Christmas recipes from around the world find a new home naturally in Australia. After all, we are a nation of people from other places. At the time of the last census, 49% of the Australian population were either first or second generation migrants. We’ve brought fabulous foods and recipes along with us, and a lot of these make their way onto the table at Christmas time.
The holiday season is a great time to celebrate our diversity of nationalities and share the best Christmas recipes and holiday traditions.
Christmas recipes make things more Christmassy
From turkey to pavlova, there is no doubt Christmas is one of the best times of the year for eating. There is a treasure trove of Christmas recipes online and the food is a central part of the celebration.
Most of the foods we eat on and around December 25th have their roots in the tradition of celebrating the birth of Jesus. This Christian holiday has evolved to be observed in different ways all over the world. The evolution means many unique Christmas recipes exist in cultures far and wide.
In December, expand beyond your own family traditions and explore the different Christmas recipes from around the world. Looking outside your own culture will make for an interesting table and teach you more about the holiday itself
Here are some tantalising Christmas recipes from around the world and the stories behind them.
Christmas Recipes: Greece
In Greece, Christmas is mostly celebrated with a meal of lamb or pork that it is roasted over a spit or in an oven.
Traditionally, Greek families would raise a hog to slaughter for the festive season. The meat would last for several weeks, and no part of the animal was wasted. Even the bladder became a toy ball for the children to play with.
Nowadays, meat served to the Greek Christmas table is purchased from a butcher. The lamb or pork is traditionally served with Spanakopita, a tasty and light feta and spinach pie made with filo pastry. You’ll find a lovely recipe for Spanakopita here at food website Taste.
Other festive foods served on the side of a Greek Christmas lunch include a salad or roast vegetables such as:
- String beans
- Beetroots in garlic sauce
- Greek salad with feta
- Roasted capsicums or peppers
- Horta (steamed greens in olive oil)
Greeks also love to celebrate Christmas with their own special Christmas Bread. Known as Christopsomo, which translates to ‘Christ’s Bread’, this loaf usually contains dried fruits and nuts.
Christopsomo is usually marked with an ‘X’, for Χριστός, the Greek word for Christ. This type of bread also eaten in Turkey, Armenia and some parts of Europe. Some popular toppings on Christmas Christopsomo include orange juice, slivered almonds and sesame seeds.
Click here for a recipe for Christopsomo from Martha Stewart to try this bread yourself.
When it comes to the sweeter stuff, no Greek Christmas table is complete without baklava and Kataifi. These sweet pastries are made with filo, nuts, cinnamon or honey. A quick online search will unearth dozens of recipes but the best baklava recipes will remind you not to skimp on the butter or sugar.
If those pastries aren’t enough for your sweet tooth, you can always try some Melomakarono. Melomakarono are cookies made with flour, honey and chopped walnuts.
Here is a delicious recipe for Melomakarono from the Greek Islands website.
Other sweets Greeks enjoy at Christmastime include:
- Butter cookies called Kourabiedes
- Walnut and chocolate truffles called Troufakia
- Crescent-shaped cookies called Skaltsounia
- Kalitsounia, which are sweet cheese pastries.
Christmas Recipes: Italy
Italy is a profoundly Catholic country, and most Italians will only eat a light seafood meal on Christmas Eve before they attend Midnight Mass.
It is common practice in the Roman Catholic religion to avoid eating meat in the lead up to a Feast Day. In the Catholic tradition, fasting purifies your body for the holiday.
For Italians, the Christmas Eve meal is known as ‘La Vigilia’ or The Vigil. It is held as a celebration to mark the birth of Jesus.
Traditionally, a fish-centred La Vigilia will usually be light stew or soups. The types of seafood consumed varies between the different Italian regions but can include:
- Salted Cod
After returning from Mass, it is common for Italians to enjoy a slice of Panettone, which is a type of Christmas Cake we also give as gifts here in Australia. This lighter dessert differs from traditional European Christmas fruitcake as it is more spongy than dense and alcohol rich.
Most people purchase their Panettone in Italy but there are plenty of Panettone Christmas recipes out there on the internet. If you want to try making it for yourself, there is a beautiful recipe here at SBS food.
On Christmas Day, the food Italians dish up is plentiful. Italians tuck into roast meats such as lamb and beef, as well as generous helpings of lasagne and risotto.
While each region of Italy has its own traditions, you are guaranteed to be indulging in some hearty red wine if you find yourself in this country for Yuletide. Other foods you may be presented with during an Italian Christmas include:
- Cardoon soup
- Canederli, which are filled dumplings
- Goulash (not just the domain of the Northern Europeans!)
- Gnocchi with duck sauce
Bring Italy home
To recreate ‘la dolce vita’ at home this Christmas you need a range of dishes. Think pasta, surf and turf, made from nothing but the freshest ingredients. Rachael Ray has an entire Italian Christmas recipes menu on her website, with each dish looking more tantalising than the one before. Choose from Gnocchi, Antipasti or Fat Spaghetti with Frutti di Mare, or make them all!
Christmas Recipes: Lebanon
Western traditions abound in Lebanon, but traditional Lebanese Christmas practices are still actively maintained. As over thirty per cent of the country is Christian, December sees the shops adorned with Christmas trees, wreaths and decorations. Father Christmas appears to bring smiles and cheer to young and old alike who call him, in Lebanese, Baba Noel.
