It’s the same situation in every country around the world: after a hectic run-up to Christmas with crowded streets and frantic last-minute shopping, ideally you will get to enjoy a few festive days full of rest and relaxation – and delicious food! Let’s take a look at some of the most popular and unusual international Christmas classics.
Countries across the world have cultures that vary immensely, and each one celebrates what is probably the most important Christian holiday of the year in its own special way – everything from the Christmas decorations to the opening of presents can be different depending on where you celebrate. In some cultures, the presents are opened on 24 December, whereas in others they wait until the next morning. And in Spain, the children actually have to wait until 6 January, the day of Epiphany. However, no matter how different the traditions are, there is one thing that all countries agree upon: Christmas is a time of year that is dedicated to good taste. In fact, a festive meal is an essential part of every Christmas celebration.
Langostinos: the Spanish answer to roast turkey
A Christmas dinner wouldn’t live up to its name if it didn’t end with full stomachs and praise from the guests. But what is traditionally eaten in different countries? If you look at the Christmas tables around the world, you will quickly notice that there is no room on the table for the vegetarian and vegan cuisine that is otherwise becoming increasingly popular – it’s meat as far as the eye can see. The UK has its traditional turkey, the Germans savour their Christmas goose, and Switzerland prefers its festive tradition of Fondue Chinoise. But fish also enjoys great popularity. The Austrians, for example, prefer to eat carp instead of the internationally popular roast. And in Spain they have both – meat dishes alongside platters of fresh langostinos and gambas.
Eel, ravioli and potato salad are also traditional Christmas dishes
It starts to get really interesting when it comes to the side dishes, as they truly bring the regional specialities into the spotlight. For example, did you know that glass eels are an absolute delicacy in the Basque Country and a favourite at Christmastime? Glass eels are young eels that, as a result of their age, are still translucent. Fried with a bit of garlic and chilli, this side dish adds both colour and flavour to the main course. If we look at what is served in the Italian part of Switzerland, we instead find more pasta sides. Ravioli and tortellini, in particular, are extremely popular. Both of these are made from scratch with a lot of love and extra time and effort. In contrast to this, one common dish on German tables is quite easy to make: sausages with potato salad. Although it might sound like a simple side dish, it is actually one of the most popular Christmas dinner dishes in Germany.
No matter which dishes you serve, the most important thing is that the guests leave with full stomachs and smiling faces. And, to avoid stomachs feeling too full, we recommend concluding the main course with a delicious espresso.
Plum pudding: dried fruit in its most festive holiday form
In the Christmas season, we all give in to our sweet tooth, and rarely do we enjoy grandma’s secret recipe or the typical regional cuisine as much as during the holidays. The British, for example, are particularly proud of their plum pudding. Although the name suggests otherwise, this recipe is not a milk-based dessert, but instead contains hearty ingredients such as dried fruit and nuts. Traditionally, the pudding is cooked in a pudding cloth and stored for several weeks before it is flambéed with a spirit such as brandy before serving. Thanks to the British colonies, plum pudding is also popular on the other side of the globe and is still served today in Australia on 25 December. But in contrast to cold Europe, the Australians enjoy their plum pudding in the middle of summer on a bright sunny day.
From yule logs to turron – saving the best for last
The truly sweet desserts are found in France, most notably the Yule log. It is probably the dessert most beloved by the French. It consists of a chocolate buttercream that is rolled up in a sponge cake and then cut into the shape of a tree log. A coincidence? Not at all. The shape is much more the continuation of an old tradition. In France, it used to be customary to burn a large piece of wood in the oven on Christmas. Since wood stoves have become rare, the Yule log is the modern interpretation of this tradition. But the “tree” is so tasty that it definitely doesn’t belong in the oven.
Spain is also known for its sweet traditions. The classic dessert turron is a confection usually made with almonds, honey, sugar, and egg and served in slices. Although it is a real calorie bomb, we’re not worried about that at Christmas. This traditional Christmas dessert comes in countless varieties, and chocolate, nuts and fruit are often added. There is something for every (good) taste.
Christmas has a lot to offer when it comes to international cuisine. Why not add a little variety to your traditions and also try out a dessert or side dish from a neighbouring country? New dishes expand our taste horizons and are certainly a nice surprise for your guests. We hope you have fun trying out and enjoying some new foods!