The following provide just a taster of favourite festive foods, from around the world:
Austrians celebrate Christmas in grand style with a Christmas Eve supper of carp simmered in a ginger and beer-flavoured sauce and seasonal vegetables, followed by Topfenpalatschinken (sweet cheese crepes topped with an apricot caramel sauce) for dessert. The traditional fare on Christmas Day is roast goose with all the trimmings.
Australian Christmas dinners vary from state to state and from one group of people to another. In general, however, traditional Australian festive fare consists of roast turkey, with ham and/or pork. Christmas pudding (containing a lucky token) and mince pies are also served for afters.
As with many other European countries the main Christmas meal is enjoyed on Christmas Eve rather than on Christmas Day. A typical Bulgarian Christmas dinner consists of twelve different meat-free dishes such as beans, nuts, dried fruit (usually plums), cakes and Banitza (cheese and spinach filo parcels).
In Brazil, chicken, turkey, pork and ham are all popular meats for the main Christmas meal, served with rice, salad and dried fruits.
Christmas is celebrated on Christmas Eve, in the Czech Republic. Following a typical starter of cod roe soup, a main course of carp or Wiener Schnitzel is served with potato salad including carrots, peas, celery, onions, eggs, pickles and mayonnaise, or with sauerkraut and dumplings. Linzer (sweet vanilla flavoured delicacies) are popular for dessert.
Codfish cooked in a creamy, spicy sauce, served with boiled or mashed potatoes, and roast pig, ham and vegetables are typical Christmas dishes, in Finland.
In France, Christmas fare varies from region to region. The Parisians, for instance, are fond of oysters and foie gras for their main Christmas meal, whereas in Alsace, goose is favourite. In other regions including Burgundy, Christmas food is similar to a traditional British Christmas dinner with turkey, cranberry sauce and chestnut stuffing, followed by Christmas pudding and mince pies. But the French tend to take their festive fare one step further, with a mouth-watering array of sweet pastries and petits fours.
Christmas Eve, fondly referred to as “dickbauch” (fat stomach) is when the Germans gather together to enjoy their main Christmas meal. German and Austrian Christmas dinners are very similar, consisting typically of gebackener karpfen (carp), or roast goose served with potatoes, cabbage, parsnips and pickled vegetables. Sweets include Christbaumgerback, sweet, sugary dough delights cut into festive shapes and baked until crisp, as well as Stollen, the traditional German Christmas cake.
Pork is the most popular meat for a Greek Christmas feast, served with sweet loaves called Christopsomo (Christ Bread).
Christmas treats, in Greenland range from lamb to a dish of small auks, (seabirds, wrapped in sealskin until they decompose before they are ready for cooking), or whale steaks. After the meal Mattak (whale skin with a strip of blubber inside) is passed around the guests.
A traditional Italian seven-course Christmas dinner (Cennone), may consist of antipasto, anchovies, various fish, pasta especially spaghetti, meat (only occasionally), salads, fresh broccoli, fruits, cheese, sweets and magnificent cakes and pastries that vary from region to region.
Turkey and plum pudding are traditionally served for dinner on Christmas Day, in Malta. Timpana (pastries filled with minced meat macaroni) are also popular.
Barbecued meats such as pork, lamb or venison served with roast vegetables including sweet potato and pumpkin, salads and coleslaw are all popular Christmas fare, in New Zealand. For pudding, hot fruit compote with custard and ice cream is a “hot” Christmas favourite among New Zealanders!
Christmas in Poland is celebrated on Christmas Eve (Wagilia) with a traditional feast of twelve different dishes, each representing a month of the year. Oplatek (Christmas wafers or sacred offerings) are also shared. Fish dishes, especially herring, pike and carp are generally served instead of meat, at Christmas time. Other Polish festive favourites include fish or mushroom soup, or red borscht (beetroot soup served with soured cream), sauerkraut with wild mushrooms with pierogies (crescent-shaped, stuffed dumplings with a variety of fillings), and kutia (a rich dried fruit compote) for dessert.
The Portuguese are partial to a speciality dish called Bacalhau (dried salt cod). For dessert, Rabanadas (bread soaked in wine, sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and fried in eggs) or Bolo Rei (a fruit cake with a topping of glazed fruit and chopped nuts), are traditionally served at Christmas.
The focus, in Scandinavian countries, is on sweet foods more than on savoury dishes. Pepparkakor (cinnamon and gingerbread biscuits) in the shape of stars, moons, hearts, even pigs, are traditionally baked for Christmas.
In Sweden, the main celebratory meal, consisting of pork, ham, fish (usually herring) and brown beans is served on Christmas Eve, rather than on Christmas Day.
Similar in many ways to Portugal, Spanish festive fare focuses on seafood. White sea bass roasted in olive oil, onions and lemons and sprinkled with breadcrumbs is a traditional Christmas dish. Almonds and marzipan both feature prominently in most traditional Spanish Christmas “puddings” and sweets. Turrón, (nougat made from toasted sweet almonds and honey, similar to nut brittle) is particularly popular.
In the Ukraine, it is customary to serve a special twelve-course supper, on Christmas Eve. Traditional courses include borscht (beetroot soup), various fish dishes, cabbage stuffed with millet, and dried fruit compote topped with honey and crushed poppy seeds.
Christmas Dinner Past & Present
Did you know that…
• In Britain, during Elizabethan times, the well-to-do would feast on roast swan, peacock, boar’s head and goose, for Christmas dinner?
• More and more people, in Britain today, are foregoing the traditional Christmas dinner of turkey with all the trimmings, in favour of vegetarian options such as chestnut patE, borscht, savoury strudel parcels, chestnut stuffed mushrooms, cranberry sauce and walnuts, or vegetarian Christmas lasagne?
• In some European countries, including Slovakia and in the Netherlands, Saint Nicholas’s birthday, December 6th, is also celebrated, with sweets pastries and goodies handed out to children who have been particularly well-behaved, throughout the year. Naughty brats are traditionally handed pieces of coal, potatoes or onions!