We all know about our own Christmas traditions. Some of us eat turkey, some ham, and some even like a plate of roast lamb on Christmas Eve. But every once in a while, it’s interesting to see what it’s like in other places. Did you know that some places don’t even celebrate Christmas on December 25th? Regardless of different timings, a common theme throughout the world is the importance food plays in their traditions. Every country has it’s staples – the foods that are a classic and a must have for every table. Here is a brief look at a few countries with especially interesting Christmas dinner traditions. And who knows, maybe you’ll find some recipes tasty enough to try out for yourself!
In France, the Christmas season is called Noel and it begins on the 6th of December. On Christmas Eve, children leave out shoes for Le Pere Noel (most know him as Santa Claus) to leave gifts. Christmas is a very special holiday, and it comes at the end of 12 days of holiday celebration in France. There is lots of feasting and familial gathering on this night which is also called Le Reveillon, a late supper that happens on Christmas Eve, or early Christmas day, after midnight mass.
Bûche de Noël: A French classic, this yule log cake is a gorgeous addition to this year’s table. Once a popular Christmas tradition in France, the yule log is an iconic image of Christmas. And this cake has taken its place as a dish that symbolizes the holiday season. (Recipe and photo: U Try It)
Punitions: Simple and sweet, these easy to make shortbreads are a treat that will take you back to Christmas’s of your childhood–when you’d help your parents in the kitchen and notice as the smell of delicious treats filled the house. (Recipe and photo: Oven Haven)
Christmas in Germany begins on December 6th, and it always opens up with making gifts, decorations, and delicious sweet treats. Children leave letters on their windowsill for Christkind–an angel who bears gifts. And on Christmas Eve, the tree is set up and wreaths are hung to celebrate the coming of Santa Claus.
Früchtebrot: Whoever said fruitcake was bad must have never tried it like this. Fresh out of the oven, this German staple mixes the sweetness of honey with a mixture of dried fruit that is delicious on Christmas morning. (Recipe and photo: 1 Big Bite)
Glühwein: An important part of the holiday experience in Germany is a trip to the Christmas markets where they drink a special mulled wine. And this mulled wine recipe, prepared with cloves, lemon, and cinnamon is a necessity that tastes just as good, if not better, than the already-made wine bought in those authentic German markets. (Recipe and photo: frugal feeding)
In Italy, Christmas is a very quiet and family centered holiday. Children send letters to their parents telling them how much they love them as opposed to sending letters to Santa. And unlike in many other countries, it is not just the 25th of December that holds significance. There are many holidays leading up to Christmas, most of which center around grand feasts in dedication to important saints which make this season very special in Italy.
Struffoli: The lemon zest gives these little hazelnut nuggets of fried dough the perfect kick. And the dash of powdered sugar and sprinkles makes these some of the prettiest bite sized treats to see on Christmas Eve. (Recipe and photo: Live Love Pasta)
Panettone: This can be made into bread, or muffins, but regardless of how you make it, the flavors of the fruit and the nuts compliment each other well in this Italian sweet bread. (Recipe and photo: Si, Te Quiero Verde)
Amaretti: The slight almond taste in these cookies really capture that warm essence perfect for the holiday season. And with only a few ingredients, these are a quick an easy recipe for your table. (Recipe and photo: Catherine Cuisine)
While Christmas Eve in Sweden is full of celebration, feasting, and gift giving, one of the biggest holiday celebration is that of St. Lucia’s Day, celebrated on the 13th of December. Kids dress in white dresses and carry around candles to celebrate the day long celebration. It’s a fun day full of singing and jubilation.
Swedish Meatballs: If you think you know Swedish Meatballs, you’re wrong. This Swedish Christmas must-have is packed with flavors from onion to espresso, and is a great addition to any Christmas table. (Recipe and photo: Fork Full of Awesome)
Lussekatter: These little buns of sweetness are eaten every year in Sweden on St. Lucia’s Day. And after trying one of these moist and gooey buns, it’ll be hard to go a year without them. (Recipe and photo: Call Me Cupcake)
In Greece, Christmas is a very religious holiday. On the night of Christmas Eve, families go to midnight mass and hang sprigs of basil to keep away the evil spirits known as the Killantzaroi. It is also a day of great family celebration and togetherness.
