Christmas around the world features a variety of dishes & desserts

by Kate Evans

While Christmas dinner brings up images of roast turkey or ham and assorted mouth-watering side dishes, pies and cookies, each country around the world has its own flavor and plate of Christmas dishes.

United States

The United States has varied Christmas food traditions that originated in other lands such as Great Britain, Scandinavia, France, Germany, Italy and Latin America. Christmas dinner generally centers around a roasted turkey, chicken, pheasant, goose or duck or a beef roast.  Most have British origins.  In the South a ham or a country ham are often served.

Mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, stuffing, yams or sweet potatoes and root vegetables are served as side dishes.

Christmas drinks on American tables might include hot chocolate, apple cider, eggnog, wines and the Puerto Rican coquito, a cocktail composed of large amounts of coconut milk and rum. Desserts such as apple, pecan, pumpkin and sweet potato pies, Christmas cookies, chocolate fudge, fruitcake,   gingerbread and persimmon pudding are often served.

Christmas cookie favorites in America include oatmeal, chocolate chip, sugar cookies, Russian tea cakes, peanut butter, pecan, Santa cookies and gingerbread cookies.

Different regions in the United States feature different Christmas cuisine-Virginia offers oysters, ham pie and biscuits and the Upper Midwest has Scandinavian fare like lutefish, mashed rutabaga or turnip, according to Wikipedia.  In the South and Gulf Coast, rice, shrimp and other seafood are served and in some rural areas game meats like elk and quail are part of the Christmas meal.

Italian Americans may enjoy a Christmas Eve meal of the Feast of the Seven Fishes with pannetone and struffoli for desserts.  Struffoli are small balls of sweet dough fried, dipped in honey and rolled in colored candy sprinkles and candied fruit. Pannetone is a sweet Italian bread originally from Milan that’s filled with raisins, almonds and candied fruit peels.

Ireland, United Kingdom

An Irish or British Christmas generally consists of turkey, ham, roast potatoes, parsnips, Brussels sprouts, stuffing, gravy, carrots and other vegetables. Some may serve a duck, pheasant, goose or even roast beef.  Other entrees include pigs in blanket, cranberry sauce, redcurrant jelly and cauliflower.

Featured desserts are Christmas pudding (plum pudding), mince pies, Christmas cake, Yule logs or trifle-a delicious concoction of pieces of cake, pudding, fruit and lots of whipped cream.

Desserts of Provence, France.


In France, Christmas dishes could include oysters, smoked salmon, scallops, roasted chicken or chestnut-stuffed turkey.  Different regions feature different Christmas foods such as goose in Normandy and Alsace and crepes in Brittany.

The French region of Provence has thirteen desserts as the traditional Christmas dessert after the Christmas supper, which represent Jesus and the 12 apostles.  The desserts are set out Christmas Eve and remain on the table for three days.

The thirteen desserts include dried fruit and nuts such as raisins, dates, figs, almonds, quince cheese and walnuts and fruits like oranges, apples, winter melon, pears and grapes.  Sweets and breads like biscuits, candies, nougats, sweet cakes and Yule log are also included.

Kouglof is a light and sweet coffee cake dessert made in Alsace, France. It is also popular in many central European countries such as southern Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, Bosnia, Slovenia, Poland and the Czech Republic.


Christmas dinner in Australia is eaten at lunch time and is very similar to traditional English versions of Christmas dinner.  With Christmas taking place during Australia’s summer since it’s in the Southern Hemisphere, meats like ham, turkey and chicken are served cold with side salads, roast vegetables and cranberry sauce or are often barbecued.

Seafood such as lobster, oysters and crayfish are also popular as is a dessert called pavlova, which has strawberries, kiwi and passionfruit on baked meringue with whipped meringue.


Traditional Christmas dinner in Mexico is celebrated on Christmas Eve or Noche Buena.  Regional foods include tamales, atole-a hot corn-based drink, pozole-a pork and hominy soup or stew, bacalao-salted codfish and stuffed turkey, ham, chicken or duck.

Tamales vary from region to region.  Some have a beef or pork base with a red sauce, chicken with a green chile sauce or cheese with jalapeno strips.  Sweet tamales filled with pineapple, raisins, strawberries or corn are common.  Side dishes include spinach, cactus, salsa and refried beans, rice with tomatoes and spices, and shrimp and fish soup in coastal areas.

Some Mexican neighborhoods have block parties for Christmas Eve where neighbors go door to door sharing dishes of food. Small rural villages may hold a parish-wide celebration.  Many families exchange gifts after a midnight toast instead of waiting for Christmas morning.


In Poland the Christmas meal is served on Christmas Eve.  After the first star is seen in the sky, everyone shares the Christmas wafer and good wishes for the coming year. The meatless supper then begins.  Many families prepare a variety of special Christmas dishes, usually numbering 12 to honor the 12 apostles.

The meal can include dishes such as stuffed carp, herring in wine or cream sauce, fruit compote, vegetable salad, soup, pierogi, peas and carrots, boiled potatoes, sauerkraut, makowiec, poppyseed rolled cake and honey ginger cookies.


German households at Christmas dinner often feature carp, roast goose or venison (roe deer) served with red cabbage, Brussels sprouts and herring salad with beetroot, potatoes and apple. Potato salad with sausages is typically eaten in northern Germany on Christmas Eve while a smoked ham is generally served then with potato salad in southern Germany.

Families also make stollen or Christstollen which is a fruitcake with candied fruits, raisins, walnuts, almonds and spices that’s sprinkled with powdered sugar.  Many build gingerbread houses covered with candies, sweets and icing or make Christmas cookies for the festivities.

South Africa

Like in Australia, Christmas occurs during South Africa’s summer so summertime and tropical fruits like watermelon, cantaloupe, mango, pineapple and strawberries are popular for Christmas dinner. South Africans love to barbecue so many meats are barbecued.

Turkey, smoked ham, fried chicken, meatballs would be served with side dishes such as garden salad, potato salad and breyani-a curried rice dish.  Dessert would include Christmas pudding, fruitcake, ice cream. peppermint crisp tarts, yogurt tarts, cookies, trifle and melktert, a   South African milk tart, and hertzoggies-jam and coconut filled cookies or tarts.

While Christmas cuisines and traditions vary around the world, the gathering of families and friends and the exchange of holiday well wishes remain the same.