Christmas dinners around the world
From a food perspective, Christmas is not just a popular celebration here in the UK. Many countries across the world not only celebrate it but have their own unique traditions and meals for the occasion. In this blog we take a look at Christmas dinners around the world! Have a read and maybe you might feel inspired to mix up your Christmas dinner this year.
Let’s start our journey in Europe…
In Poland, Christmas Eve dinner is the most important celebration of the year. Although this meal is reserved for close family, in the Christmas spirit of hospitality to strangers, the dinner table always has one empty place in case an unexpected guest drops by!
The supper, which traditionally includes twelve dishes and desserts, can last for over two hours. During the meal, all guests should taste a bit of everything but as Poland is more than 80 per cent Catholic, the Wigilia meal is meat-free. A main course of fish, most famously carp, is meant to bring good fortune.
Let’s take a look at what the twelve courses might consist of…
- Barszcz, a beetroot soup sometimes known as red borscht, made with fermented ingredients.
- Carp, the centrepiece which is often accompanied by hot sauerkraut with dried mushrooms, a vegetable salad or potatoes.
- Herring is another classic Christmas Eve dish. The most popular recipes are herring fillets (soused, usually called matjas) in oil or with cream, sour apples or chopped onions, and they are usually served with root vegetable salad or potatoes.
- Pierogi are dumplings and are an indispensable part of the Christmas Eve supper in all parts of Poland. The Christmas version of pierogi is stuffed with cabbage, or with sauerkraut and mushrooms.
- Sernik is a simple plain vanilla styled cheesecake.
- Poppy seed cakes are eaten by Poles all year round, but the traditional Christmas poppy seed cake is a bit different. The layers of the dough should be thinner than usual and the cream thicker.
Italians have a saying: “Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con i vuoi” – Christmas with the family, Easter with who you like. The Christmas menu can vary massively from region to region, and even household to household. Although the food eaten at Christmas varies throughout Italy. The Feast of the Seven Fishes is a Christian practice that’s still observed in many homes on Christmas Eve. At least seven varieties of fish are usually eaten, with some families enjoying up to 20 different dishes. One traditional Christmas Eve dish is capitone (eel), although it’s becoming less popular.
After feasting on Christmas Eve, Christmas dinner on the 25th December begins with pasta in brodo (pasta in broth) a common starter across Italy, but particularly in the north. Guests in Northern Italy might then expect to be served lo zampone, the skin of a pig’s foot filled with spiced mincemeat pasticcio al forno (baked pasta) in central or southern regions, or a classic lasagne Bolognese in the north-east.
Italians aren’t generally big on desserts, but when it comes to Christmas, sweet breads such as panettone and pandoro are popular across the country.
Most families eat their main Christmas meal on Christmas Eve before going to a service. The traditional Spanish Christmas dinner always used to be Pavo Trufado de Navidad which is turkey stuffed with truffles. In Galicia, north-west Spain, the most popular meal for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day is seafood. This can be all kinds of different seafood, from shellfish to lobster.
Finally, eating twelve grapes at midnight on New Year’s Eve is both a tradition and a superstition in Spain. It is said that each of the twelve grapes symbolises a lucky month ahead. While the goal of getting the 12 grapes down in time can spark a contest of who is más macho around the table, the biggest challenge is more likely to be not choking as the grapes are swallowed!
Over in Germany the meat of choice tends to be duck or goose, this is then stuffed, usually with apples. The trimmings for this dish would be red cabbage, sprouts and potato dumplings. Typical German Christmas drinks include Glühwein (mulled wine) or Eggnog.
The Danes love baking throughout the year and December is no exception. In preparation for the Yule time celebrations, various sweet concoctions are baked including Pebernødder, ‘peppernuts’. The tiny cookies are served as snacks in the whole month of December, and their name comes from the white pepper included in the recipe. Kleiner is a traditional Christmas snack, a small piece of dough shaped and twisted like a small knot or diamond and then deep-fried until it is crisp and golden. Then there are Æbleskiver – spherical fried dough balls that are dipped in strawberry jam and icing sugar!
Moving away from Europe and over to the rest of the world to see some more unusual Christmas delicacies.
This country is home to some rather unusual Christmas delicacies. Firstly, whales skin, or rather ‘Mattak’ is served for dinner or the raw flesh of ‘auks’ (a type of artic bird).
For dessert they might have Christmas porridge, usually served with butter and cinnamon.
Now time to travel across Asia & Oceania to explore more Christmas dinners around the world…
Africa and the Caribbean are the next stops in our journey to experience Christmas dinners around the world…
Christmas dinners around the world can be both exciting & delicious! It’s amazing to see such a range in culture when celebrating this festive time of the year, in all corners of the globe.