Christmas Dishes: Food Traditions from 7 Parts of the World

To all of you and your loved ones, a very happy Christmas time! What are you eating this year?

Christmas Meal Ideas From Around the World


Even though celebrating Christmas was banned during the Castro regime, Cubans abroad have kept up their traditions and festivities have picked up all over Cuba again too.

Noche Buena: a celebration that involves a gathering of family and friends, the more, the better! A whole pig is roasted for this event, it is served with plantains and Moros y Cristianos (Moors and Christians, which is rice and black beans, and refers back to the Islamic conquest of Spain by the Moors in the first millennium). For dessert try the Tres Leches (three milks) Cake, a light sponge cake with condensed and evaporated milk added, then topped with not-so-light heavy cream. Delicious!

Czech Republic:

Vánočka (Pictured): brioche type bread with raisins, almonds and chopped citron. Feeding a piece of it to the cows on Christmas Eve will ensure that there will be lots of milk all year. Putting a few vánočka crumbs in front of the beehive will make sure that the bees will produce enough honey next year. Throwing a piece into the well will ensure good quality of the water.


Bûche de Noël: typical dessert at a French Christmas table. It is a buttercream cake shaped like a log and decorated with sugary, Christmassy artwork on the top. Rather on the rich side, but certainly scrumptious! Of course it would not be a Christmas meal without foie gras, a cheese platter, roasted meats and even turkey, which the French like to stuff with chestnuts. Delightful wines and champagne accompany everything.


A multitude of dishes is eaten on Christmas Eve when the Christkind (Christ child) brings the gifts, as well as on Christmas Day. From potato salad to hearty soups, the fish dishes are interesting: Christmas Carp (Weihnachtskarpfen): this dish originated when the Christian and Catholic churches required a pre-Christmas fast, no meat was allowed until Christmas Day.  Since the carp was thought to symbolize water, renewal, life and abundance, it quickly became a favorite meal for Christmas Eve.  

Herring Salad: is served on Christmas Eve and is made of herring filets, red beets, pickles, onions, apples, potatoes, and eggs. Fresh bread and toast are eaten with it. This is quite delicious!


On Christmas Eve, a light meal with no meat like fish and vegetables or pasta precedes Midnight Mass.

Panettone: sweet bread loaf with candied and dried fruit eaten after Midnight Mass and on New Year’s Eve. Adults drink sparkling wine with it, children hot chocolate. This sweet bread was even exported to Peru and is a popular Christmas dessert there too! (Panetón Peruano).

Christmas Day is the time to indulge, affettato (sliced cured meats served with cheese) as a starter, pasta as a first dish as well as a second meat dish are typical. Many Italians are actually eating stuffed turkey these days too!


Christmas in Japan is celebrated eating chicken, specifically KFC chicken and is not complete without it! Who would have guessed it! If you would like to simplify this year, it hardly gets any easier.


The yearly hunt puts wild moose, deer and reindeer (Rudolph?) on Norwegian dinner tables, but the most traditional meat is lamb.

Pinnekjøtt: Salted and dried, sometimes smoked, lamb ribs. These were traditionally steamed over birch branches – hence the name (“Pinnekjøtt” translates loosely to “stick meat”).

Multekrem: Dessert made of cloudberries and whipped cream. Delicious!

Bon appétit! Enjoy the food, people and conversations during this festive time.