Christmas around the world

Transport yourself to another place with these foreign flavours.

05 Nov 2009

By now you've probably already decided what you're going to have for Christmas lunch or dinner. And for some, it's going to be 'the same procedure as every year', roast lamb or roast turkey, chicken pie, glazed gammon, sliced ox tongue, pastrami, roast potatoes, three-bean salad, slaphakskeentjies, potato salad and green salads; trifle, Christmas pudding with brandy butter, and for tea, Christmas cake or Christmas mince pies. And there's absolutely no reason why you shouldn't have that if that's what Christmas is all about for you.

Christmas in the North

But you may want to go slightly off course this year by introducing a couple of dishes that are traditionally enjoyed by other nationalities across the world. First, a bit of useless information: where the indigenous population of a country has been influenced by the introduction of Europeans, the Christmas feast centers around a roast, and most often this was roast pig. As many of these Europeans began settling in the Americas, turkeys were imported, raised, and substituted for pork. But enough said, let's see who's eating what over the festive season.

In Austria carp with a spicy gingerbread and beer sauce would be on the Xmas menu; the Belgians would tuck into fried potato croquettes and a dessert of creamy Christmas Log cake (La buche de Noel, which is cake rolled and filled with chestnut cream then coated in homemade marzipan). In Finland they'll have baked ham and veggie casseroles; in Germany carp or stuffed goose; in Portugal salted dry cod with boiled potatoes; in Russia cakes, pies and 'meat dumplings' (ground pork or beef mixed with herbs, cream and egg, then boiled); in Latvia brown peas with bacon sauce, small pies, cabbage and sausage; in Sweden ham, herring and brown beans, and in France a plump roasted goose and buckwheat cakes with sour cream.

Some Polish believe the dinner should consist of 12 courses, in honour of the twelve apostles. The supper starts with a wafer called Oplatek being broken and shared by all at the table. No traditional Polish Christmas dinner contains meat, but what they will have are Borscht (the popular Eastern European beetroot soup), dried fruit dumplings, seed loaves and noodles.

Elsewhere in the world

In Australia the typical Christmas lunch includes stuffed turkey and flaming Christmas pudding with small gifts inside for 'good luck', a reference to the days of gold prospectors. Alternatively, many people celebrate Christmas with a barbecue, while residents of coastal cities are partial to lunch on the beach, where Father Christmases can be seen arriving on surfboards...

Finally, in Japan turkey is a popular Christmas lunch, but fast food chain Kentucky Fried Chicken is busiest on Christmas day because of the perceived similarity of the face on the logo of the chicken outlet, Colonel Sanders, to Father Christmas.

Whatever you decide to make your family and friends this Christmas, we hope you will have a wonderful time preparing it and that it will be the talk of the town for years to come.

Festive dishes

Roast lamb

Christmas turkey

Glazed gammon

Vegetable casserole

Christmas mince pie

Christmas trifle

Christmas cake


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