What makes the perfect Christmas dinner? For most Brits it’s turkey, sage stuffing, pigs in blankets, cranberry sauce, roast potatoes and assorted veg – we’re such sticklers for tradition that many annually plate up sprouts even though no family members like them! But what of other countries around the world? Let’s take a look at what is gracing global dinner tables on December 25th – and if you fancy a change this year, you could always try an international flavour this Christmas!
Many of the English-speaking countries, such as the US and Canada, have very similar Christmas Day meals to those enjoyed in the UK – although in the US the turkey is often substituted for another meat nowadays, given the festive period comes shortly after Thanksgiving. In the southern hemisphere, where Christmas is celebrated with temperatures in excess of 30 degrees C, barbecues feature more heavily. South Africans are not afraid to cook a whole turkey on the barbecue, while Australians will often incorporate prawns.
As you go around the world, you’ll find some peculiar Christmas menus. In Japan, for example, where Christmas is not a national holiday, Kentucky Fried Chicken has strangely become the popular festive meal.
Romania has an interesting festive dish – and one which may be considered an acquired taste: pork and beef aspic. Aspic is a dish whereby the ingredients are set into gelatin made from meat stock, so it’s like a big, meaty, fatty jelly – yum. Carp is the popular Christmas dish in Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Lithuania, with the latter throwing a bit of pike and some pickled vegetables for good measure. Meanwhile Iceland, the home to many ‘unique’ fish dishes, has two festive meals: fermented skate and boiled potatoes are enjoyed on December 23rd in honour of the country’s patron saint, Saint Thorlak, then on Christmas Eve families sit down to enjoy smoked lamb and a choice of smoked seabird, often puffin or ptarmigan. This is accompanied by leaf bread, a flatbread cut into festive patterns.
Western European nations have more subtle differences to UK Christmas dinners, substituting bits here and there for their own festive favourites. Germany, for example, tends to favour goose over turkey, while Italians incorporate pasta and the French add in a bit of foie gras alongside their turkey. In Switzerland, things vary depending on the linguistic regions, but most find a way to squeeze some cheese in there with a nice fondue.
It’s in the desserts where things really differ, however. Italians favour following their Christmas meal with panettone, a sweet cake bread containing candied fruits, while the Germans really break out the sweet treats: gingerbread, spiced biscuits and marzipan are joined by stolen a dense sweet cake containing big chunks of marzipan, dried fruit and covered in powdered sugar. In Spain, where the main courses vary based on regional favourites, sweet dishes include turrón, a mix of almonds and nougat, to polvorónes, a kind of crumbly shortbread.
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