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7 countries' Christmas feasts and festive delights

7 countries' Christmas feasts and festive delights Photo: 7 countries' Christmas feasts and festive delights (GettyImages)

Christmas is celebrated worldwide with various unique culinary traditions, reflecting the diversity of those participating in the festivities. While the specifics of the traditional Christmas meal can vary greatly from one place to another, the common thread is the indulgence in a celebratory feast, whether on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, according to CNN.

CNN turned to hospitality experts from seven countries to gain deeper insights into these rich culinary traditions. They offered a glimpse into how Christmas is celebrated through food in their regions, sharing personal and communal experiences of typical festive dishes for them, their families, and their communities.


In France, the extravagant Christmas meal takes place on December 24, typically starting around 8 p.m. Seafood, including lobster thermidor or shrimp scampi, kicks off the feast. The main course features a tender capon alongside sides like buttery mashed potatoes and sage-topped chestnuts, a Christmas staple.

7 countries' Christmas feasts and festive delights

Lobster thermidor (Photo: Food & Wine)

For dessert, the grand finale is the yule log or bûche de Noël, often served in both chocolate and chestnut flavors. The meal is complemented by fine Burgundy red wine, not too heavy for the capon.

The French enjoy a hearty brunch on Christmas Day with creamy scrambled eggs and smoked salmon on toast. The culinary journey ends with various cheeses, including Brie, Gruyere, and Munster, according to Francois Payard, the renowned pastry chef who grew up in Nice.


In Italy, much like in France, Christmas is celebrated with a grand feast on Christmas Eve. Luca Finardi, the general manager of the Mandarin Oriental Milan, notes that locals typically attend midnight Mass and then indulge in a sumptuous meal before heading to church.

7 countries' Christmas feasts and festive delights

Salmon Crudo (Photo: Serving Dumplings)

The feast starts with appetizers like smoked salmon with buttered crostini or smoked salted cod. Coastal Italians, such as those from the Amalfi Coast, might begin with a crudo featuring sea bass with herbs and sea salt.

Following the appetizers comes tortellini in brodo — stuffed pasta in a hot broth enriched with chicken and Parmesan cheese, which must hail from the Parmesan region.

For the main course, northern Italians often opt for stuffed turkey, while those from coastal areas may relish a large baked sea bass accompanied by roasted potatoes and vegetables. A must-have dessert is panettone, a traditional sweet bread best enjoyed warm. Italians raise their glasses with spumante, a sparkling wine to complement the meal.

The famous Italian Christmas tradition of the feast of the seven fishes is mainly limited to the Campania region, encompassing the Amalfi Coast and Naples.

According to Finardi, Christmas Day is more about family connection than food, with leftovers from the previous day's feast taking center stage.


Christmas Eve doesn't typically involve a grand holiday meal in the UK. Nicola Butler, owner of the London-based luxury travel company NoteWorthy, explains that the 24th is dedicated to cooking with family and enjoying a pint at the local pub.

The real Christmas festivities commence on the morning of Christmas Day with a glass of champagne and a breakfast featuring smoked salmon and mince pies. Later in the day, after the Queen's annual Christmas speech, it's time for the main dinner.

7 countries' Christmas feasts and festive delights

Roast beef (Photo: The Pioneer Woman)

This feast includes a choice of turkey or roast beef, accompanied by various side dishes like roasted parsnips, carrots, buttered peas, and Brussels sprouts. Some families also serve Yorkshire pudding, a savory baked item made from flour, eggs, and milk, cooked with meat drippings.

For dessert, the traditional Christmas pudding takes the spotlight. It's a rich, dense cake with dried fruits, spices, and typically a splash of brandy. As for beverages, wine is a popular choice to complement the festive spread.


Maria Loi, a renowned Greek chef, describes that in Greece, holiday festivities typically start on Christmas Eve at around 7 p.m. Families gather around the fireplace to enjoy a special wheat bread, a Christmas exclusive. On this occasion, pork sausages are also enjoyed, marking a rare inclusion of pork in Greek cuisine.

