25 Culturally Unique Christmas Dinners From Like Around the World

traditional Christmas dinner

Flæskesteg from Denmark. (Photo: johanmede [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0])

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.

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. 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.

 

Switzerland

Fondue paysanne

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 dinner.

 

Netherlands

GourmettenGourmetten is the typical holiday meal of 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.

 

Mexico

Pozole rojo

While Christmas meals can differ from region to region, the traditional stew pozole is a common feature on the table. Made with hominy and meat—usually pork—it's accompanied by a wide variety of condiments like shredded cabbage, chile peppers, avocado, and lime. There are several different varieties of pozole—white, green, or red.

 

Guatemala

Guatemala City, Guatemala

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.

 

Sweden

Christmas dinner

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.

 

Slovakia

Kapustnica

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.

 

Botswana

Fried Chicken with Jolof Rice and Salad

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.

 

Japan

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.

 

Venezuela

Mas naa

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.

 

New Zealand

down under dessert

It's only fitting that New Zealander's fire up the barbeque during the holidays, grilling a wide array of goodies and then ending their holiday meal with the meringue-based treat, Pavlova.

 

Norway

A Typical Norwegian Christmas Dinner

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.”

 

Finland

LanttulaatikkoLanttulaatikko, 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.

 

United Kingdom

Christmas dinner

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.

 

Poland

uszka-in-barszcz

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.

 

Greece

Christopsomos

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.

 

Philippines

Jamón americano

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.

 

Iceland

Hangikjöt

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.

 

Armenia

Ghapama

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 Rico

NDQ_3530

Costa 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.

 

Greenland

Mattak

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.

 

Costa Rica

Tamales

Tamales are an important part of Costa Rican cuisine, but especially at Christmas. This dish used to be only made for the holiday and remains a key component of the meal. It is usually made with corn, pork, carrots, sweet pepper, achiote, and wrapped in a plantain leaf before it is cooked.

 

Australia 

Shrimp on the barbie

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 shrimp is usually a favorite, which they call “shrimp on the barbie.”

 

Montenegro

Kutia

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.

 

Denmark

Merry Christmas

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.

 

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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