As the festive season approaches, what better way to get into the holiday spirit than by exploring diverse Christmas food around the world?
Whether you’re a jetsetter planning your next adventure or simply a foodie looking to add some international flavor to your holiday feast, we’ve got you covered. In this blog post, we’ll cover 40 incredible (and unique) Christmas foods celebrated in different corners of the world.
No frills, no fuss, just a guide to tantalize your taste buds and inspire your next culinary adventure.
So, fasten your seatbelts and let’s get started.
The Festive Season and its Culinary Significance
The festive season is a time for celebration, togetherness, and of course, delicious food.
It’s also a time when families and friends gather to share meals – this is a sacred cultural and social practice.
You see, food plays a central role in many festive traditions. It’s a way to connect with our heritage, celebrate our loved ones, and create lasting memories. From the comforting aromas of roasted meats to the sweetness of holiday desserts, festive foods evoke a sense of joy and nostalgia.
Christmas, especially, is a holiday that’s synonymous with culinary delights. From the traditional Christmas foods around the world – like the pudding of the United Kingdom to the Panettone and Pandoro of Italy – to the more weird and wonderful, each region boasts its own unique dishes that reflect local flavors, history, and cultural influences.
As we explore the top 40 Christmas food from around the world, let’s celebrate the diversity and dishes that bring us together during this festive season.
40 Christmas Foods from Around the World
Italy is renowned for some of the best Christmas food around the world (no surprise there). From the sweet story behind Panettone to the symbolism of Southern Italian dishes – traditional Christmas foods from around the world wouldn’t be complete without these.
- Panettone: Originating from Milan, this sweet bread with candied fruits and raisins has become an Italian Christmas icon, Panettone. Legend has it that a young nobleman fell in love with a baker’s daughter and created the recipe to win her heart. Not sure if the backstory makes it any sweeter, but it does earn extra points in my book. It’s one of the best Christmas foods from around the world.
- Feast of the Seven Fishes: Fancy trying some Christmas Eve food traditions around the world? With roots in Southern Italy, this Christmas Eve feast involves a spread of seven different seafood dishes. The number seven is believed to symbolize the seven sacraments or the seven days of creation.
- Pandoro: Hailing from Verona, Pandoro is a golden, star-shaped cake dusted with powdered sugar. Its name translates to “golden bread,” and it has been a festive treat since the 18th century. Yum! Definitely another must-try Christmas food around the world.
What about indulging in a Mexican fiesta on this journey of Christmas food around the world?
Honestly, I just had to include four dishes, although technically two of them are drinks. But these definitely make Mexico a qualifier for some of the best Christmas foods from around the world. . .
- Rompope (Mexican Eggnog): The Mexican version of eggnog, Rompope is a creamy and spiced liqueur. Its origins can be traced back to the colonial period when nuns in Puebla created the concoction. As far as traditional Christmas food from around the world goes, I think this one would be right up my alley.
- Bacalao a la Vizcaína: Originating from the Basque region, this codfish stew with tomatoes, peppers, and olives became a Christmas favorite in Mexico due to this Spanish influence. While it might not stir up your idea of Christmastime favorites – this dish is undoubtedly one of the best Christmas foods from around the world.
- Ponche Navideño (Christmas Punch): A warm, spiced fruit punch, Ponche Navideño is a festive Mexican drink enjoyed during the Christmas season. It typically includes ingredients like sugarcane, tejocotes, and hibiscus flowers.
- Tamales: These stuffed and steamed corn husk-wrapped delicacies have Aztec roots. In fact, they’ve been part of Mexican Christmas celebrations for centuries. And the best part is that making tamales is a communal activity, bringing families together during the festive season. Looking for Christmas food traditions from around the world to recreate this year? This might be a winner.
Traditional Christmas foods from around the world are all so distinct – and Poland’s contributions are no different. You might see some familiar favorites like pierogi, as well as some other yummy, Polish foods eaten at Christmas.
