Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

Christmas food across cultures

You can’t deny that Christmas would just not be the same without food. It’s a way to bring everyone together, sit with family and friends and socialise without the pressures of work and everyday time constraints; it gives us the chance to relax and enjoy some good company (and of course, good food!). But what are some other foods we can sink our teeth into aside from the standard turkey, pigs in blankets and roast potatoes? What other yummy treats do people across the world indulge in at Christmas?


Baclava – Greece

Oh, the honey drizzled deliciousness of baclava! It might not be something you instantly associate with only Christmas (I know I love to have these all year round) but in the Greek prefecture of Evron a special sesame baklava is made on Christmas Eve. This follows the tradition that no dairy products and eggs can be used during Advent, and since baklava contains neither, this sweet treat can be enjoyed the night before the fast ends on Christmas Day.


Panettone – Italy

I have a family friend who brings us a panettone every year for Christmas and I adore them! For those of you who don’t know what it is, it’s an Italian sweet bread loaf and nowadays it can be bought in a variety of flavours; some plain, some with dried fruit, some with lemon curd in the centre. A less traditional, but top tip if you want to make it more decadent: hollow it out, put some ice cream in the middle then stick it in the freezer overnight. Instant crowd pleaser.


Hangikjöt (Smoked Lamb) – Iceland

Normally served on Christmas Day, despite Icelandic people celebrating on Christmas Eve, this smoked lamb is the most traditional Icelandic Christmas food. It can be eaten hot or cold, and tends to be served with boiled potatoes, white sauce and canned peas. Fun fact: this meat is actually cold-smoked over a fire with sheep dung! It originated back to the 9th and 10th Centuries when new settlements meant that large areas of forest were destroyed and fuel had to be found from other sources. Although maybe don’t think about the sheep shit when you’re eating it…


Ceia de Natal (Roast Turkey) – Brazil

Move over average turkey and make way for Ceia de Natal. Directly translated ‘Ceia de Natal’ just means Christmas Dinner, but it’s associated with a particular turkey marinade. This Brazilian Christmas Turkey is marinated in, among other things, champagne traditionally, however I’ve seen a few recipes calling for cachaça (rum). Why not try it this Christmas and mix it up from your normal roast turkey?


Risalamande – Denmark

Sort of like rice pudding but with almonds, this Danish treat traditionally rounds off the Christmas meal and is topped with a cherry compote. Not only does that sound divine, there’s also an added stake. One whole almond is often put in one of the glasses of pudding and the lucky winner of this almond usually wins a small gift, like a marzipan pig. It’s sort of like the old sixpence in a Christmas pudding deal – a bit of added fun to all of the festivities.


Imbuljuta tal-Qastan – Malta

The first and only drink of the list! It’s a traditional Maltese drink served after Midnight Mass and on New Years Eve and is made using cocoa, chestnuts, citrus zest, cloves and sometimes other spices. With those ingredients, you can imagine that Christmassy smell and taste; perfect for the cold winter nights. Of course, chocolate pairs excellently with a nice, boozy kick – think whiskey, coffee liquor or rum – and you have yourself a perfect Christmas nightcap.


KFC – Japan

Okay, so this is probably not a Christmas staple for most of us (more like an everyday one) but in Japan, Christmas is not officially a national holiday and so some interesting traditions have arisen. This particular one arose from a clever 1970s KFC advert saying ‘Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii’ or ‘Kentucky for Christmas’. Special Christmas dinner deals apparently include cake and sparkling wine and it can be so popular that families pre-order their dinners weeks in advance. So, there you have it, KFC for Christmas it is.

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