Christmas dinners around the world

Christmas-dinners around-the-world-christmas-dinner-with-turkey-roast-portatoes-vegetables-and-gravy

Overview

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…

Poland

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…

Christmas-dinners around-the-world-cranberry-sauce-stuffing-and-cake
  • Barszcza 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.
 

Desserts

  • 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.

Italy

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.

Christmas-dinners around-the-world-cooked-fish-with-pasta-and-side-dishes

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.

Spain

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.

christmas-dessert-almond-sweets-and-cranberries

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!

Germany

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.

Christmas-dinners around-the-world-traditional-mulled-wine-and-cinnamon
Bratapfel is the traditional dessert served at this time of year, made from apples stuffed with nuts and marzipan. However, alternative creamy deserts such as trifles and compotes are also popular.

Denmark

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!

traditional-christmas-danish-pastry
When it gets to the main event, Christmas Eve is celebrated with a buffet of pickled herring, liver pate, tartelettes with white asparagus and chicken in white sauce, and rye bread, along with heavier dishes of duck, goose, turkey or pork belly, along with kale, a salad of pickled red cabbage, caramelised potatoes, boiled potatoes and a thick meat gravy. To wash everything down, Danes drink schnapps and Christmas dark pilsner beer. Dessert is traditionally Risalamande – a rice pudding with cream, vanilla and almonds served with a cherry sauce. The person who finds the whole almond gets a present called a Mandelgave (almond present). Traditionally the little present was a marzipan pig.

Moving away from Europe and over to the rest of the world to see some more unusual Christmas delicacies. 

Greenland

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.

traditional-greenland-christmas-dessert

Now time to travel across Asia & Oceania to explore more Christmas dinners around the world…

Philippines

Most Filipinos are Christians with about 80% of people being Catholics. Because of this, Christmas is the most important holiday in the Philippines. On Christmas eve, the Noche Buena, is a big, open house, celebration with family, friends and neighbours dropping by.
Christmas-dinners around-the-world-in-philippines-chicken-with-rice
Most households have several dishes laid out including lechon (roasted pig), ham, fruit salad, steamed rice and rice cakes known as bibingka and puto bumbong.

Japan

The extent of the spread of western cultures can be understood by looking at what the Japanese choose to eat for their Christmas dinner.
christmas-traditional-japanese-kfc

KFC, the American fast-food chain is the chosen cuisine of choice, in particular the bucket of fried chicken. This tradition is fairly new having first been said to take place in 1974. Who knew that Colonel Sanders would become the face of Japanese christmas dinner!

India

In line with their culture, Indians often eat a curry for their Christmas dinner. In particular, a curry called Sorpotel (made from offal), or duck curry. Alternatively sliced beef tongue is another delicacy served on occasions such as Christmas.
traditional-indian-christmas-rose-cookies
Dessert might include rose cookies, traditional Christmas cake or even plum pudding!

New Zealand

In New Zealand, following suit with their reputation for BBQs, you will often find barbequed lamb on offer for their Christmas dinner. This is accompanied with vegetables, potatoes, and stuffing.
new-zealand-christmas-dinner-lamb-roast

Africa and the Caribbean are the next stops in our journey to experience Christmas dinners around the world…

Kenya

Kenya, the big Christmas meal is called ‘nyama choma’. Nyama choma is Kenya’s unofficial national dish, meaning barbecued meat in the Swahili language. The meat is usually roasted goat or beef, served throughout the country, from roadside shacks to fine restaurants. It is often paired with local beer and side dishes such as ugali, or cornmeal.
kenyan-christmas-dinner-chicken-and-potatoes
People often make their own beer to drink, and different tribes also have special dishes they make. If you live in a city, you might have a western Christmas Cake, but these aren’t very common in rural areas.

Jamaica

Curried goat is the centrepiece dish at Christmas for Jamaicans, served with rice and peas and washed down with an egg punch! They are also very good with avoiding food waste, using all the goat at some point to create soup, which they call mannish water.
kenya-christmas-dinner-goat-curry-with-rice
Finally, we end our travels in the Middle East where only a few countries celebrate Christmas.

Lebanon

Kebbeh pie is a feature of a traditional Lebanese Christmas dinner, accompanied with nutty rice and traditional Lebanese sides such as hummus, tahini and lamb rotis. Buche de noel is often served as a pudding, a traditional French dessert based on rice flour and anise.
traditional-lebanese-christmas-dinner-kebbeh-pie

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.

United Kingdom

The traditional roast dinner is the most common and might I add delicious Christmas dinner dish served in the UK over the festive period. Whether that includes roast Turkey, roast beef or a vegan alternative, it is equally amazing and I think a majority of the population would agree…

UK Christmas Dinner

Other Christmas foods consumed by the nation, whether as dessert or a snack include mince pies & Christmas pudding. Yule log is also a popular choice, especially with the younger generations, compared with older generations enjoying the traditional Christmas pudding more…

In 2018 only 35% of 35-54 year olds were set to eat one, compared to 56% in 2022, a massive increase within just four years!

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