Christmas day for Christians in Lebanon will see a celebratory feast, with an abundance of traditional middle eastern foods. There is almost always Kibbeh, the Lebanese national dish. Made from minced-meat and burghal (an important Lebanese ingredient), and often served with yogurt, Kibbeh is a delicious and quintessentially Levantine dish that dates back thousands of years.
You can find a delectable recipe for Kibbeh here at The Spruce Eats.
Other wonderful Lebanese Christmas recipes include:
- Roast turkey and chicken
- Lemon chicken and rice
- Mezze plates with a variety of dips
- Lamb roti
When it comes to sweets, the French influence is present at a Lebanese Christmas feast. Buche de Noel, a classic French Christmas cake, is a typical dessert served for those who have left some room. Aka ‘Yule Log’, Buche de Noel is made from chocolate, berries and lots of sugar. Gourmet Traveller recommends Australians adjust the dish by following this Christmas recipe and serving it frozen.
As well as cake, traditional desserts like Meghli – a pudding made with rice, caraway and anise also make their way to the Christmas table in Lebanon. Meghli is traditionally made for the arrival of a newborn baby, making Christmas is a perfect time to enjoy it.
Here is a recipe for Meghli from Epicurious for you to try at home
Christmas Recipes: the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom celebrates Christmas in a very similar way to us in Australia, and many of the Christmas recipes are the same.
An English Christmas meal is most commonly eaten at lunch or in the early afternoon on Christmas Day in the UK. The most common dish you’ll come across is a roast turkey with accompanying roast vegetables and all of the trimmings – such as gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce and Yorkshire pudding.
A great recipe for Yorkshire pudding from Jamie Oliver.
Other meats traditionally used when a turkey is not an option or available include:
- Roast beef
- Roasted goose
- Roast chicken
- Roasted lamb
- Glazed ham
For dessert, those living in the United Kingdom crave a traditional Christmas pudding served warm with custard.
A perfect Christmas pudding recipe for you to try can be found here from BBC Good Food.
Christmas cake, which is a rich fruit cake with marzipan icing, is another popular English Christmas dessert, although opinions remain divided over the appeal of this dish.
Other desserts enjoyed in the United Kingdom include:
- Fruit mince pies
- Chocolate truffles
- Scottish shortbread
- Spiced Victoria sponge
Christmas Recipes: Asia
Although Christianity is not a universal religion in Asia, the event is still noted by many due to its global popularity. Two countries which do have a majority of Christians are East Timor and The Philippines.
In The Philippines, where the majority of the population is Catholic, Christmas is celebrated long and hard! Decorations begin popping up in the shops as early as September and the people are known to party throughout the night from Christmas Eve to Christmas Day.
To keep up their energy, Filipinos consume a traditional pudding called Bibingka early on Christmas Day. This cake is made with rice flour, coconut milk and water. If you want to try Bibingka, you can find a recipe here from The Food Network.
The Christmas Eve feast is called the Noche Buena feast. Christmas recipes enjoyed in The Philippines reflect other national recipes and include:
- Kue Putu, a steamed rice cake
- Kare-Kare, an oxtail stew with a peanut sauce
- Rellenong Manok, a baked and stuffed chicken
- Fruit salad, featuring tropical fruits
- Hamón, Christmas ham
Christmas food in The Philippines is colourful! Puto Bumbong is a purple sweet rice dessert, salty Queso De Bola is cheese in bright red wax and Buko Pandan is shredded coconut and jelly.
To add some Filipino influence to your Christmas table, you can find several recipes from WhenInManila.com.
While Japan doesn’t strictly adhere to Christmas celebrations, it does have its own unique Christmas cake. Japanese Christmas Cake is a delightfully light sponge cake adorned with whipped cream and strawberries. You can find the recipe here at Japan Centre. Along with being a Christmas delicacy, this strawberry sponge is the model for the ‘cake emoji’ on your iPhone!
Christmas Recipes: Unusual fare
In Australia, we think nothing of devouring fresh prawns and serving up smoked salmon on Christmas Day, no doubt to the horror of many cultures who expect a baked dinner.
Around the world, there are plenty of Christmas recipes to make you raise your eyebrows.
Consider Mopane, a dish of fried caterpillars which some people enjoy in southern African regions like Zimbabwe. These are considered an excellent source of protein, if you have the stomach for them!
If you’re in Greenland, you might be offered the meat of a whale, seal or (gulp) reindeer. Kiviak, a dish of meat, fat, blood, herbs and berries is also popular.
In Norway, Smalahove is a whole sheep’s head which is salted and dried before being smoked, boiled or steamed. Some Norwegians leave the brains inside to cook before frying or eating them with a spoon.
Back in Japan, nobody needs a Christmas recipe. Instead, they head to KFC for the holiday! Similar to Australia’s recent tradition of eating lamb on Australia Day, Japan’s culture was influenced by an ad campaign declaring ‘KFC for Christmas’. This was back in the 1970s, but it the habit has stuck.
Christmas Recipes from Around the World at MàZi
If you have perused all the delicious, weird and wonderful Christmas Recipes from around the world but still don’t want to cook, come and join us for Christmas dinner at MaZi.
This year we have welcomed a new head chef. June’s family background hails from Cook Islands. He loves the tradition of Christmas, and in addition to our amazing new summer menu, he was responsible for compiling these favourite Christmas recipes from Greece, Italy, Lebanon and the UK.
Curious to sample some of June’s handiwork? Forget the stress of the cleaning and preparation and excuse the kids from the washing up. Join us at The Lantern Club for a beautiful lunch on Christmas Day.