19 Christmas Dinners from Around the World
From fast food to a seven-course feast, here's what Christmas dinner looks like around the globe.
Presents aren’t the only thing you’ll find Mexican families unwrapping on Christmas Day. Savory meat or vegetable-based tamales are the main event at dinnertime. In fact, it’s common for families to host a tamalada, or tamale-making party, in the days leading up to the event. Learn how to make tamales with our step-by-step guide.
A British Christmas dinner typically consists of prawns, mince-meat pies and a show-stopping roasted turkey. Unlike Americans who garnish their bird with herbs, stuffing or citrus, the Brits favor topping their turkey with a bundle of sausages. For dessert: A fruit-packed Christmas pudding.
It’s common for Greek families to celebrate Christmas dinner with roasted lamb as their main dish. In northern regions of the country, though, you’ll find yiaprakia (brined pork stuffed cabbage rolls) on the table. On Christmas Eve, it’s a Greek tradition to make Christopsomo, a rustic sweetbread filled with raisins, nuts, cardamom and cloves. The bread is decorated with a cross and turned into a delicious centerpiece on Christmas Day.
The French prefer to savor seafood during the Christmas holiday. Common dishes include oysters, prawns and lobster. For dessert, a bûche de Noël (or Yule log) is served. Check our our vintage French Christmas recipes for more ways to say, “Joyeux Noël!”
The Germans dine on roasted duck, goose or rabbit as their main course for Christmas dinner. On the side are favorites like sausage stuffing, potato dumplings and red cabbage. The country’s most-loved holiday dessert is Stollen, a long, flat sweetened bread that’s similar to a fruit cake. Try our favorite German Stollen recipe. Don’t forget to check out Oma’s traditional recipes for a German Christmas.
For many Polish families, Christmas Eve dinner is the big event. The celebration takes place over a 12-course meal that includes classic Polish dishes like borscht, mushroom soup, pierogi and poppyseed cake. Craving more? Check out our favorite traditional Polish recipes.
The traditional Austrian Christmas menu features fried carp. In recent years, though, roast turkey has grown popular. But when it comes to dessert, Austrian families still stick to the classics. Sachertorte, a chocolate-and-apricot flavored cake that originated in Vienna, is commonly served as a holiday treat.
Christmas is often an outdoor event for our friends in the Southern Hemisphere. Many New Zealanders make the most of the warm summertime weather by hosting a barbecue for Christmas lunch. The dishes vary, as some families prefer to grill seafood like fish and shrimp, while others choose ham or even exotic meats for their celebration.
Hangikjot is a favorite for Icelandic Christmas dinner celebrations. The thin-sliced meat is boiled and served with a cream sauce. You might want to know why it tastes so good…it’s made from lamb, mutton or horse meat that’s traditionally smoked over dried sheep’s dung!
The Feast of the Seven Fishes—also known as Festa dei Sette Pesci—is a famous Christmas tradition in Italy. The dinner consists of a seven-course menu featuring seafood dishes like carp, octopus, clams, mussels and even fried eel! The final course is reserved for classic Italian desserts like panettone or homemade tiramisu.
Anyone who has made a batch of tamales knows that they’re a labor of love. That’s why most Costa Ricans only prepare them for special occasions, including Christmas. The whole family gets involved in the two-day process: preparing the filling, spreading masa on the banana leaves and steaming them for hours until they’re ready to eat.
A Finnish Christmas dinner is often served-up buffet style in a tradition called joulupöytä, which literally translates to “Christmas table.” You’ll find ham, fish, potato casseroles and rosolli, a colorful salad made with diced beets, potatoes, carrots, apples and cream.
The Philippines has one of the longest Christmas seasons in the world—they start celebrating as early as September! After midnight mass on Christmas Eve, Filipinos have a grand Noche Buena feast featuring lechón, a spit-roasted suckling pig. You’ll also find queso de bola (a ball of cheese), spring rolls, fruit salad and pasta on the table.
Hosting the traditional Lithuanian Christmas Eve dinner—known as kūčios—is a huge undertaking. It can take as long as a week to prepare this dairy-free, meatless dinner! You’ll only find cold dishes on the table, including herring, bread, mushrooms and other vegetables.
Believe it or not, 3.6 million Japanese citizens celebrate Christmas with a bucket of crispy fried chicken from KFC. Thanks to an extremely successful marketing campaign in the ’70s, folks have flocked to the fast-food giant for “party buckets” on Christmas. Join the trend by learning how to make KFC chicken at home.
Argentinians celebrate Christmas with a variety of dishes, but they almost always include the Italian classic vitel toné. It’s a cold dish featuring thinly-sliced veal and capers in a creamy tuna sauce, which is super refreshing during the Southern Hemisphere’s balmy December weather.
People in Ukraine actually celebrate Christmas on January 7th. The Holy Supper takes place as soon as the first star is seen in the sky. There are 12 traditional dishes, including a sweet grain pudding called kutia, a meatless borscht beet soup and varenyky, a dumpling similar to pierogies stuffed with cabbage and potatoes.
Like other Eastern Orthodox countries, Armenians celebrate Christmas on January 7. The traditional Armenian Christmas dinner features ghapama, a special pumpkin dish that’s only eaten on Christmas and other special occasions. The pumpkin is stuffed with rice, raisins, nuts and honey before being roasted to perfection.
Christmas dinner in Sweden is all about the buffet known as julbord. The table is filled with a three-course meal consisting of fish (often pickled herring) followed by cold cuts, ham and sausage. Then, Swedes will serve a meatball and potato casserole called Janssons frestelse before diving into sweets like saffron buns and rice pudding.