- Families from all over the world were asked what they eat on Christmas Day
- Some of them tuck into very unusual meals with no turkey in sight
- One family eats meat-stuffed cabbage, while another has asparagus souffle
Christmas dinner just wouldn’t be Christmas dinner without turkey and all the trimmings in the UK and the US.
But a fascinating photo series reveals that these countries are almost the only ones that celebrate by eating these foods.
Twenty-five families from across the world were asked what they tuck into on December 25 by Christmas tree maker Balsam Hill, and some of the meals are very different to a traditional roast dinner.
From slices of veal in a creamy tuna sauce to a starter of goat soup, these are the most unusual Christmas dinners that families enjoy on the big day.
So would you eat any of them?
Twenty-five ‘typical’ families from across the world were asked about what they eat for Christmas dinner. This is one French family’s typical Christmas meal, which features slices of meat and radishes
Christmas dinners around the world
This is sarmale, pickled cabbage stuffed with meat, which many Romanians eat for their second course at Christmas
Alexandra, from Bucharest, said:
‘For our starter we eat borscht, a sour beetroot soup served with meatballs. The main dish is usually meat and sometimes fish. But mainly it’s sausages, pork, and chicken. It is more traditional for Romanian families to eat pork for their main dish. For dessert, we usually eat a variety of sponge cakes.
‘We keep our Christmas dinner simple. It is not as spectacular as Christmas in other places. My Grandma cooks every year.’
‘The King of our Christmas dinner table is baked codfish, a tradition dating back to the Middle Ages’
A typical Portuguese Christmas table
Bruno, from Estarreja, in Portugal, said: ‘Our main dish is cod because our Catholic ancestors were once required to fast and not eat meat during major religious festivals, so many started eating salted cod instead. The cod is served with eggs, potatoes, and greens. Alongside this dish are various desserts such as the Bolo Rei (fruit cake), Pão de Ló (sponge cake), cheeses and sausages, Rabanadas (similar to French toast), and Bilharacos (pumpkin dumplings). These are accompanied by a good port wine.
‘My mother is the main chef, but my brother and I have a similarly important role: we must approve all the desserts before they are served.’
It’s traditional to have a Christmas barbecue in Australia – it is too hot here for a roast!
Charlotte (left) enjoying a Christmas barbecue in Australia
Charlotte, from Sydney, said: ‘We always have steak, sausages, chicken skewers and sweet potato as part of a traditional Aussie barbecue. It is 86 degrees Fahrenheit after all! My lovely fiancé, Stephen, cooks the meal for the two of us to share.
‘The meal is special for us as it is the only time of the year when you can get away with preparing endless amounts of food that you can devour.’
Varenyky, a type of dumpling, is served with mushroom sauce or sour cream at Christmas
Denys, from Kharkiv, said: ‘The dumplings we have for our main dish are served with a mushroom soup, a compote and kutia, which is a Lenten dish made from different types of cooked wheat. Traditionally there should be 12 dishes on the table, one candle and a sprig from the Christmas tree. However, during the famine people modified this tradition to have 12 ingredients on the table, which makes it more convenient for smaller families who cannot eat that much in one sitting!
‘Every year the old people sing koliadka, a traditional Christmas song. I love it because it is funny and adorable.’
For the main course we eat roast chicken, served with baked potatoes, onions and carrots
Drazen, from Vinkovci, said: ‘The main course is served with sarma, a special delicacy made from cabbage rolls stuffed with meat. We have vegetable soup as a starter. Finally, for dessert, we eat cake and lots of donuts: one is called krafne, which is usually filled with jam, chocolate or marmalade; and the other fruitule, flavored with rum and lemon. My in-laws, my parents, and my wife and I take turns hosting and cooking this meal.
‘There is an advent wreath on our Christmas table, made from twigs and four candles, with the wreath symbolizing endlessness and the candles representing hope, peace, joy and love.’
Our main course consists of four dishes, two of which are turkey injected with Pisco and asparagus souffle
Franca, from Lima, said: ‘For Christmas dinner we also eat potato salad with bacon, mayonnaise, and turkey stuffing. The stuffing is made from minced chicken, minced beef, ham, raisins, olives, nuts, bread loaf and eggs. For dessert, we eat panettone with hot chocolate. My husband does the cooking under my supervision!
‘Christmas makes me feel close to my family in Peru even though we are miles apart now that I live in the UK. It is a great way for my daughters to learn about Peruvian customs.’
We often eat omo tuo, or rice balls, with chicken and fish in a palm nut soup
Isaac, from Accra, said: ‘Our Christmas meal is special because it takes a lot of effort to make, as the rice balls have to be pounded for a long time. In other years we have eaten fufu, a staple food made from cassava and plantain, with a chicken or goat soup. It’s delicious and we can always go back for more servings. The meal is served around 2 pm after we have been to church. We often open our doors to those in the community who have less than us.
‘It is an important time for us because we all get together to remember when Jesus came to earth.’
