Christmas Dinner Around the World

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What makes Christmas special? Some would say it’s family, others would say the presents, and still others would say it’s the food.  Whether it’s a Christmas ham, wassail or candy canes, everyone has a favorite holiday delicacy. Like virtually everything else about the holidays, these delicacies vary depending on what part of the world you are in. Here, we’ve rounded up some of the most interesting traditional Christmas dinners from around the world.


After midnight Mass on Christmas, Maltese traditionally unwind with steaming cups of Imbuljuta tal-Qastan, a drink made with chestnuts,  chocolate, orange rind and spices. The tender, whole boiled chestnuts make this much more hearty than your average cup of hot cocoa. If you’re curious, try this recipe.


In Slovakia,  as in many parts of Eastern Europe, Christmas dinner is traditionally served on Christmas Eve and is called velija, which means “vigil.” Traditional fare consists of unleavened bread spread with honey or sometimes garlic (oplatky).  soup, fried fish, sweet or savory baked dough balls known as boblaki, dumplings and sometimes potato pancakes.

Mexico/Latin America

In Mexico and some other Latin American countries, families typically gather for dinner on Christmas Eve.  The menu varies according to region and family, but often includes a red-and-green “Christmas Eve” salad that takes its colors from lettuce, beets, pomegranate and other seasonal ingredients.

Homemade tamales are another seasonal specialty.  Most families have their own recipe. Though the centerpiece of the table is usually turkey with spicy molé sauce, it’s really all about the tamales. Other popular foods include salted cod, a green vegetable called romeritos, and a pork and hominy stew called posole.

Hmmm, I think I may spend Christmas in Mexico next year…


In Portugal, too, Christmas dinner happens on Christmas Eve.  The star of the show here is codfish, usually boiled with cabbage and potatoes. For dessert, there’s “king cake,” a brioche-like pastry filled with candied fruits and nuts. Traditionally, a small gift is baked into the cake, as well as a single broad bean. Whoever gets the bean gets to buy the ingredients for next year’s cake! Here’s a recipe.


Christmas Eve dinner in Spain is an epic meal that often extends into the wee hours of the morning. It starts with tapas, of course, followed by a variety of soups and salads. The main course is usually roast lamb or roast pig, accompanied by various other vegetables, seafood dishes, cured hams and cheeses.

The Netherlands

In the Netherlands, most families gather on Christmas Day. The morning often starts out with a rich brunch, often including a fruit-studded bread called kerststol. Christmas dinner is also a lavish affair. It is often served “gourmetten” style, using a special grill that allows everyone at the table to grill their own meats and veggies to taste.

We here at K International hope you enjoyed your Christmas holidays! What was your favorite part of Christmas dinner? Share your favorite holiday foods in the comments!