- Karp (Carp): Believe it or not, carp has been a symbol of abundance and prosperity in Polish Christmas traditions. Plus, it’s a classic meat-free meal for Christians. While the method of preparation varies, it often involves frying or baking the fish – some people keep their fish in the bathtub for several days as a pre-refrigeration storage technique. . . Does this make it into the weird Christmas foods from around the world category?
- Barszcz: A beetroot soup, barszcz is a traditional Polish Christmas dish. It’s served with dumplings or a dollop of sour cream, and is best known for its vibrant color and rich, earthy flavors. Beetroot soup not your thing? This next one appeals to everyone. . .
- Pierogi: These filled dumplings, a Polish classic, make a festive appearance during Christmas. Traditionally stuffed with ingredients like sauerkraut, mushrooms, or potatoes, pierogi symbolize good fortune for the coming year. I don’t mind eating more dumplings for good fortune – and when it comes to Christmas food traditions from around the world this is a personal favorite.
Ethiopia is the next place we’re exploring for Christmas food around the world – and you won’t be disappointed. From local staples to festive spices, Ethiopia’s contributions meet my personal criteria for the best Christmas foods from around the world.
- Wat (Spicy Stew): A staple in Ethiopian cuisine, wat is a spicy stew that’s often prepared with meat, lentils, and a blend of aromatic spices. During Christmas celebrations, special varieties of wat are prepared.
- Injera (Flatbread): Injera, a sourdough flatbread, is a fundamental part of Ethiopian meals. But it’s also one of the best Christmas foods from around the world. Injera accompanies dishes like wat and serves as a sort of communal eating surface.
- Tibs (Stir-Fried Meat): Tibs, is a dish of cubed beef of lamb that’s been stir-fried or grilled and it’s a popular dish in Ethiopia. During Christmastime, it’s often prepared with festive spices and flavors. Honestly, I really enjoy the idea that in Ethiopia traditional Christmas foods are year-round staples that are transformed with festive spices.
Germany is renowned for popular Christmas foods around the world – and some might even argue these are some of the best Christmas foods from around the world. Whether or not these dishes and traditions are familiar to you, there’s something magical about experiencing a German Christmas – so why not indulge in it?
- Lebkuchen: These spiced cookies, with roots tracing back to the 13th century, are a German Christmas classic. Lebkuchen is often heart-shaped, intricately decorated, and flavored with ginger, cloves, and nutmeg. As far as Christmas food around the world goes, this one is another must-try.
- Roast Goose: In Germany, roast goose is a Christmas centerpiece with a history rooted in medieval times. Foods eaten at Christmas around the world are usually steeped in symbolism – and this dish is no different, symbolizing abundance, the dish was traditionally enjoyed by wealthy households and today is a familiar favorite.
- Stollen: Dating back to the 15th century, Stollen is a fruitcake enriched with butter, candied fruits, and almonds. It’s also easily one of the most popular Christmas foods around the world. Originally a Christmas bread to end the Advent fasting period, it has evolved into a holiday indulgence.
Christmas food around the world is all about connecting people, and the same goes for France. I think it also goes without saying that as far as traditional Christmas foods from around the world go, French Christmas dishes have a certain je ne sais quoi.
- Foie Gras: A delicacy made from fattened duck or goose liver, foie gras has been savored in France since ancient times. While it’s not exclusive to Christmas, it often graces festive tables during the holiday season.
- Oysters and Seafood: This might be one of the most interesting Christmas Eve food traditions around the world. You see, in France, indulging in oysters and various seafood delights is a Christmas Eve ritual. This culinary tradition dates to the medieval practice of abstaining from meat on the night before Christmas – a fascinating addition to traditional Christmas foods from around the world.
- Bûche de Noël: And lastly, we have a log-shaped cake that resembles a yule log. It has been a French Christmas tradition since the 19th century and symbolizes the ancient practice of burning yule logs during the winter solstice. Today, it’s one of the most popular Christmas goods around the world.
Christmas food around the world is sometimes similar, with distinct local touches and flavors. This is true of most of Sweden’s contributions – and some of them are some of the most popular Christmas foods around the world.
