Christmas dinner traditions around the world

Georgia-Rose Johnson
by , Shopping & Travel Publisher

Christmas in Britain wouldn’t be complete without a roast turkey and all the trimmings, a good bottle of wine and Dad falling asleep on the couch by early afternoon. Yet the food that people tuck into at Christmas varies hugely around the world.

From whale skin in Greenland to fried chicken in Japan and salted cod in Mexico, take a look at our interactive global map and table below to see what will be on people’s plates this Christmas.

Full list of countries

Country Christmas food
Albania Albanian pumpkin and walnut pie
Angola Polenta made of corn meal or cassava roots
Argentina Vitel Toné: thin cold slices of veal, in a sauce made of tuna, mayonnaise, cream, egg yolks, white wine, anchovies and capers.
Armenia On Christmas eve, Armenians eat a fish dish known as “princely trout”. On Christmas day, they have a lamb and rice dish.
Australia Since Christmas happens deep in Australia’s summer, they commonly celebrate with a barbecue.
Austria Austria has a few traditional Christmas meals.
Bangladesh Chicken and vegetable curries, with a side of rice and vegetables
Belarus Kutsia: a sweet porridge with honey, nuts, poppy seeds and raisins
Belgium The main Belgian meal includes a cooked turkey.
Bolivia A pork stew with either chicken, beef or lamb, served with potatoes and corn.
Bosnia and Herzegovina Sarma, a traditional Bosnian dish often served at Christmas: minced meat is wrapped into a roll inside pickled cabbage leaves.
Botswana Fried chicken with rice and salads.
Brazil In Brazil they traditionally have a chester: a chicken genetically modified to have more meat around its back and chest.
Bulgaria Bulgarians have a round loaf of bread they call a pita. A coin is hidden inside the bread, then it’s divided among members of the family. Whoever gets the piece with the coin will have luck, health and prosperity in the new year.
Canada Canadians have a similar meal to us, with stuffed turkey, potatoes and vegetables.
Chile In Chile people often have barbecued meats, with a Chilean Christmas cake similar to panettone for dessert.
China The Chinese word for Christmas Eve is similar to their word for apple. Because of this, people buy colourfully wrapped apples and give them to each other as gifts on December 24th.
Colombia In Colombia they eat pork stuffed with rice and peas.
Congo, Democratic Republic of the Beef, rice and biscuits, usually eaten outdoors.
Costa Rica Tamales: corn-based dough filled with chicken or pork and vegetables, then wrapped in banana leaves and boiled.
Croatia On December 24th, Croations serve up bakalar, a dried cod-fish meal. On Christmas day, they have turkey, lamb, cabbage and peppers filled with minced meat, salads and homemade bread.
Czech Republic Fried carp served with potato salad, and carp soup.
Denmark Roast duck, goose or pork with potatoes, red cabbage, beetroot and cranberry sauce.
Dominica Christmas tripe soup, reflective of the country’s culture of eating every part of the animal.
Ecuador Like us, Ecuadorians often celebrate Christmas with a turkey, usually eaten on Christmas eve.
Egypt Fata: a lamb soup with bread, rice and garlic.
Estonia Common Christmas food includes blood sausage, sült—a cold-cut meat jelly consisting of meat from an animal’s head, sauerkraut and oven-roasted potatoes.
Ethiopia Wat: a thick and spicy meat and vegetable stew, served with flatbread.
Finland Baked ham is Finland’s national favourite Christmas dish.
France A roasted capon, turkey, guinea fowl or pheasant, stuffed with chestnuts, and with a side of mushrooms and vegetables.
Germany On Christmas eve, there’ll often be a fish dish, such as salmon or carp. On Christmas day, roast goose is on the menu, with German dumplings and potato fritters. Potato salad, kale, red cabbage and sauerkraut sides are also common.
Ghana Meat, rice, and stew or an okra soup, plus fufu—a yam paste.
Greece Lamb or pork, oven- or spit-roasted. Sides include salads, vegetables and spinach and cheese pie.
Greenland In Greenland people have mattak: whale skin and blubber. It’s often swallowed as it’s hard to chew, and tastes like fresh coconut. They also have a local delicacy called kiviak: flesh from a type of arctic bird, buried whole and raw in sealskin for months.
Guatemala Tamales made of either corn, rice or potatoes, that can be sweet or savoury.
Honduras Tamales, roast pork and egg nog are traditional Christmas foods here.
Hungary Carp soup and cabbage stuffed with minced pork, rice, garlic and onion. For dessert people often have beigli, a baked good made with poppy seeds.
Iceland Common Christmas food in Iceland includes a roast leg of lamb, and leaf bread—a kind of pastry made of thin sheets of fried dough.
India In India they’ll have traditional Indian food, such as a biryani and a mutton curry, with rice and spiced potatoes. They also celebrate with a lot of sweet food, such as deep-fried sugar-coated dough balls.
Indonesia Cookies are a Christmas staple in Indonesia, including butter cookies with a pineapple jam filling, and different types of cheese cookies.
Ireland Ireland has a roast turkey, similar to in the UK. Round caraway seed cake is an old traditional dessert, although now many families have Christmas cake and Christmas pudding.
Israel Christmas isn’t widely celebrated in Israel, nor is it a public holiday. Channukah is a festival that occurs around the same time, during which oily food such as latkes—a kind of potato fritter—are traditionally eaten.
