International Christmas Dinner Traditions

Dec 19, 2018 | Food and Culture

You and I do a lot of things differently. We are different people raised with different beliefs and values. We grew up eating different things and understanding different flavours. However, despite all of these differences there is a high likelihood that the food on the table at my house and your house at Christmas looks almost identical. 

No matter how different you and I may seem, on the surface there is a lot we have in common. We grew up in the same society. Watching similar or even the same television. Reading the same stories. All of this has a profound effect on how we live our lives and on our traditions. 

You and I likely have very similar Christmas traditions. They may very slightly. For example, your sweet potatoes (or yams) may have pecans and marshmallows on them. Mine don’t. But we are both going to be eating sweet potatoes for dinner on Christmas. 

As interesting as our similarities are, you and I both know them. We know what we are having for Christmas dinner because it is the same thing we had last year and the year before and the year before. Likely, what we are eating for Christmas dinner this year is what we have eaten for every Christmas of our lives. 

What I am interested in is the Christmas traditions that you and I don’t know about. The traditions that to different groups of people may seem as mundane and common as our Christmas dinner. I’m interested in…

International Christmas Dinner Traditions

Some of these traditions may seem odd to us, but to the people that grew up with them they are as common as a turkey dinner. And in all honesty, you and I may want to incorporate some of these traditions into our own Christmas festivities. 

I personally have never been that big of a fan of turkey. That’s why I think the Philippines and Puerto Rico do it right with their whole roasted pigs. This is a tradition that I can get behind. 

Thanks to a successful marketing campaign in the 1970’s the Japanese, who didn’t really have much in the way of Christmas traditions prior to that time now eat KFC on Christmas. And yes, those three letters mean the same thing here that they do there. 

In many countries including Portugal, Mexico and even Italy, salt cod plays a role in the Christmas food tradition. The Mexican version is a dish with the salt cod, tomatoes, anchos, onions, potatoes, and olives. Sounds pretty delicious. 

In Eastern Europe it is common to serve a feast of twelve dishes. Meat, eggs, and milk are often excluded from the meal. In Lithuania the meal is composed strictly of cold dishes. Often fish, vegetables, and sauerkraut play big roles in this meal. 

If you were to enjoy your Christmas dinner in Norway you may be surprised to see a lambs head on your plate. The locals encouraging you to scoop out the eye balls and pop them in mouth first as they are a great source of fats. For the faint of heart there are also usually lamb ribs. 

The Norwegian dinner may seem unappetizing but I would rather be served a lambs head than chewy strips of wale fat and skin which you may find on the dinner table in Greenland. 


Some of these traditions seem kind of gross, especially in the Nordic Countries. But what is important to keep in mind is that these traditions are the same as ours. For all we know, people around the world look at our turkey dinners, turn up their noses and continue chopping down on their wale blubber. 

You and I may seem very different when looked at up close. But the more broad the view the more similar we look. The same is true of all these people around the world celebrating Christmas in their own way. The food they eat may be different. The way they celebrate may be different. But at the end of the day they are just celebrating with the people they love most in the world just like us.

I feel like it’s important to say that this doesn’t just apply to people and cultures that celebrate Christmas. Yes, there are bad people out there from every part of the world. But to me, at this time of year more than any other it is important to take a step back and look at the world from a broader view point. 

People are people. The vast majority of the world just wants to enjoy a good meal with the people they love Christmas or not. 

We may speak different languages, eat different things, and believe different things but these are just surface things. From a broader view point we are all just people. The more broad the view, the more similar we all look. 


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Share this post with your friends!