- Pepparkakor (Gingerbread Cookies): A Swedish Christmas isn’t complete without pepparkakor. Or gingerbread spiced cookies. They’re often shaped like hearts and stars and are enjoyed throughout the holiday season. Gingerbread cookies are easily one of the most loved and best Christmas foods from around the world.
- Janssons Frestelse (Potato and Anchovy Casserole): Okay it might sound a bit strange, and it might earn a spot with the weird Christmas foods from around the world. But this creamy potato and anchovy casserole, known as Janssons Frestelse, is a popular Swedish side dish during the Christmas season. Don’t knock it, till you try it!
- Julskinka (Christmas Ham): If you’re keen to try traditional Christmas foods from around the world, Sweden’s julskinka or a Christmas Ham should be on your list. The glazed and baked ham is a centerpiece of the Swedish Christmas table. Usually served cold, julskinka is often accompanied by mustard.
True to its form, Japan has some fascinating contributions to Christmas foods around the world. From its very own version of a Christmas Cake to a KFC tradition – when it comes to traditional Christmas foods from around the world, Japan doesn’t disappoint.
- Christmas Cake: In Japan, Christmas cake is a sponge cake that’s topped with whipped cream and strawberries – it’s sweet, light, and fluffy. Introduced in the 20th century, it symbolizes the joy of the holiday season. A very sweet addition to our list of famous Christmas foods around the world.
- KFC Christmas Tradition: This next one might seem strange, but it’s a traditional Christmas food from around the world I can get on board with. This unique Japanese tradition involves enjoying KFC for Christmas dinner. This quirky custom emerged in the 1970s after an exceptionally successful marketing campaign by the fast-food chain.
- Osechi Ryori: While this next one is a traditional Japanese New Year’s dish, Osechi Ryori, is also often enjoyed during the Christmas season. Packed in layered boxes, it includes a variety of symbolic foods, each with its own meaning for the coming year. This beautifully presented assortment typically consists of a mix of pickled vegetables, seafood, and sweet bites.
For the next Christmas foods around the world, we’re headed Down Under. Here they enjoy classics like prawn cocktail. . . and barbecued Christmas Ham. As far as Christmas food traditions around the world go, I’m definitely intrigued, are you?
- Prawn Cocktail: While prawns are a year-round favorite, they take center stage during Christmas. Prawn cocktails, featuring fresh prawns with tangy cocktail sauce, are a refreshing addition to the festive table. It’s not only some of the most popular Christmas foods around the world, but also just popular! Aussies really love their prawns.
- Christmas Ham on the Barbie: When famous Christmas foods around the world meet Australia this is what happens. . . A twist on the classic ham, Australians often opt for a barbecue-cooked ham during the festive season. Glazed and cooked over an open flame, it adds a smoky flavor to the Christmas feast.
- Pavlova: Named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, this meringue-based dessert is an iconic Australian Christmas treat. Although it is also a traditional Christmas food enjoyed around the world, and it’s easy to see why. It’s got a crispy exterior and soft, marshmallow-like interior, and it’s often adorned with fresh fruit.
Foods eaten at Christmas around the world are a great way to get a glimpse of local culture and traditions, and the same goes for Russia. From Russian Salad to dumplings (yay!), traditional Christmas foods from around the world wouldn’t be the same without Russia’s contributions.
(Please note there’s a lot of overlap and some of these dishes are enjoyed in other parts of Eastern Europe).
- Olivier Salad: Also known as Russian Salad, Olivier Salad is a staple of the festive season, and is a great (and simple) option if you’re looking Christmas food ideas from around the world to include in your festivities. Made with potatoes, carrots, peas, pickles, and mayonnaise, it’s a beloved side dish.
- Pelmeni (Dumplings): While pelmeni are enjoyed year-round, these filled dumplings make a special appearance during the holiday season. Traditionally filled with minced meat, they are a comfort food for many Russians, and one of the best Christmas foods from around the world.