Italy On Christmas Eve Italians have a very seafood-heavy meal, with different types of fish, calamari, octopus and salted cod. The next day their main meal has a pasta first course, the specifics of which depend on the region, followed by a meaty main such as roasted veal, chicken, beef or sausages.
Japan Bizarrely, Japan has a big KFC tradition on Christmas, since a highly successful advertising campaign by the fried chicken shop in 1974.
Kazakhstan Christmas in Kazakhstan means bauraks, a snack similar to donuts.
Kenya Kenyans have barbecued meat such as goat, beef or chicken, served with flatbread and rice.
Korea, South South Korea has its own traditional Christmas cake: a sponge cake covered in cream.
Latvia Peas with pork, pies, sausages, bacon rolls and gingerbread.
Lebanon Like us, those in Lebanon who celebrate Christmas do so with a roast turkey.
Liberia In Liberia, the Christmas meal is beef, rice and biscuits, eaten al fresco.
Lithuania In Lithuania they eat 12 non-meat dishes, one for each day of the month. Herring features heavily in these.
Macedonia The main meal consists of baked cod or trout, with sides like bread, soup, potato salad, stuffed cabbage leaves, and pickled vegetables. They also have a tradition of hiding a coin inside a loaf of bread, then handing pieces out to family members, and leaving one for God. Whoever gets the coin, will have the luckiest year. If God’s piece contains the coin, the whole family will have a lucky year.
Madagascar The main meal is chicken or pork with rice, with cake for dessert. Fresh lychees are also commonly eaten around the Christmas period.
Malaysia Kari debal, or “Devil’s curry”: a super-spicy Malaysian curry.
Malta The Maltese Christmas dinner is like ours: turkey, Christmas cake, Christmas pudding and mince pies.
Mexico Bacalao a la Vizcaina: salted cod with tomatoes, chillies, onions, olives and vegetables.
Moldova Butchers fatten pigs up to make sausages and other pork dishes.
Montenegro Roast pork, and sarma—cabbage filled with rice and meat. They also go with the coin bread tradition, where a round loaf of bread with a coin baked into it is shared out among the family. The person who gets the coin will have the luckiest year.
Namibia On Christmas eve, the festive meal will often be a roasted duck.
Netherlands A wide variety of foods are eaten here on Christmas, including roast or stewed meat, seasonal vegetables, smoked fish and shrimps.
New Zealand In New Zealand, people either have a summer barbecue, or some turkey, ham and roast potatoes.
Nigeria Turkey, and possibly another meat such as beef, goat, mutton or chicken. This is often eaten with yams, jollof rice, salad or stew.
Norway Pork or sheep ribs with finely chopped cabbage seasoned with caraway seeds and vinegar, and potatoes.
Paraguay Sopa Paraguaya. While this translates to “Paraguayan soup”, it’s actually similar to corn bread.
Peru Roast turkey with garlic rice, roast potatoes and apple sauce. They’ll often have a panettone for dessert.
Philippines Traditional Philippino Christmas food includes roasted pig, ham, rice cakes and fruit salads.
Poland Christmas wafer and 12 dishes, including foods such as carp, herring, salad, soup, pierogi (dumplings) and sauerkraut.
Portugal Many people in Portugal will now have a turkey for their main Christmas meal, although traditionally it was more likely to be goat, lamb or pork.
Puerto Rico Spit-roasted pork, with rice, plantains and pasteles—a dough made with bananas, filled with meat and cooked in banana leaves.
Romania Romanians will have roast gammon and pork chops for their Christmas meal.
Russia Russians have a traditional porridge eaten on Christmas.
Serbia Serbian Christmas bread, known as cesnica: a sweet bread, with a coin baked into it. Whoever finds the coin in their piece will have the luckiest year.
Slovakia The main meal is a fish dish, served with a cabbage, sausage, mushroom and meat soup.
Slovenia Common dinner options include grilled turkey and roasted pig. Potica, a kind of nutty pastry, is also served.
South Africa A meat dish with turkey, duck, beef, or suckling pig, served with yellow rice with raisings and vegetables. Sweet Christmas foods include mince pies and malva pudding.
Spain Nowadays a Spanish Christmas dinner is often a turkey stuffed with truffles. An old tradition was to have a roasted young hen, although this has become less common.
Sweden In Sweden they’ll have a buffet, often including herring, gravlax and smoked salmon.
Switzerland A Christmas ham with scalloped potatoes and cheese baked into it. For dessert: walnut cake and Christmas cookies.
Tanzania Swahili Pilau: spicy meat and rice with chapati.
Trinidad and Tobago Here people have ham or turkey, with an eggnog-like drink called ponche-de-creme, homemade bread, ginger beer, apples and grapes.
Ukraine 12 dishes, one for each day of the year, such as sauerkraut, dumplings, fish, and bread. A key dish is kutia, a sweet wheat porridge.
United Kingdom Roast turkey with all the trimmings, followed by cheeses and Christmas pudding.
United States Roast poultry, usually turkey, or beef, ham or pork, stuffed and served with roast vegetables.
Uruguay Traditional Uruguayan Christmas meals include either roast pork or lamb.
Venezuela Hallacas: meat with capers, raisins and olives, wrapped in plantain leaves then steamed. Pan de Jamón is also eaten—a kind of pastry filled with ham and bacon, raisins and olives.
Vietnam In Vietnam they often have a roast goose for Christmas.
Zimbabwe The Zimbabwean Christmas meal centres around chicken and rice.

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This research was conducted by in December 2018. The information was referenced from multiple online sources for each country.

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