For many people, one of the best parts of Christmas is the delicious, traditional home-cooked meals that signify the season. Sitting down with your loved ones and feasting together is a classic way to celebrate the holidays around the world. While some cultures center their big meal on Christmas Day, for others it's Christmas Eve. But no matter what the date, the sentiment is the same. In celebration of the holiday season, we've gathered recipes from 25 different countries that are commonly eaten.
These dishes are steeped in tradition and the love and warmth of the holidays, no matter what the ingredients. People from around the world took to BuzzFeed to share what's on the menu at their holiday table, making for a mouthwatering holiday voyage around the globe. Meat is a big trend in many countries, including Denmark where flæskesteg (a pork roast with crackled skin) is served as the main component of the Christmas Eve meal. According to mettekirkk, it's served with “potatoes, warm red cabbage, gravy, small caramelized potatoes, and chips.”
By contrast, it's interesting to see how countries with warmer climates, like New Zealand, differ from the hearty Nordic tables of Finland and Sweden. And of course, no Christmas dinner is complete without something sweet, which can range from chocolate, cookies, cake, and beyond.
Let's take a look at some of the plates that make the holidays special in homes around the world.
Check out some of the most interesting Christmas dinner traditions around the world, from a Swedish smörgåsbord to a New Zealand barbecue.
In Switzerland, families gather around the table to enjoy a Fondue Chinoise, where thin slices of meat are dipped with skewers into boiling broth. This particular meal is popular both for Christmas and New Year's Eve dinners.
Gourmetten is the typical holiday meal in the Netherlands, with most families having a “gourmet set” for the occasion. In this tradition, small meats and vegetables are cooked on a tabletop hotplate by the whole family.
Mexican Christmas meals can vary greatly from region to region. In central Mexico, romeritos are a common feature on the table. Made with sprigs of seepweed, shrimp seasoning, and mole—a traditional sauce made with a variety of chili peppers, nuts, and spices—they are often served with dried shrimp patties or between slices of bread.
Tamales are a large part of the traditional Guatemalan Christmas. They can be red (colorado) or black (negro), and are eaten from Christmas Eve through New Year's Eve.
A Swedish holiday feast means julbord, a smörgåsbord consisting of hot and cold dishes like ham, spare ribs, a variety of fish, potatoes, meatballs, and boiled cabbage. In the south, it's typical to also have eel on the menu.
A Slovakian Christmas starts with a big meal on December 24 and continues through Christmas Day. One typical dish is sauerkraut soup with mushrooms eaten on Christmas Eve, with pork being added in on December 25 as meat is placed on the menu.
According to mommagen, the Christmas meal in Botswana is similar to that served at any important occasion—such as a wedding—and consists of rice, salad, and fried chicken.
Millions of people in Japan celebrate Christmas with KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken). The fried chicken chain restaurant has almost become synonymous with the holiday. Since the fast-food restaurant first opened in Japan in the 1970s, it has marketed itself around Christmas, creating a unique tradition of eating a bucket of fried chicken with loved ones.
In Venezuela, hallacas are the go-to dish during the Christmas season. Similar to a tamale, it's a corn-stuffed dough filled with meat or seafood, depending on the region. Also on the table is pan de jamón, a bread roll filled with ham, fried bacon, raisins, and green olives.
It's only fitting that New Zealanders fire up the barbecue during the holidays, grilling a wide array of goodies like beef and veggies, and then ending their holiday meal with the meringue-based cake, called Pavlova.
Norway's Christmas traditions stretch back to the Vikings, and their holiday meal still shows traces of these origins. “For example, we have a strange thing where we place cod in lye so it becomes jelly-like and then we rinse it, like, 20 times before serving it with melted butter and bacon,” shares gabsfever. “We also eat dried cooked lamb head, and dried lamb rib that's been boiled with sticks for eight or more hours.”
Lanttulaatikko, or rutabaga casserole, is a staple of the Finnish Christmas table. It's made by boiling and mashing rutabaga and mixing in bread crumbs, treacle, egg, and a variety of seasonal spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger. Once baked in the oven, it becomes a favorite side dish to accompany ham or fish.
The traditional Christmas roast in the UK—either turkey, goose, or chicken—is accompanied by myriad sides. From Brussel sprouts to bacon-wrapped sausage and roast carrots, everything is topped with savory gravy.
As part of the traditional Christmas Eve meal in Poland, a clear borscht (beetroot stew) is prepared with mushroom-filled dumplings called uszka. It's one of just 12 plates that comprise the December 24 menu, none of which contain meat.
On Christmas Eve, it's customary for Greek families to prepare a rustic sweetbread called Christopsomo (meaning “Christ's bread”). The dough is filled with raisins, apricots, nuts, cardamom, and cloves, and the top is often decorated with a cross and honey glaze. It becomes a delicious centerpiece on Christmas Day.
In the Philippines, feasting comes at the stroke of midnight according to willievergettoseeyou, “in the Philippines, Noche Buena, the mother of Christmas meals, usually starts at 12 am Christmas Day. Yes, we stay up all Christmas Eve so we can feast come midnight.” The star of the table is the Fiesta ham served with rice and Pinoy-style spaghetti.
On Christmas Day, Icelanders enjoy a dish called Hangikjot, which includes thin-sliced meat made from lamb, mutton, or horse that is smoked over dried sheep's dung and accompanied by a cream sauce.
The Eastern Orthodox community in Armenia celebrates Christmas on January 7 with ghapama—a special roasted pumpkin dish that is stuffed with rice, raisins, and nuts.
Puerto Ricans celebrate the Christmas holiday with their regional specialty, lechón, which is a roast suckling pig. Popular in many Spanish-speaking countries, this food requires a significant amount of preparation and is usually enjoyed by a large group of people.
Christmas dinner in Greenland features meat delicacies that are highly unique to the area. One traditional dish that can usually be seen at the table is strips of whale blubber encased in whale skin called mattak.
Tamales are an important part of Costa Rican cuisine, but especially at Christmas. This dish used to be made only for the holiday and remains a key component of the meal. It is usually made with corn, pork, carrots, sweet pepper, and achiote; and wrapped in a plantain leaf before it is cooked.
Like other countries in the southern hemisphere, Australia experiences Christmas during the summer. So, instead of eating indoors, many Australians prefer to take advantage of the warm weather and cook outside. They prepare a variety of meats, but grilled prawns is usually a favorite.
In Montenegro, many people will fast through Christmas Eve and enjoy a meatless, and dairy-free Christmas dinner. One of the traditional dishes that can be seen at the table is kutia, which is made of wheatberries, poppy seeds, and honey. This ceremonial dish symbolizes unity.
A traditional Danish Christmas dinner isn't complete without a special dessert called Risalamande (or ris à l'amande in French). It is a cold rice pudding typically served with hot or cold cherry sauce. Risalamande has been a popular staple in Denmark since the late 19th century.