A central feature of the main course are the various types of pickled vegetables
Janis, from Riga, said: ‘We always eat several fish dishes at Christmas since I live in a small fishing village by the sea, along with pork and lamb, potatoes, sauerkraut, various salads, and peas. It is traditional to serve smoked meat and fish, which is my favorite part of the meal because I just love the taste! We drink juice, beer or occasionally wine, and for dessert, there will be gingerbread cookies and tangerines. I just returned home after a year of traveling so the taste of my mom’s familiar cooking is even more delicious.
‘We use old clay dishes and a tablecloth that my family has had for over 20 years. It’s one of the nice traditions at our Christmas dinner table.’
This family experimented this year and had meat broth, then roasted vacío steak with rocket and potatoes
Karla, from Guadalajara, said: ‘We eat food inspired by our Italian and Mexican roots. For the Mexican side, we eat Turkey on Christmas Eve, a special Mexican soup called menudo, a hot beverage called champurrado and fried flour tortillas with a sweet sauce on top for dessert. For the Italian side, we eat bolognese, white lasagne, salmon, cannelloni, panettone and nougat. For dessert, we enjoy profiteroles.
‘My husband’s dad is the best chef, so I know it will always be delicious no matter what we eat.’
We eat duck breast with mashed potatoes, washed down with a generous glass of red wine
Laurene, from Tallinn, said: ‘Our Christmas meal begins with a bottle of champagne, which we share along with various canapes. The starter tends to be a seafood platter, served with wholemeal bread, butter, homemade mayonnaise and shallot vinegar served with a dry white wine. Then we move onto the red wine to go with our next course, which is turkey or a capon and a mixture of winter vegetables. For dessert, we have a yule log, a huge quantity of chocolate and then we return to the champagne. The meal ends with a cheese board, alongside plates of nuts, fruits, chocolates and more wine, naturally.
‘My wife and I are French but this year we celebrated Christmas in Estonia, away from our family in France so we had to adapt our meal to whatever local produce we could find.’
The starter is chicken noodle soup, boiled eggs, chickpeas, and peppermint
A typical Spanish Christmas table, featuring plenty of cold meats and shrimp
Mar, from Andalucia, said: ‘At Christmas, there are four courses. For the appetizer, a bottle of red wine and a mixture of Iberian dishes can be found on the table, including cured ham, salchichon, manchego and prawns. Then it’s the noodle soup, followed by the main course of sirloin steak marinated in orange juice and served with blue cheese rolls. For dessert, we typically eat mantecados (a crumbly shortbread), marzipan and turrón (a type of nougat).
‘Christmas in my family is all about sharing: we all bring a different dish to the table. After dessert, we stay at the table and tell jokes, discuss big topics and reminisce. The chicken soup recipe and the glasses that we drink wine from have been in the family for almost one hundred years; our grandparents probably drank from the same glasses during their first Christmas together.’
The main dish is pork or duck meat with cabbage rolls
Mara, from Lyon, said: ‘Our first course is a selection of cheeses served with tomatoes and a variety of cold meats. The most festive parts of our meal are the salted jelly and cabbage rolls filled with minced pork meats.
‘After the pork or duck main course, we’ll have a bowl of soup. At the end of the meal we eat a special cake that is similar to panettone. I have a sweet tooth; I am always on the edge of my seat waiting for the main course to finish so I can devour all the cakes!’
Pierogi, a delicious dumpling, is a special tradition in Poland
Mateusz, of Zabrze, said: ‘Our main dish is always fried carp, a traditional Christmas meal in Poland. Alongside this are two kinds of dumpling – pierogi ruskie (with cottage cheese and potatoes) and pierogi with mushrooms and cabbage. We also eat borscht (a sour beetroot soup that we serve with little mushroom dumplings) and mushroom soup with noodles. For dessert there is dried fruit compote, a poppy-seed dessert known as makowiec, gingerbread, walnuts and sunflower seeds.
‘We have various Christmas rituals: saying prayers and exchanging wishes before eating, placing an empty plate and chair at the table for an unexpected guest and waiting for Grandpa to finish eating before we can open the presents.’
We eat a cold dish called vitel toné, made from slices of veal in a creamy tuna sauce
Miguel, of Mendoza, said: ‘This Christmas we’re eating two sorts of stuffed chicken. The first one is stuffed with ham, cheese and eggs, while the second one is made from vegetables instead of eggs. We serve the chicken with Russian salad, which is made of potatoes, carrots and peas with mayonnaise. There are also ham and cheese sandwiches, salad, some stuffed chicken. Last but not least, we have empanadas, which are small pies stuffed with meat, flavored with onions and spices and chopped eggs and potato.
‘Different family members take turns hosting the meal and everyone brings their own dish to add to the table. One year Christmas will be held at my house, then my uncle’s or grandma’s the next.’
We have an array of dishes on our table: fish, baked beans and potato salad with onions
Milos, of Pozarevac, said: ‘The homemade bread is the most traditional part because we bake it with a coin inside and the older people in the family break the bread into pieces while no one is watching. After this, we search through our piece to try and find the coin. It’s so exciting!
‘The whole family stays in the same house and no one is allowed to leave, because this time is exclusively for spending with family.’
