salmon, and more. The Yule Log (bûche de Noël) is the popular dessert. Provence takes it one step further by preparing 13 types of desserts, representing Jesus and the twelve apostles.

Italy

The Italian Christmas dinner is a light meal with no meat. It is called the Feast of the Seven Fishes and consists of seven seafood dishes, such as baked cod, fried calamari, baccala (salted cod), fried fish or shrimp, fried eel etc. Panettone (sweet bread with candied fruits and raisins) is the traditional dessert.

Spain

The Spanish dry-cured ham, jamón is a staple at the Spanish Christmas dinner, though there’s roast turkey or lamb as well as seafood tapas. Turron, (sticky nougat, which may be hard or soft), is the essential Christmas sweet, as well as two varieties of crumb cakes, called polvorones and mantecados.

Germany

Germany is known for its festive Christmas markets filled with the scent of gluhwein (mulled wine), frying bratwurst, roasting chestnuts, and of course the ubiquitous lebkuchen (soft gingerbread). Roast goose is the most popular centrepiece at Christmas dinners. The traditional Christmas cake is the stollen – fruit bread with candied and dried fruits, nuts, and spices.

Nordic countries

The Nordic countries of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden share culinary traditions, and a Christmas smorgasbord is common; it includes homemade breads, pickled herrings and cucumbers, potato dishes (gratin or casserole), assorted cheese, and the Christmas ham with mustard, all washed down with glogg (mulled wine) or Julebryg (Christmas beer).

Australia

Christmas is summertime in Australia, so there are a lot of cold cuts and salads on offer, and picnics and barbeques (especially with shrimp) are very popular. A roast chicken, ham or turkey is a staple at the Australian Christmas table. Desserts could include the traditional Christmas pudding or the Aussie favourite of pavlova.

Japan

Don’t be surprised if you’re eating KFC fried chicken for Christmas in Japan! A clever marketing campaign by KFC in the 1970s made the Japanese associate Christmas with buckets of fried chicken. The Japanese Christmas cake is also slightly different – a sponge cake frosted with whipped cream and topped with strawberries.

Mexico

Mexicans typically have a large family dinner on Noche Buena (Christmas Eve). This includes the festive Ensalada de Noche Buena salad (with lettuce, beets, fruits, and nuts), tamales (cornmeal dumplings), bacalao (dried, salted codfish), and pavo (roast turkey). A hot fruit punch called Ponche Navideño made with Mexican hawthorn is a popular Christmas drink.