- Kutya (Grain Porridge with Honey and Dried Fruits): A dish with deep roots in Russian Orthodox Christmas traditions, kutya is a sweet grain porridge symbolizing prosperity and the cycle of life. It’s also a Christmas Eve food tradition.
Denmark’s contributions to traditional Christmas food from around the world are definitely interesting and might not be for everyone. From apple fritters to rice pudding, there might even be one or two that you think are weird Christmas foods from around the world.
- Risalamande (Rice Pudding with Almonds and Cherry Sauce): A traditional Danish Christmas dessert, risalamande is a rice pudding mixed with chopped almonds. And if this isn’t your idea of the best Christmas food around the world, there’s a lovely tradition too. . . A single whole almond is hidden in the dish, and finding it brings good luck!
- Flæskesteg (Roast Pork Belly): Roast pork belly, or flæskesteg, is a Danish Christmas favorite and undoubtedly a famous Christmas food. Crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, it’s typically served with crackling.
- Æbleskiver (Apple Fritters): Christmas food around the world all seem to have some sweetness. And Danish Christmas celebrations feature Æbleskiver, a kind of apple fritter. Served with powdered sugar and jam, they are a delightful holiday treat.
As far as Christmas food around the world goes, you might view the UK as having some of the more traditional Christmas foods. Whether or not you’ve ever had a British-style Christmas, it’s undoubtedly some of the best Christmas foods from around the world.
- Traditional Christmas Pudding: A common staple in British households – the traditional Christmas pudding is one of the most traditional Christmas foods from around the world. This rich and dense dessert dates to the 14th century. The dish was originally known as ‘plum porridge,’ and evolved into the festive pudding we know today. Traditionally made with suet, dried fruits, spices, and breadcrumbs. It’s often flambéed before serving.
- Mince Pies: If you haven’t heard of these sweet pastries, then you’re in for a treat. Another traditional Christmas food from around the world – mince pies are filled with a mixture of dried fruits, spices, and sometimes a hint of brandy. These little Christmas pies have been gracing British tables since the 13th century.
- Roast Turkey with All the Trimmings: Introduced to Britain in the 16th century, roast turkey became synonymous with Christmas dinner during the Victorian era. It’s easily one of the most traditional Christmas foods from around the world. Accompanied by stuffing, roasted vegetables, and cranberry sauce – it remains a festive favorite.
Influenced by many cultures due to its history of colonization, South Africa embraces a diverse blend of traditions. Drawing inspiration from British, Dutch, German, Indian, African, and various other cultural influences, South African Christmas celebrations showcase a unique fusion of flavors and customs. But these are some South African favorites. . .
- Malva Pudding: This next traditional Christmas food is one after your own heart. A warm and sticky dessert, malva pudding is a South African Christmas treat that’s served with a sweet and buttery sauce and accompanied by ice-cream or custard. It’s a comforting end to the holiday meal.
- Cape Malay Mince Pies: With a unique blend of spices, Cape Malay mince pies are a South African twist on the classic and they might even be better than the original. These sweet and savory treats are a festive delight, and one of the most beloved foods eaten at Christmas around the world.
- Braai (Barbecue): In South Africa, Christmas (and any other day of the year) is often celebrated with a braai – it’s like a traditional barbecue but better. In South Africa, barbecuing is part of the culture. Families and friends gather to grill meats and enjoy a festive outdoor feast. Sounds like one of the best Christmas foods from around the world.
In closing, exploring Christmas food around the world opens a door to a world of diverse flavors, traditions, and shared joy. And each dish carries a story, a tradition, and a unique way of bringing people together.
So, whether you’re trying the rich Christmas pudding in the UK, the spiced tamales in Mexico, or the aromatic Osechi Ryori in Japan, you’re not just tasting a dish – you’re experiencing a piece of someone else’s festive tradition.
It’s a reminder that, despite our differences, we all cherish the warmth of togetherness, the delight of a shared meal, and the joy that comes with celebrating the holiday season in our own unique ways.
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