Christmas food ideas from around the world

Wherever you live in the world, Christmas is about tradition, family and friends, fun and…food!

But it’s not all about turkey and roast potatoes.

Traditional festive delicacies vary widely, with only a few other countries serving up a turkey roast dinner like we do.

So if you fancy trying something completely new on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, looking at other nations’ festive traditions can be a great way to gather ideas.

So I’ve been doing some research: here are my tasty Christmas food ideas from around the world – and they’re surprisingly varied!

France

Seafood is a popular meal choice for the festive season in France, with favourites including lobster, prawns and oysters.

But, for me, the main event is dessert: the bûche de Noël, the French version of a yule log.

And before you say it, this isn’t just a bog standard swiss roll with chocolate icing on it like we have in the UK.

The idea of a bûche de Noël is to make the cake look as much like a real log as possible, so they’re often very intricately decorated.

Chestnut is a popular flavouring and decorations might include small meringue ‘mushrooms’ and chocolate shavings to create a realistic forest-feel.

I think this idea could be popular with children, especially if they can have a go at decorating their own version of this alternative Christmas cake.

Germany

A traditional Christmas dinner in Germany doesn’t look massively different to one in the UK, but might include roast duck, goose or rabbit instead of turkey.

However, the well-known Glühwein (mulled red wine) is taken up a notch at Christmas with ‘fire tong punch’, made using a rum soaked sugar cone known as a Zuckerhut.

The cone is set on fire and delicious drops of caramelised, boozy sugar are added to the drink.

It sounds delicious and I might have to try this one myself this winter!

Mexico

If you’re avoiding alcohol, Mexico’s ponche navideño (Christmas punch), offers a non-boozy alternative to mulled wine.

It’s traditionally served during Las Posadas, a week-long celebration that marks Joseph and Mary’s journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem.

You can make this delicious Christmas punch by simmering fruits like guava and apples with raw sugar cane, cinnamon and hibiscus.

But never fear, if you want to try an alcoholic version, you can make a ponche con piquete (punch with a sting) instead by simply adding a splash of tequila or brandy!

Poland

Wigilia is a delightful Christmas Eve tradition celebrated in Poland. 

A special dinner is served – but it can only begin once the first star has appeared in the sky.

Friends and family then break Christmas wafers and exchange good wishes for the year ahead…and then the feast begins!

The meat-free meal consists of 12 dishes which represent both the 12 apostles and 12 months of the year.

Beetroot soup, mushroom soup, carp, herring and pierogi (filled dumplings) are typically enjoyed as part of the Wigilia tradition.

Sweet treats might include gingerbread, poppyseed cake and dried fruit.

I love the idea of looking out for the first star in the sky on Christmas Eve so I’ll definitely give this a try with my family…though if it’s cloudy we may be in for a long wait! 

Portugal

A Portuguese Christmas dinner usually involves cod and boiled potatoes, which I have to admit I’m not that tempted to try…but the cakes and desserts sound delicious!

Bolo Rei (King’s Cake) is a lightly spiced, fluffy Christmas cake, filled with fruits and nuts, and looks like an edible crown or wreath.

It’s not heavy like a traditional English fruit or Christmas cake, so if that’s not your thing, it might be worth giving a Bolo Rei a try!

Traditionally a broad bean was hidden inside the cake. If you found the bean in your slice, it meant you had to supply the Bolo Rei the following Christmas.

If you’re not a fan of dried fruit, Bolo Rainha (Queen’s Cake) could be for you as it’s a similar cake, just without the sultanas, mango, orange and apricot.

Another yummy Portugal-inspired Christmas treat are filhόs, a deep-fried doughy dessert, sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar.

Puerto Rico

Creating the Puerto Rican traditional Christmas meal sounds like a labour of love – the cooking of the lechόn (suckling pig) often begins in the early hours of the morning to ensure it’s ready in time!

It’s served with arroz con gandules or rice with pigeon peas (a type of pea that used to be fed to pigeons!) and pasteles, which are boiled plantain parcels stuffed with pork.

The pasteles can be seasoned with adobo, which includes garlic, oregano, black pepper and turmeric.

Dessert is often a wobbly pudding called tembleque, which is made from coconut cream, coconut milk, cream, salt, cornstarch, sugar, orange blossom water and cinnamon.

It’s often topped with a syrup made from sugar, liqueur, spices, fruit juice and wine.

If you want to be as wobbly as the tembleque, you could also try a coquito, a drink that’s apparently a bit like eggnog!

It’s made with rum, coconut milk, condensed milk, vanilla, nutmeg, clove and cinnamon. Yum!

Sweden

In Sweden a special kind of smörgåsbord called a julbord (literally meaning yule table) is served at Christmas.

I like the idea of a Christmas buffet as, if you’re hosting, you can ask guests to bring a few dishes each.

It’s a brilliant way of delegating the workload and it also helps spread the cost, too.

The Swedish Christmas buffet usually includes a lot of fish dishes such as pickled herring with sour cream and chives, lutfisk (a type of dried fish usually served with potatoes, peas and white sauce), smoked eel and rollmops.

There’ll also be meatballs, pork ribs, liver pate, ham, beetroot salad, cabbage, bread and cheese.

Glög – a mulled wine – is traditionally drunk during winter, and especially at Christmas.

Do you fancy giving any of these Christmas food traditions from around the world a try? 

The Portuguese Bolo Rei cake will definitely be making an appearance on my Christmas dinner table this year!

Let me know what you’ll be cooking this year…

Alex x

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