Traditional Christmas Foods Around the World
Not too long after Thanksgiving dinner, most people in the States start preparing for Christmas, and as December progresses, it seems that at least some of the rest of the world also begins to slide into that Christmas state of mind.
In the United States, Christmas dinners vary; some families eat ham on the big day, some may eat lasagna, some may eat roast turkey. Regardless of what’s on the table, it’s always a feast. We do have our Christmas dinner traditions, though, and so do other countries around the world — though they may not be what you’d expect.
Many may think that over in Italy, Italians are feasting on seven fishes on Christmas eve; however, the tradition of a meal built around seven types of seafood, while it was inspired by southern Italian traditions, actually started in America. Italians forgo meat on Christmas Eve, but don’t necessarily eat seafood. Instead they have something light in preparation for a Christmas Day meal of baked pasta, followed by a meat like lamb or pork. In the north, lasagna verdi alla bolognese is a common Christmas pasta al forno, while in southern regions, like Sicily, the preferred pasta to bake is anellini.
Meat is on the menu in Kenya, too, where goat is a specialty. In Greece, traditionally at least, a 40-day abstinence from meat comes to an end with the slaughter of a suckling pig that is cooked and served on Christmas day.
Wondering what the rest of the world is cooking up to celebrate Christmas and spread the yuletide cheer? The Daily Meal is here to take you to Christmas tables around the globe to get a taste of their traditional Christmas meals.
Christmas in Chile is big event. Families start praying a novena nine days before December 25 and attend midnight Mass on Christmas to celebrate Christ’s birth. Afterward, even if it is 2 a.m., a huge dinner with typical Chilean foods is served. Think oven-roasted turkey, cazuela de ave (a special chicken soup), rice, puddings, and the traditional pan de Pascua, a sweet, fruit-based cake that is also left out for Santa when the kids go to bed. A traditional eggnog drink called cola de mono or "monkey's tail," made from coffee, milk, liquor, cinnamon, and sugar, is also served.
The last two weeks before Christmas are known as the great baking period for the Danish. Everyone’s favorite holiday cakes, breads, and confections are made using traditional family recipes. Think ginger snaps, gingerbread hearts, marzipan, fudge, crystal fruit, and more. While many could make a meal out of Danish desserts, there's plenty more on the holiday table ‚—, especially beer. Every year on the first Friday in November, Tuborg releases its new Christmas beer. Called Julebryg in Danish, the annual Christmas brew is darker and stronger than traditional lager, and its release marks the unofficial start to the Christmas season. For Christmas dinner, a typical Danish meal consists of roast pork — maybe a duck if you’re feeling contemporary — with boiled potatoes, red cabbage, and gravy. The traditional Christmas dessert is risengrød, or rice pudding, with a whole peeled almond hidden inside. The finder of the nut gets a gift. The dessert is commonly served Christmas Eve, too, with leftovers set out for Santa.