15 Christmas Foods from Around the World

15 Christmas Foods from Around the World
20.12.2023

The holiday season revolves around the joy of food, serving as the foundation that unites friends and family in the sharing of memories, cultural practices, and delightful tastes.

Whether it’s the sweetness of figgy pudding or the richness of fruit cake, a variety of foods can either elevate the holiday spirit or leave a less-than-pleasant impression. What’s deemed a customary part of the holiday feast in one region might appear peculiar to those from elsewhere.

Discover a collection of 15 distinctive holiday foods celebrated across the globe, each offering a unique and flavorful experience.

1. Latkes (Israel)

These golden, crispy delights are a beloved part of Jewish cuisine, especially during Hanukkah, and showcase the country’s rich history and cultural fusion.

Latkes, or potato pancakes, trace their roots to Eastern European Jewish communities. However, in Israel, these savory treats have evolved to incorporate a blend of culinary influences from the Middle East and beyond.

The heart of any Latke is grated potatoes, combined with onions, eggs, and a touch of flour. The mixture is seasoned with salt and pepper before being carefully pan-fried to achieve a golden, crispy exterior.

While the classic recipe is widely enjoyed, modern variations may include zucchini, sweet potatoes, or even a hint of Middle Eastern spices for a unique twist.

Latkes are more than just potato pancakes; they are a celebration of tradition, innovation, and the joy of coming together.

As families gather around the table during Hanukkah, the crispy aroma of Latkes fills the air, creating a sensory experience that connects generations and pays homage to Israel’s rich culinary heritage.

2. Pasteles (Puerto Rico)

Pasteles (holiday dish from Puerto Rico)

Originating from the Taino and African influences that have shaped Puerto Rican culture, Pasteles are a cherished part of the Christmas festivities.

These flavorful parcels are often enjoyed as a centerpiece during holiday feasts and are a testament to the island’s diverse culinary heritage.

Pasteles are made from a mixture of grated green bananas, plantains, and taro root, combined with achiote oil for color and flavor.

The filling typically includes a savory blend of pork, chicken, or beef, accented with olives, capers, and raisins. This savory concoction is then encased in a banana leaf, tied securely, and steamed to perfection.

In every bite of a Pastele, one can taste the history, culture, and love that go into its creation. As Puerto Ricans around the world gather to celebrate the holidays, the aroma of Pasteles wafting through the air serves as a reminder of the island’s rich culinary heritage and the joy of coming together to savor tradition.

3. Bûche de Noël (France)

In the heart of French holiday traditions, the Bûche de Noël, or Yule Log Cake, stands as a sweet emblem of Christmas celebrations. This delectable dessert not only captivates the taste buds but also holds a special place in the hearts of the French, symbolizing the warmth and joy of the festive season.

Crafted from a sponge cake base, the Bûche de Noël is often rolled and filled with luscious creams or ganache. The exterior is then adorned with chocolate frosting, meticulously textured to resemble the bark of a log.

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The finishing touches often include festive decorations like meringue mushrooms, holly leaves, or powdered sugar to evoke the enchanting winter forest scene.

While the traditional flavor profile features chocolate, variations abound, offering a range of tastes from coffee and chestnut to raspberry and vanilla.

As the Bûche de Noël graces French tables during the holiday season, it not only delights the senses but also serves as a cultural emblem, embodying the spirit of Christmas and the enduring joy found in the act of sharing delicious traditions with family and friends.

4. Shuba (Russia)

In the vast and diverse landscape of Russian cuisine, one dish stands out as a flavorful testament to both creativity and tradition: Shuba salad. Also known as “Herring Under a Fur Coat,” this layered delicacy has become a staple in Russian households, gracing tables during festive occasions and embodying the rich gastronomic heritage of the country.

At first glance, Shuba salad might appear like an ordinary layered dish, but its composition reveals a symphony of flavors. The foundation consists of finely chopped pickled herring, creating the first layer of this culinary masterpiece. Subsequent layers include boiled potatoes, grated carrots, onions, and beets, each adding a distinct texture and taste.

What truly elevates Shuba salad is the generous slathering of mayonnaise between each layer. The mayonnaise not only adds a rich and creamy texture but also binds the diverse flavors, creating a harmonious blend that is both satisfying and indulgent. The final layer is adorned with grated boiled eggs, completing the visual feast and enhancing the overall taste.

While Shuba salad is a year-round favorite, it is particularly cherished during New Year’s celebrations and other festive occasions. Its vibrant colors, reminiscent of a winter landscape, make it a fitting addition to holiday feasts. Russians take pride in presenting Shuba as a symbol of abundance, prosperity, and the joy of togetherness.

Shuba salad is not merely a culinary delight; it is a cultural expression of Russian hospitality and the warmth of shared moments. As families gather around the table to enjoy this layered masterpiece, they partake in a tradition that goes beyond taste, honoring the rich history and diverse flavors that make Russian cuisine a tapestry of culinary excellence.

5. Bibingka (Philippines)

Bibingka (Holiday dish from the Philippines)

During the holiday season, bibingka is a common breakfast item in the Philippines.

Bibingka consists of rice flour or sticky rice, coconut milk, sugar, and water wrapped and cooked in banana leaves. Eggs, cheese, and coconut flakes are sometimes added as a garnish.

This dish is usually served for breakfast or after Simbáng Gabi — a nine-day series of Filipino Catholic masses leading up to Christmas.

In fact, it’s common to have food stations set up outside of church for churchgoers to buy bibingka and other popular sweets, such as steamed rice cakes known as puto bumbong. Many enjoy these treats with a hot cup of tea or coffee.