7 countries' Christmas feasts and festive delights

Homemade honey cookies with walnuts (Photo: Olive & Mango)

Following an early morning holy communion on Christmas Day, the celebration continues with an extensive day of feasting at home. The culinary journey begins with homemade honey cookies containing walnuts or almonds and a warming chicken soup with orzo. Later in the day, the main course features either a chestnut-stuffed roast chicken or a variety of pork dishes, either grilled or braised. These are sautéed wild greens, a salad of finely shredded romaine with scallions and feta cheese, and roasted lemon potatoes.

The dessert options are light, typically baked apples with honey and walnuts or Greek yogurt drizzled with honey. Red wine is the beverage of choice for Greeks during the Christmas celebration.


In Ukraine, Christmas Eve traditions begin when the first star appears in the sky, signaling the time to gather for dinner. This meal is unique as it consists exclusively of fasting dishes, marking the end of the Christmas fast. The number of dishes served varies by region and family wealth, ranging from three to twelve.

A unique custom in regions like Boykivshchyna involves the hostess placing garlic cloves at the table's corners after setting the bread and lighting a candle, a practice believed to ward off evil spirits.

The meal's centerpiece is Kutia, a ceremonial porridge made from boiled wheat, poppy seeds, nuts, and honey, often enriched with raisins or other dried fruits. Another key component of the Christmas Eve dinner is uzvar, a traditional beverage brewed from dried fruits, symbolizing a connection with the souls of departed family members.

7 countries' Christmas feasts and festive delights

Christmas food in Ukraine (Photo:

Bread is also crucial, with different types prepared for specific purposes. In Shershentsi village, for example, Pomana bread is made to honor deceased relatives. This ritual bread features dough braids formed into a circle and cross, adorned with spikelets made from dough strands.

Another tradition is the exchange of kalach, a circular dough braid with sweets and a candle inside, typically brought by the owner's godchildren.

The meal includes lean borshch with mushroom-filled "ears" (dumplings), mushroom soup, lean cabbage rolls, and fried or baked fish. A staple dish is varenyky, half-moon-shaped dumplings with various fillings, including cabbage, prunes, or cherries, specially prepared for Christmas Eve.


In Mexico, Christmas celebrations kick off on December 24th, as explained by Pablo Carmona and Josh Kremer, founders of Paradero Hotels. The festivities begin with the breaking of a piñata stuffed with local candies flavored with chili and tamarind. Dinner typically takes place between 7 and 10 p.m.

The feast starts with posole, a hearty stew made with large corn kernels and either pork or beef, served with a wide array of condiments like parsley, cilantro, chiles, and various cheeses.

7 countries' Christmas feasts and festive delights

Posole (Photo: Food & Wine)

Reflecting the American influence in Mexico, the main course often includes turkey with classic sides like mashed potatoes and green beans, a tradition Carmona and Kremer follow.

Dessert is typically a smooth, creamy flan accompanied by strawberries and cream. A selection of tequilas and mezcals complements the meal.

On December 25th, it's common for many Mexicans to reheat the previous night's leftovers. Carmona notes that this is due to a desire for rest, preferring not to spend the day cooking.


According to Vonya Ifill, the director of talent and culture at Rosewood Baha Mar, Christmas Day is a major culinary event in the Bahamas. The celebration features a grand evening dinner with turkey, ham, macaroni and cheese, coconut milk-infused peas and rice, and potato salad.

7 countries' Christmas feasts and festive delights

Potato salad (Photo: Simply Recipes)

The Boxing Day Junkanoo Festival follows the evening feast at midnight, where Bahamians dance and parade till the early morning. The festivities conclude with a traditional dish of boiled fish or fish stew.

Ifill notes that this seafood dish is typically served with potato bread or Johnny Cake, a type of cornmeal flatbread.

Recently, we wrote that the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), in charge of monitoring skies over the United States and Canada, has a highly expected annual tradition of launching a Santa Claus tracking system.