For many people, sharing a traditional feast with loved ones is the best part of Christmas. But have you ever wondered what the rest of the world is cooking up to celebrate the holiday season? From the sumptuous spreads of Sweden and Germany to the summer Christmas feasts ‘Down Under’, we’ll take you around the world to get a taste of some of the most popular Christmas foods.
Christmas fried chicken (Japan)
In Japan, Christmas time is the season for KFC. The tradition started in the 1970s after Japan’s first KFC opened and held a Christmas ‘party barrel’. Japan didn’t have many Christmas traditions at the time, and this one caught on quickly and became incredibly popular.
Since then, many Japanese families enjoy a meal of fried chicken at Christmas, and they often place orders with the restaurant up to two months in advance.
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Pavlova (Australia & New Zealand)
Traditional Christmas foods around the world are often warm, hearty feasts. But in Australia and New Zealand, Christmas falls in the hot summer which makes for a different Yuletide meal. Many Australians and New Zealanders enjoy a barbecue, salads and seafood (grilled prawns are a favourite).
Some families still like to feast on a traditional British Christmas meal, with roast ham or turkey, mince pies and Christmas pudding. Other popular desserts include pavlova (a meringue-based treat), trifle and White Christmas, made with coconut, dried fruit and rice bubbles cereal.
Did you know?
A choirmaster invented Christmas candy canes in 1670 in Germany. He wanted to keep children silent during the church’s Living Crèche ceremony. The candy canes were shaped like a shepherd’s crook (the stripes came later) and today millions of candy canes are sold at Christmas.”
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Germany is known for its popular Christmas food, including stollen, a fruit cake filled with marzipan and dried fruit. This classic cake dates back to the 15th century when it was given as a Christmas gift.
The weihnachtsgans, or Christmas goose, is another important Christmas tradition in Germany. They stuff the goose with apples, prunes, chestnuts and onions and spice with marjoram and mugwort. This tradition dates back to the Middle Ages, with the oldest known recipe originating from a cookbook published in 1350.
Christmas is a very important holiday in Greece, with plenty of delicious traditional Christmas food. The most popular main meals include avgolemono (a chicken and rice soup with egg yolk and lemon), and roast lamb or pork.
Dessert follows with baklava, a sweet pastry dish with cinnamon, chopped nuts and sweet honey or syrup. You’ll also find melomakarona, a beloved ‘Christmas cookie’ made from cloves, cinnamon and orange zest soaked in honey, and sprinkled with walnuts. Some people fast in the lead up to Christmas for religious reasons, making that first bite even more special.
Tamales (Costa Rica)
Tamales are a beloved Costa Rican food, traditionally made for Christmas. Each family has their own special recipe, but they’re usually made with a corn dough wrapped in a corn husk or banana leaf, then steamed. They stuff tamales with ingredients like pork, beef, chicken, carrots, potatoes, raisins, rice, garlic and onion.
You can find similar versions of tamales across Latin America, including hallacas in Venezuela and chuchitos in Guatemela. Costa Ricans also love to eat El Queque Navideño, a Christmas cake made with rum and candied fruit and drink rompope, a homemade eggnog.
The Swedish serve up a huge feast called julbord on Christmas Eve. You’ll find a decadent buffet of cold meats, salmon, herring, janssons frestelse (potato casserole), red beet salad, liver pâté, cheese, pickles and more. The star is the julsinka, a Swedish Christmas ham.
Dessert is just as delectable, with rice pudding and saffron buns. This sweet, buttery treat is traditionally served to the family by the eldest daughter.
Did you know?
Swedes consume the most candy out of any country in the world, averaging almost 16kg per person per year.
In Russia, most people celebrate Christmas on 7 January. Many others fast in the lead up to Christmas Eve and will eat when the first star has appeared in the sky. They traditionally break the fast with sochivo, a wheat or rice porridge served with fruit, honey, nuts and seeds.
They throw a spoonful of porridge onto the ceiling and if it sticks, it symbolises good luck for the family. Other traditional Christmas foods in Russia include Russian king cake, a three-layered dessert, and Russian tea cakes, a pastry mixed with butter and powdered sugar
Three Kings Cake (Mexico)
In Mexico, families traditionally gather to eat a meal of tamales, pozoles, bacalao and buñuelos on Christmas Eve. But on 6 January, they celebrate ‘El Dia de los Reyes’ meaning the Day of the Three Kings.
This is the peak of Christmas and families eat a special cake called Three Kings Cake or Twelfth Night Cake (Rosca de Reyes). The cake has a figure of the Baby Jesus hidden inside and whoever finds it becomes the ‘Godparent’ of Jesus that year.
Traditional Christmas foods vary throughout Italy, however panettone is one of the most popular desserts across the country. This sweet bread, filled with chocolate, raisins, candied fruit and nuts, weighs around 1kg. It’s placed on the table for the whole family to tear and share throughout the celebrations.
In Southern Italy, the traditional meal is the Feast of the Seven Fishes. Families eat seven seafood dishes (symbolic of the number seven in the bible), like fried calamari and shrimp, baked cod, baccala (salted cod), octopus salad, shrimp cocktail and linguine with clam or lobster.
How many of these popular Christmas foods have you tried? Let us know in the comments below…