Christmas dinner traditions from around the world
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated.
Ever tire of the usual roast turkey with all the trimmings? According to a YouGov poll, 10 million turkeys are consumed on Christmas Day in the U.K.
It is said that the tradition of eating turkey began after Henry VIII started scoffing it at Christmas and it was also made popular by being referenced by Charles Dickens in his book “A Christmas Carol.”
However, turkey isn’t the food of choice for everyone — various countries have different culinary traditions from a bucket of fried chicken to salted cod to curried goat. Below, we show you different traditions around the globe.
Swedes tend to celebrate similarly to other Nordic countries. The menu will be smörgåsbord-style, with a julbord — or buffet. Typical dishes include pickled herring, cold cuts of different meats, sausage and meatballs, red beet salad, cheese and cabbage.
Usually, Christmas dinner (Wiglia) is a meat-free affair and happens on Christmas Eve. People break wafers with one another before tucking into dishes such as red beetroot borscht, dumplings, cabbage rolls, carp, herring, pierogi and braised sauerkraut. For dessert, there is usually gingerbread, poppyseed cake and dried fruit.
Japan doesn’t have a traditional Christmas by any means. In 1970, the first KFC fast-food chain opened in Nagoya where the owner sold a “‘party barrel,” which was similar to the traditional Christmas turkey dinner. This proved so popular that now orders have to be made two months in advance.
Venezuelans have a tradition of serving hallaca, which takes a long time to prepare. It’s a meat dish that typically includes pork and chicken with raisins, olives, capers, onions and chili folded together in corn dough and wrapped in a banana leaf.
Medieval tradition saw Germans fasting between St Martin’s Day on November 11 and Christmas, breaking their fast with goose — leading to it being the traditional bird on Christmas Day. Goose is usually served with späzle (a type of pasta), knödel (dumplings) and red cabbage. Gingerbread cookies called lebkuchen are usually on offer for dessert.
Christmas dinner there consists of curried goat, stewed oxtail, fruits, meat and punch, which is all prepared the night before. Dessert can be rum cake with brandy custard.
The French have a similar dinner to the U.K. but also a traditional dessert called La Bûche de Noël, which is a version of the Yule Log. It looks like a real log and is made from sponge cake and chocolate buttercream.
Brazilians have a feast on Christmas Eve, which continues into the early hours of Christmas Day. Bacalhau (salted cod) is usually served alongside a roasted chicken with dishes of palm heart stew and cassava salad.
Italy is divided when it comes to traditions. Southern Italians and Italian-Americans have what is known as the “Feast of the Seven Fishes”. This is seven different fish dishes served in soups, pasta, starters and mains. Meanwhile, those from the Piedmont region near Switzerland celebrate with pasta filled with meat, known as agnolotti while Romans have a fish-based soup known as minestra di pesce. A common tradition shared throughout the whole of Italy is panettone — a sweet bread with sultana, raisins, candied peel and other dried fruits.
Traditional Christmas meals in Spain consists of various tapas dishes, which include a seafood soup before the main course of fish and lamb. Turrón, a nougat mix of honey, sugar, egg whites and almonds, is a tradition for dessert.
Roast suckling pig is traditional in Puerto Rican households, which is slow-cooked and served with a coconut rice pudding called tembelque, meat pastries called pasteles and coquito, which is similar to eggnog with a coconut taste.
Like Puerto Rico and many other South American countries, roast suckling pig is a big part of the Christmas feast. Peruvians also include panetón, similar to the Italian bread and a spiced hot chocolate made with cloves and cinnamon, which is enjoyed at chocolatadas, an event where family and friends gather to drink hot chocolate.
Christmas dinner is known as Noche Buena in the Philippines. Celebration dishes include puto bumbong (a sweet black and white rice with shredded coconut), buko pandan (pandan-flavored gelatin mixed with coconut and cream), lechón, which is spit-roast pig and quesa de bola (cheese balls), and lumpia (spring rolls).
Many people fast before the Christmas meal in Greece. The first meal is usually avgolemonon which is a chicken and rice soup with egg yolk and lemon. Pork with cabbage is also on offer with Christopsomo (Christ’s Bread), baklava and melomakarona for dessert — a cookie made with cinnamon, cloves and orange in syrup with nuts.
Kūčios is a Lithuanian Christmas dinner, which is served on Christmas Eve. Twelve dishes are usually presented to represent each apostle. The menu contains no meat or dairy and is cold. Typically on the menu are many herring salads, smoked eel, sauerkraut, mushrooms and kūčiukai (small dough cookies with poppy seeds).
When you think of Christmas dinner, it doesn’t have to be boring. If you’re not hosting at home (and even if you are), take some inspiration from around the world and gorge on something different.
Featured photo courtesy of Getty Images.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn a $200 statement credit after your first Delta purchase within the first three months. Offer ends 7/28/21.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles after spending $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months and a $200 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
- Limited Time Offer: Plus, get a 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months from the date of account opening, then a variable 15.74%-24.74%. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
- Accelerate your path to Medallion Status, with Status Boost®. Plus, in 2021 you can earn even more bonus Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) to help you reach Medallion Status.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees