Since the very beginning, Christmas has been a time for feasting, celebration, and food. From the earliest beginnings of the holiday and in its earlier, pre-Christian origins, the winter festival was a time to ward off the dark and the cold with light and feast to remind everyone that spring was just around the corner.
Today, people across the globe celebrate the festive season with a rich tapestry of different culinary traditions. From Malaysia to Mexico, communities put their own spin on the celebration, reflecting the diversity of their cultures and the warmth of the holiday spirit.
So whether you are spending Christmas at home, in some foreign land, or even on a family-friendly cruise ship, don’t be afraid to diversify your Christmas treats and indulge in some of the most exciting and interesting culinary customs from around the world. Here are some of the best festive food traditions to try, for a deliciously alternative Christmas feast.
Christmas Eve Feasts in Italy
Many southern European and South American countries have their main Christmas meal on Christmas Eve, but in Italy they go a step further. They celebrate the night before Christmas with the Feast of the Seven Fishes, a traditional meal that involves a variety of different seafood dishes. Every family in Italy has their own particular take on the night, from salted cod to calamari, and it is a great way to give your Christmas a fresh, Mediterranean twist!
British Christmas Pudding
No Christmas dinner in the UK would be complete without the fiery spectacle that is a traditional British Christmas pudding. This iconic dish is, on the face of it, relatively basic – a steamed cake packed with fruit and served with cream or brandy butter. But the trick is in the presentation, as when the pudding is brought to the table it is doused with a liberal covering of warm brandy and set alight, creating an exciting moment and a symbol of holiday cheer!
French Réveillon Feast
In typical exuberant French style, the Réveillon feast on Christmas Eve is a grand affair featuring an array of indulgent dishes. The menu varies depending on the chef, but it usually involves cordon bleu delicacies like oysters and foie gras, as well as slow-roasted joints of meat. For the French, food is always about decadence, and Christmas is the ultimate expression of this culinary approach.
Mexican Rosca de Reyes and Tamales
Tamales are a traditional street food found everywhere in Mexico, in a variety of different presentations, but they hold a particular place in the Christmas tradition. On El Dia de los Reyes Magos (Epiphany), families bake and eat a traditional Rosca de Reyes, a circle of fruity brioche topped with candied fruit and icing. One lucky diner will find a tiny model of the baby Jesus, and it is their responsibility to bring tamales for the whole family to dinner roughly a month later, on 2 February, for the feast of Candelaria.
Greek Kourabiedes and Melomakarona
Christmas is a sweet affair in Greece, with the addition of Kourabiedes (butter cookies with almonds) and Melomakarona (spiced honey cookies). These mouthwatering delights are a staple throughout the holiday season, and are perfect for sharing with friends and family.
Christmas is a time for sharing meals with loved ones, and it is always a great idea to explore new and diverse cuisines. With every culture around the world having their own traditional festive food, their is no shortage of delicious treats to try, and embracing these culinary customs adds a delightful and meaningful touch to your holiday celebrations!