Get into the festive spirit with our roundup of Christmas foods worldwide from roasted goose to whale blubber.
Christmas is for many the most wonderful time of the year. All over the world people get together with loved ones, exchange gifts and prepare a special meal to celebrate. Some traditional Christmas dinners take weeks to prepare while others might involve dropping into a fast food restaurant. Whether you stay at home this season or travel to foreign lands, have a finger-licking delicious time and Merry Christmas!
Forget about sushi, yakitori or miso soup! In Japan, an estimated 3.6 million families head to KFC (yes, you read that right). Since the 1970s, when the fast-food-chain came up with the brilliant marketing idea of Kurisumasu ni wa Kentakkii, or Kentucky for Christmas, the most wonderful time of the year is spent munching on fried chicken. Eating out at KFC on Christmas Eve has become so popular that customers often need to reserve their meals weeks in advance or brace the cold waiting outside the restaurants, sometimes for hours.
On Christmas Eve, digging into kūčios, the Lithuanian Christmas dinner, is the grand finale after days if not a whole week of preparation. Overall kūčios comprises of twelve very specific dishes which exclude any meat, dairy or hot food. Instead, there are plenty of fish, bread, and vegetables and you’re expected to eat some of each dish served. Otherwise, folklore tells that you won’t see another Christmas Eve. Well, we better get those baggy pants out then—shall we?!
Down Under, where Christmas falls during the hottest time of the year, there’s no way anyone would volunteer to stand for hours in the kitchen making a roast. Instead, steak, prawns, sausages, skewers, sweet potatoes, and salad are all part of a traditional summer BBQ, preferably next to one of Australia’s countless beaches for a cooling dip in the ocean afterward.
Plenty of meat, flavorful, and rich in fat—let’s be honest, roast goose is finger-licking good! In Germany, Weihnachtsgans, or Christmas goose, has been the traditional fowl since the Middle Ages. Often stuffed with apples, onions or prunes, depending on the family recipe, it’s served with red cabbage, gravy, and potato dumplings. A number of recipes for Boxing Day make use of the leftovers from the Christmas Day feast or alternatively, people go for the much smaller duck which is becoming increasingly popular.
Christmas dinner in Italy varies from region to region (in some places they celebrate the Feast of the Seven Fishes–seven different fish prepared seven different ways) but the country’s favorite festive dessert is panettone. Originally from Milan, this sweet loaf bread is made with candied fruit, chocolate, raisins, and nuts. What was once a poor people’s dish of leftover bread dough and bits of whatever dried fruit was available in the kitchen, is now popular around the world.
WHERE: Costa Rica
It’s a very secret affair, this tamales-making. Every family has their own recipe and if you visit a typical rural Costa Rican residence in December when it’s part of the daily meals, you’ll receive one as a gift. For generations, Tico families have been creating this seasoned meat rolled in cornmeal dough and stuffed in banana leaves, then steamed. The filling includes meat (pork, beef or chicken), garlic, onion, raisins, and potatoes but spins on the dish might add carrots, peppers or green olives. The variations are endless depending on local customs and ingredients.
Looking for a festive season like no other? Then head to Greenland where it’s so cold, the Christmas trees have to be imported! The food ranges from traditional like lamb, poultry or hare to outright peculiar like mattak, a chewy piece of whale skin with blubber and kiviak, the raw flesh of little auks (a type of arctic bird). And in some regions, reindeer is a favorite. Quite rude actually, devouring Father Christmas’ furry helpers.
Pozole is one of Mexico’s most favorite foods. Mexico Independence Day, birthdays, Christmas or other celebrations—out comes this mixture between soup and stew. The three key ingredients are garlic, pork, and hominy (which is produced from dried corn), and garnished with shredded lettuce, peppers, onion, salsa, radishes, avocado or lime juice. There are three types of pozole: Blanco (white), Verde (green) and Rojo (red)—just like the Mexican flag. Clever, huh?
Just like in neighboring Lithuania, the Christmas dinner in Poland, meant to be a fasting meal, is a feast of twelve dishes. An indispensable part is pierogi, small stuffed dumplings, which have been known in the country since the 13th century. Traditional pierogi are meat-free and filled with mashed potatoes, cottage cheese, sauerkraut or mushrooms. The mostly boiled, or occasionally fried, delicacy is served with different toppings such as fried onion, melted butter, sour cream or chives.
WHERE: United Kingdom
British food has a certain reputation but their Christmas pudding, also known as plum pudding or just pud, is quite something. Despite the name, there are actually no plums in this dessert at all but plenty of raisins which were called plums in the pre-Victorian era (confusing, right?). The pud is composed of suet, egg, molasses, dried fruits, and spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. After being aged for several months, the rich dessert is then generously dowsed in brandy and set alight before consumption.
Traditionally, the Christmas Eve supper is a meat-free meal and the fish frontrunner here is bacalhau (salted cod). Cod is a staple food in the Portuguese cuisine, and there are reputed to be more recipes than days in a year, but the festive version is cod softened and desalinated by soaking in cold water for about a day. The meal is then served with hard-boiled eggs, potatoes, greens and a drizzle of garlic olive oil. If you happen to be in Portugal for Christmas save plenty of room for dessert which might be bolo rei (fruit cake) or pão de Lló (sponge cake) accompanied by delicious port wine.
It’s fair to say that The Philippines are crazy about Christmas. The country has the longest festive season worldwide which starts in September when malls begin playing Christmas carols and selling Christmas gifts right next to Halloween décor. During Noche Buena (Spanish for “Good Night” or “Holy Night”), a wide variety of delicious dishes is served but considered the grandest of all is the lechon. The spit roasted pig is placed in the center of the table surrounded by side dishes such as ham, queso de bola (cheese balls), pasta, paella, fruit salad, and fruitcake.