Food & Drink | 5 Christmas dinner traditions around Europe

When it comes to thinking about Christmas dinner, you’ll more than likely find your mouth watering with visions of succulent roast turkey with all the trimmings floating in a sea of gravy – not forgetting the mountain of sprouts sitting at the end of the table for anyone who is feeling brave! It’s hard to imagine that somewhere in the world someone is serving up a plate of something other than our British favourites.

Traditions that may seem alien to us, are thought of as significant delacies in other countries, and have been celebrated for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

Here are just a few examples of Christmas dinners from around Europe:

Denmark celebrates Christmas with plenty of enthusiasm. Cities big and small are host to an array of festivities, from streets adorned with bright lights and decorations, to the many market stalls providing jolly shoppers with traditional gifts and plenty of festive food!

In Denmark the traditional Christmas meal is served on December 24th and consists of either roasted duck, goose or pork, served with red cabbage, potatoes and lots of gravy. This is often washed down with a large glass of Gløgg or a traditional Christmas beer, brewed for the season.

Christmas dessert is rice pudding, with an almond hidden inside, the person to find this is awarded a special present entitled ‘the almond gift.’

Taken from the phrase ‘les bonnes nouvelles’ meaning ‘the good news,’ Christmas in France is called Noel, referring to the gospel.

In France a réveillon is a long dinner or party held on the evenings prior to Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Customary dishes can include anything from roasted duck, goose or turkey with chestnut stuffing to smoked salmon, oysters, or lobster, accompanied with a glass of champagne.

A traditional Christmas dessert is ‘La buche de Noel’ a log-shaped cream cake available in different flavours.

The main festive meal in Iceland happens on Christmas Eve. An example of a traditional food includes hangikjöt, a smoked lamb, mutton or horse meat usually boiled and served in hot or cold slices. Traditionally this is served with potatoes in bechamel sauce and green peas, alternatively it can be served alongside bread such as laufabrauð or flatkaka.

Dessert is often a spiced and sweetened rice pudding, jólagrautur.

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Spain is a country transformed during the festive season from it’s vibrant lights and decorations, to the wonderful party atmosphere that becomes apparent throughout the towns and cities.

La Nochebuena (Christmas Eve) is when the main Christmas meal takes place in Spain. This large family celebration is the perfect opportunity to enjoy a variety of delicious, traditional delicacies varying from region to region.

Sweet dishes are a highlight, including the traditional turrón, a nougat typically made of honey, sugar and egg white with toasted almonds or other nuts.

Christmas in Italy is known as ‘Natale,’ and is by far the most important holiday of the year in Italy with festivities lasting from December 24th through January 6th. It’s the perfect opportunity for family reunions with large gatherings allowing family to spend significant time together over wonderful, traditional, food and drink.

In the Italian Catholic tradition, Christmas Eve is a day of abstinence from meat so most families enjoy The Feast of the Seven fishes, where delicacies such as fried eel are served.

On Christmas day foods such as Zampone, stuffed pig’s trotter with spicy ground up pork, often served with lentils, and Cotechino, ground pig meat seasoned with a variety of herbs and spices and stuffed into a natural casing, are often found on the dinner table.


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What are your Christmas dinner traditions? Perhaps you’ve tried one of the above – we would love to hear what you thought!

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