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6. Mince pie (England)

In the enchanting realm of English holiday traditions, the mince pie emerges as a culinary icon, synonymous with the festive season. Originating in medieval times, mince pies have traversed centuries, maintaining their status as a cherished holiday delight.

Modern mince pies are a delectable blend of sweet and spicy flavors, encased in a buttery pastry shell. The filling, a harmonious mix of raisins, currants, apples, citrus peel, and a hint of brandy or spices, delights the taste buds with each bite. While the traditional round shape prevails, creative bakers often experiment with variations, from miniature sizes to lattice-topped designs.

As the aroma of spiced fruit wafts through English homes during the holiday season, mince pies stand as a testament to the enduring magic of Christmas. Beyond their delectable taste, these pies encapsulate the spirit of togetherness, heritage, and the joy derived from honoring time-honored traditions in the heart of the festive season.

7. Bahn chung (Vietnam)

Bahn chung (holiday dish from Vietnam)

Bahn chung is a beloved rice cake enjoyed during Tết (Vietnamese New Year).

This dish is made using sticky rice, pork, mung beans, green onions, fish sauce, and spices like salt and pepper.

In addition to its great flavor, it’s placed in front of family altars to pay tribute to ancestors and prayers for the upcoming year.

8. Yebeg wot (Ethiopia)

Yebeg wot (holiday dish from Ethiopia)

Similarly to Ethiopia’s national dish, doro wat (chicken stew), yebeg wot is a popular lamb stew served during the holiday season.

Weeks prior to the holidays, farmers feed lambs a high calorie diet. This leads to fatty, tender meat, which is added to a stew made of onions, tomatoes, garlic, kibbeh (Ethiopian butter), berbere spice mix, and various spices.

Many serve yebeg wot with injera, a popular flatbread.

This dish is a rich source of protein, carbs, and antioxidants.

9. Spiced hot chocolate (Peru)

If you think you know how to make the best hot chocolate, you may want to give Peru’s spiced hot chocolate a try.

This creamy hot chocolate with a kick is made with chocolate, condensed or evaporated milk, and a combination of spices, such as cinnamon, chili powder, cloves, and nutmeg.

In fact, this beverage is so popular that it has its own event known as la Chocolatadas, during which people gather and serve spiced hot chocolate with a popular cake known as panetón. aped to represent a manger, although most mince pies served today are circular.

10. Butter tarts (Canada)

While a typical Canadian diet is similar to that of a typical U.S. diet, it has a few classic treats of its own.

Butter tarts are a Canadian dessert that’s served during many holidays, but mostly during Thanksgiving and Christmas.

They’re small pastries with a sweet filling made of butter, sugar, maple or corn syrup, eggs, and sometimes walnuts and raisins. Enjoy these tarts with a cup of coffee for the ultimate treat.

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 11. Hangikjöt (Iceland)

Hangikjöt (holiday dish from Iceland)

Served during Christmas, hangikjöt is one of the most popular Icelandic holiday foods.

It translates to “hung meat” and involves smoked lamb or mutton. Its name originates from the traditional practice of hanging smoked meats in a smoking shed for weeks to develop a smoky, salty flavor.

Hangikjöt is commonly served with green beans, potatoes that are coated in a white béchamel sauce, and side of pickled red cabbage.

12. Kutia (Ukraine)

Kutia holiday dish from the Ukraine

Kutia is a traditional Christmas Eve dish that is popular among members of the Ukranian Orthodox Church. As part of the Julian calendar, Christmas Eve falls on January 6th.

It’s usually the first dish served as part of Sviata Vecheria — a 12-dish vegetarian feast to commemorate the 12 apostles.

Made from cooked wheat berries, poppy seeds, dried fruit, and honey, this dish is packed with nutrition, which is an important focus of this Ukranian feast. In fact, this dish is so important to the meal that all guests are expected to have at least one spoonful.

However, it’s customary to wait until the first star in the sky appears before digging in.

13. Janssons frestelse (Sweden)

Janssons frestelse (Swedish holiday dish)

Also known as Jansson’s Temptation, this casserole dish is made from potatoes, onions, heavy cream, breadcrumbs, and sprats — a small, oily fish similar to sardines.

It’s usually accompanied by a smorgasbord of food known as the “julbord,” which translates to “Yule table” or “Christmas table.” It’s enjoyed with foods like baked ham, meatballs, fish, boiled potatoes, cheeses, and various cooked vegetables.

The origin of its name is controversial, though many believe it originated from a popular opera singer known as Pelle Janzon.

14. Eggnog (United States)

Eggnog isn’t a holiday treat around the world. In fact, it’s mostly enjoyed in the United States and Canada.

This drink is made from milk, cream, whipped egg whites, egg yolks, and sugar, resulting in a creamy, smooth texture.

Most people enjoy eggnog as an alcoholic beverage by adding rum, bourbon, or brandy.

15. Christmas cake (Global)

Christmas cake is a popular dessert around the world.

It’s a type of fruit cake made of flour, eggs, sugar, spices, candied cherries, dried fruit, and brandy. Traditional Christmas cake is made at least 2 months ahead to allow adequate time to slowly “feed” the cake with brandy every 2 weeks. Finally, it’s topped with a marzipan icing.

While it’s mostly known as a British dessert, many countries serve Christmas cake during the holiday season. In fact, South Koreans are well-known for their beautiful, artistic Christmas cake decorations.

Conclusion

Many cultures celebrate the holiday season for different reasons. Whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah, or New Year, food plays a central role in celebrations around the world.

From savory main dishes to sweet desserts, each culture brings a unique twist to this jolly season.

With the holidays just around the corner, remember to enjoy all the delicious food and memories they will bring.

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