We have eaten pumpkin, called ghapama, at Christmas for centuries
Narek, of Yerevan, said: ‘Christmas is special because it is the only time we eat pumpkin. We stuff it with plav, a mixture of rice and raisins, and honey. This is then served with turkey. Everything is cooked lovingly by my mother.
‘We try to eat around midday, but it depends on how long it takes everyone to sit down at the table!’
We eat a Chester, which is a special kind of poultry that looks like an overgrown chicken
Nathalie, from São João de Meriti, said: ‘At Christmas we also eat parmesan rice, pastéis (which are deep-fried parcels of crispy pastry that are filled with melted cheese), minced beef, or creamed heart of palm. For dessert, we have cake and rabanadas, which is made from day-old bread dipped in a bath of eggs and milk that we then fry and serve with a sweet syrup.
‘Christmas is special to me because we are normally too busy to find the time to eat together so I enjoy catching up with all of my family. Myself, my mom and sister all do the cooking together and we eat at midnight on Christmas Eve.’
We eat roast chicken, served with potato salad, lettuce and rice crackers
Raisa, of Zamboanga City, said: ‘The centerpiece of the Christmas dinner is lechon, a roasted pig with super crunchy skin that we carve at the table. Other traditional foods are the Christmas ham, keso de bola (our name for edam cheese) and pancit malabon, a dish made from noodles flavored with annatto seeds and cooked with eggs, shrimps and fried pork rind (called chicarón). For dessert we eat a crema de fruta, made from layers of fruit cocktail, sponge cake, custard and jelly; and buko pandan, a jelly made using pandan leaves (a popular tropical plant) and flavored with coconut and cream.
‘It is traditional for us to make a special decoration called a parol, which is made by attaching a shining star to a bamboo pole decorated with colored paper. It represents the star that guided the Three Wise Men.’
It is customary to eat ham, Finnish swede, carrot and potato casserole
Saana, of Tampere, said: ‘Our Christmas table, or joulupöytä, also features rosolli salad (which is a colorful dish made from diced beetroot, carrots, apple and potato mixed with cream), gravlax (dill-cured salmon) and a leafy green salad. We drink milk, water, red wine and glögg (mulled wine).
‘The presents are the best part of Christmas for the children, but for me it is the meal!’
All the dishes must be Lenten, so we can eat fish but not meat, dairy or animal fat until the next day
Tanya, of Herceg Novi, said: ‘The main dish on Christmas day is kutia, which is cooked wheat combined with honey, ground poppy seeds, raisins and chopped nuts to symbolize unity. We also eat dumplings called varenyky, beans, legumes, cabbage, and sauerkraut.
‘Pickled whitefish or herring with onion, pickled mushrooms, freshwater fish, a special filled doughnut called pampushky, and a homemade soft drink called uzvar made from dried and fresh fruits, will also be on the table. The meal is made up of twelve dishes, in honor of the Apostles.’
Our main dish is usually fried carp with potato salad
Tomas, of Sekule, said: ‘We begin by eating a special sort of wafer, not like the ones from Belgium but a bigger and thinner one that we eat with honey and poppy seed. We eat a special sour cabbage soup called sauerkraut that is cooked with vegetables and sausage. All of our food comes from various traditions so there is a lot to choose from.
‘We only ever eat these dishes once a year, even though we could get the ingredients to make them at different times. It keeps it sacred.’
Olivier salad is a common addition to most Russian Christmas tables
The buffet will include pasta with pork, cheese, tomato, salads, and sausage
Yuri, from Krasnodar, said: ‘Other dishes include salted fish and grilled chicken with mashed potatoes, and we drink champagne.
‘Olivier salad and dressed herring are the two traditional festive dishes you can find on every table in Russia.’
A range of dishes are prepared such as beans, leek pie, dates, boiled chestnuts, and nuts
Zoran, from Skopje, said: ‘The most traditional part of the meal is the bread that is baked with a coin hidden inside it. We take turns breaking the bread in search of the coin and whoever finds it receives good fortune for the whole upcoming year.
‘We eat our dinner on January 6, which is the evening before Christmas according to the Byzantine calendar.’
‘My boyfriend and I are pescatarians so we opt for some salmon in a mustard dill sauce’
Meghan, of Mullica Hill, said: ‘Our main of salmon is accompanied by potatoes and some vegetable based casseroles. The potatoes are a staple at every holiday because my mother’s side of the family is of Irish descent. There are always three pies for dessert – apple, cherry, and pecan, which are all served with fresh whipped cream.
‘Recently we have tried something different and gotten the whole family together to eat a huge Christmas breakfast, which consists of pastries, coffee, eggs, fruit, and bagels.’
Our main dish is a nut roast, made from bread, apricots, and Marmite
Leonie, of Tunbridge Wells, said: ‘The best part of Christmas dinner is the pigs in blankets, which I love to dip in the bread sauce. We also have carrots, stuffing, mashed swede, sprouts, cranberry sauce, roast parsnips and potatoes.
‘My parents are pescatarians but my mum still roasts a turkey for my grandparents, my brother and I. My parents don’t really drink alcohol so unfortunately there will be only one bottle of wine between six.’
Courtesy: Daily Mail Online