Kourabiedes: These melt in your mouth shortbreads are bursting with flavor, the almond extract giving them an unexpected kick. And the more than generous coating of powdered sugar makes these bites look almost too good to eat. (Recipe and photo: Cooking for Keeps)
Christopsomo: An important Christmas tradition, this sweet bread, which translate’s to “Christ’s Bread,” is baked on Christmas Eve with only the best of ingredients. But it’s not until dinner on Christmas Day that this bread disappears into everyone’s stomachs. (Recipe and photo: ECurry)
Baklava: This classic Greek dish takes on even more importance during the holiday season–a dish that incorporates the help of the whole family captures the spirit of the holidays in Greece. The sweet flavors matched with the crunch of the fillo dough makes this a dessert right for any Christmas table. (Recipe and photo: Rumbly Tumbly)
In Poland, Advent is the beginning of the Christmas season. It’s a time of simplicity when everyone remembers the true meaning of the holidays. Christmas Eve is a day of fasting until the first star is seen in the sky. This meal is called Wigilia and is a giant feast for friends and family as they celebrate the Christmas season.
Chrusciki: These guys are little bow ties of fried dough, only they’re full of a welcome zing. With the addition of orange zent, sour cream, and a shot of whiskey these sugary bow ties are an interesting addition to any holiday meal.(Recipe and photo: Zahlicious)
Because the Russian Orthodox calendar follows the old “Julian” calendar which is different than the current Catholic calendar, the Russian holiday season runs from December 31st until January 10th. And, like in Poland, Christmas Eve is a day of fasting until the first star is seen in the sky. After that, families enjoy their Christmas dishes in a “common bowl” to symbolize the unity they share.
Russian King Cake: A fun recipe to make with the kids, this Russian King Cake is three layers of sweet richness. And the poppy seeds add a distinct texture to the dish that is completely delicious.(Recipe and photo: Natasha’s Kitchen)
Canada is full of Christmas traditions as it is a country with a very diverse background. Some celebrate it with French traditions, others with English or German traditions. But one thing that ties all provinces together is the plethora of food eaten on Christmas Eve.
Shortbread Cookies: Everyone has their favorite cookie, but these melt in your mouth shortbreads will skyrocket to the top of any list. And the ease and quickness of these cookies make them a great treat to make with kids. (Recipe and Photo: The Tiffin Box)
Nanaimo Bars: These bars offer three layers of deliciousness. The bottom offers a sweet crunch, the middle gives us a smooth and rich custard, and the third provides just the right amount of chocolate sweetness for any chocolate-lover. (Recipe and photo: The Endless Meal)
For Australia, Christmas comes during one of the hottest months of the year. Many people hang Christmas wreaths and spend the majority of the season outdoors singing Christmas carols. And when it comes to food, families have outdoor barbeques and go to local seafood markets to enjoy as a Christmas lunch.
Pavlova Meringue with Raspberries, Banana, and Passion Fruit: Don’t let the crunchy exterior fool you. Biting into this gooey meringue, infused with the flavors of summertime fruit, will change your view for the better on any of the usual Christmas desserts.(Recipe and photo: Art de Fête)
Sugar Plum Pudding with Anise and Cajeta: The caramel glazing this fruity bundt-shaped pudding is an added bonus to the flavors of already present in this Australian Christmas must have.(Recipe and photo: Adventure’s in Cooking)
Christmas Mince Pies: A food originating in Great Britain, these bite sized treats are one of the most versatile of Christmas desserts. Able to be made with any fruit, these are perfect for any pie lover.(Recipe and photo: Emily Loves Food)
In Mexico, Christmas is a time that lasts from December 12th until January 6th. During this time, children perform nine Posadas (performances that tell religious stories in inns and cottages) which celebrate the story of Joseph and Mary. And in Mexico, children don’t get presents until the last day, January 6th, which is called El Dia de los Reyes. On this day is where the most iconic of food is consumed.
Bacalao: Not a common dish for most countries around Christmas, this salt cod recipe is full of exciting flavors from spices and vegetable that capture the essence of Mexico during the holiday season.(Recipe and photo: Gnom-gnom)
Tamales: Though they take some time and some effort, the final product is anything but a disappointment. These spicy tamales are bursting with authentic flavor that will give your Christmas a classic Mexican kick.(Recipe and photo: Crepes of Wrath)
Snowballs: These are another variation of the butter cookie, but they taste nothing like any of the ones previously listed. From the flavorful nuts, to the chocolate chips baked into the cookies, these are definitely a recipe worth repeating.(Recipe and photo: In The Little Red House)