Christmas Day means a few things: unwrapping a whole load of presents; disposing of all the now unwanted wrapping paper; dusting down the alcohol shelf for drinks untouched the rest of the year and, of course, a turkey roast with all the trimmings. That’s in the Anglosphere, anyway. For outside of the English-speaking world, there is a whole array of different festive feasts, and many are entirely different to what you might imagine. We uncover the various Christmas dishes around the world.
Lechón( Spain & Latin America)
The primary Christmas meal in Spain and Latin America takes place on Christmas Eve, La Nochebuena. The food served varies depending on the region, but often consists of lechón as the main focus, with vegetables. This holiday meal, an entire roasted pig, usually takes the majority of the day to cook, resulting in tender meat which is filled with flavour.
It is thought that this tradition dates back to the 15th century, when Caribbean imperialists would devote a lot of time to hunting down pigs so they could roast them whole for a family gathering on Christmas Eve.
In Spain, sweet dishes are also prevalent. This includes turrón, an almond nougat and polvorónes, a crumbly type of shortbread.
Poland’s Christmas dinner, too, comes on Christmas Eve. Theirs, the Star Supper – Wiglia – is rather a feast. There is very much a religious theme running throughout the occasion – hay is scattered all over the table to recreate the setting when Jesus was born in a manger.
Meanwhile, the meal consists of 12 courses – representing the 12 apostles. Fried carp and borscht – a type of beetroot soup – are particularly popular. While soup consisting largely of beetroot might not be enough to tempt you to Warsaw this Christmas, pierogi, small dumplings, stuffed with potato, sauerkraut and minced meat, might be.Foie gras and escargot with red wine, just one aspect of the La Réveillon feast.
La Réveillon Feast (France)
La Réveillon is the peak of Christmas festivities in France – another occasion that takes place on 24th December. It is no exaggeration to label it as the most decadent of feasts – even more elaborate than the French version. The starters may include lobster, oysters, snails or foie gras, while the main meal comprises of turkey and chestnuts with much more besides.
The dessert is often a yule log – bûche de Noël – though in Provence they’re bold enough to partake in a thirteen-course dessert. The meal is also accompanied by fine wines and champagne to conclude.
The name La Réveillon derives from the verb ‘réveil’, meaning ‘to wake’. That’s because eating all the luxurious food and drink takes so long that it often involves staying up until the early hours of the morning.
Across Scandinavia, buffet style meals are popular on special occasions. In Finland, this is named joulupöytä – ‘Christmas table’ – and is quite similar to the Swedish smörgåsbord.
The main dish is often a large joint of ham, usually eaten with bread and mustard. There will be large fish, usually lutefisk and gravlax, along with laatikot, casseroles with liver and raisins, potatoes, rice and carrots. The drink of choice is, of course, good old glogg. Or, in Finnish, glögi. This is similar to mulled wine but for the less faint of heart – often including a spirit, such as brandy, as well.
Christians in Egypt, too, celebrate with their festive meal on Christmas eve. Yet, because Egypt follows the Coptic calendar, this means that that day doesn’t fall until 6th January.
Many eat an Egyptian meal named Faatah, which is reserved for special occasions, such as a woman’s first birth, and both Christian and Muslim holidays. It includes layers of rice and fried bread, with large lamb or beef meat and deep-fried poached eggs. It’s a meal that is not short on calories.
Akoho sy voanio (Madagascar)
This savoury holiday dish consists of chicken-coconut stew that is poured on top of a hearty serving of rice.
This airy rice-coconut-cheese cake is to die for.
Black Fruit Cake (Belize)
This delicious black fruit cake is very rich and contains stout and rum.
Ceia de Natal (Brazil)
This amazing Brazilian Christmas turkey is cooked with a marinade made from champagne and spices.
Chicken Soup Avgolemono (Greece)
This festive soup is made with chicken, lemon, egg, and rice.
Chiles en nogada (Mexico)
Comprised of meat, stuffed with fire roasted poblano peppers covered in a creamy walnut sauce and a pomegranate seed garnish, this flavorful dish will leave you just like the peppers, stuffed.
Ciorba de perisoare (Romania)
This traditional dish is a soup composed of many meatballs in a sour vegetable broth.
Doro Wat on Injera (Ethiopia)
This spicy meat stew is paired with this spongy, bread-like texture, called the injera. This creates a complex, dense and simultaneously light meal.
Feast of Seven Fishes (Italy)
Due to fish being so abundant in Italy, this lavish meal consists of many different types of fish, typically seven, but sometimes, even more, usually served with pasta.
The delectable mixture of capers, raisins, peppers, and various meats, wrapped in maize and plantain leaves, creates the perfect meal.
This Christmas dish is simple, a smoked leg of lamb, but highly flavourful.
Imbuljuta tal-Qastan (Malta)
This rich cocoa-chestnut soup is extraordinary.
Janssons Frestelse (Sweden)
Made up of shoestring potatoes, anchovies, onions, pickled sprats, bread crumbs and cream, this is a thick dish and full of flavour.
KFC and Kurisumasu Keiki (Japan)
In Japan, the finger-licking KFC bucket of fried chicken has become a staple of Christmas. Following the main course is dessert, which is a sweet and fluffy
strawberry sponge cake.
These fried coconut cookies are scrumptious.
Lampreia de Ovos (Portugal)
This festive dish is a sweet egg cake baked in the shape of a sea lamprey.
Mince pies (England)
This traditional dish consists of warm and dense pies that are filled with fruit and beef suet.
Pavlova (Australia and New Zealand)
This meal is made out of a hard meringue textured shell with mixed berries and fruits on top and soft and airy, marshmallowy layers on the inside.
Tamales colorados, negros and chuchitos (Guatemala)
An assortment of colorados, negros, and chuchitos tamales, that together complete the most wonderful dish.
Which of these Christmas dishes around the world have you tried or will be trying?
Jump To a Section Below
- Lechón( Spain & Latin America)
- Borscht (Poland)
- La Réveillon Feast (France)
- Glögi (Finland)
- Faatah (Egypt)
- Akoho sy voanio (Madagascar)
- Bibingka (Philippines)
- Black Fruit Cake (Belize)
- Ceia de Natal (Brazil)
- Chicken Soup Avgolemono (Greece)
- Chiles en nogada (Mexico)
- Ciorba de perisoare (Romania)
- Doro Wat on Injera (Ethiopia)
- Feast of Seven Fishes (Italy)
- Hallacas (Venezuela)
- Hangikjöt (Iceland)
- Imbuljuta tal-Qastan (Malta)
- Janssons Frestelse (Sweden)
- KFC and Kurisumasu Keiki (Japan)
- Kulkuls (India)
- Lampreia de Ovos (Portugal)
- Mince pies (England)
- Pavlova (Australia and New Zealand)
- Tamales colorados, negros and chuchitos (Guatemala)