European Christmas Dinners

“Blood will stream over Europe until the nations approach their former altars all together, hear about the works of peace, and hold a great celebration of peace”

Novalis, Christianity or Europe  (1799).

The oven is working at full tilt, an appetising smell of cinnamon fills the air, Uncle Bert is warming up his best, which is to say oldest, jokes… yes, no doubt about it, the table is set for Christmas! But the question is rather: what’s for dinner? Well, that dpeends.  In Portugal, you won’t find any table without the traditional Bacalhau; while in Sweden, it’ll be herring. Meat-lovers may opt for France to taste fine foie gras, chapon and other delicacies, or travel to Austria for a tasty Bratwurst. In Switzerland, you’ll get to tuck into a convivial meat fondue.  And in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, you’ll be offered the opportunity to play with your dish in the family bathtub before savouring it with lemon and Russian salad… So put on your ugliest Christmas jumper, rehearse your most annoying Christmas carol, wrap your gifts: the show is about to begin!


Bacalhau, Octopus and Bolo Rei

Welcome to Consoada – the Portuguese version of the family dinner on Christmas Eve that comes at the end of a day of fasting. Consoada is just about what its Latin origin consolare suggests: to make yourself comfortable! This means abstaining from eating any fat or hard-to-digest meat but savouring a well-prepared fish instead. Expect nothing less than the famous Portuguese Bacalhau (salted cod) on the table, even if some regions will rather opt for Polvo (octopus). You will also taste many delicious appetisers such as, Bolinhos de Bacalhau, Rissois de Camarao. If you’re not full yet, you will be invited at the end of the dinner to enjoy the traditional Christmas cake: the Bolo Rei, or ‘King Cake’. And because you’ve been treated just like a King, your Portuguese hosts may also invite you to go full monty with a taste of its female version without candied fruit, the Bolo Rainha.


Pavo Trufado, Lobster and Mandarins

Christmas Eve is called La Noche Buena, “The Good Night”, in Spanish  this couldn’t be a more appropriate term, as this dinner is without doubt the biggest feast of the year! In the past pavo trufado, turkey stuffed with truffles (the mushrooms, not the chocolate ones!) was a popular dish with the country’s elite. Now the only rule with the Christmas Eve meal is that people eat well, and usually extravagantly. Lobster is very common, and a roast of some sort is essential, usually lamb or a suckling pig. In addition, most families will also have soup, usually fish stew, and an abundance of other seafood, cheeses, hams, and pates. Other popular foods adorning Christmas tables and found in recipes during the holidays include mandarinas (mandarins), nueces (walnuts) and datiles (dates). Bon appétit!


Foie Gras, Chapon and Bûche de Noël

The French call it “Réveillon” – it already shows how seriously they take Christmas which is celebrated either on Christmas Eve or in the early morning of the 25th. As for any important French dinner, the French will start with an apéritif. Here you can expect a glass of champagne or another sparkling wine (Vouvray, Saumur, Touraine) while tasting some amuse-bouches (“entertain-mouths'”). Foie gras will definitely be the star of all appetizers, but you can also be invited to taste oysters, generally served raw, or smoked salmon. The main course is traditionally a meat dish, usually roasted. The French will opt either for a capon, a turkey, a guinea fowl or a pheasant they are usually stuffed with yummy chestnuts and served with mushrooms and some vegetables. Already feeling full? Wait, there is more! It would be impolite to go for a nap already, as the typical French Christmas meal can’t end without a platter of smelly cheese and a delicious  Bûche de Noël. 


Smoked lamb, Potatoes and Ptarmigan

For their most intimate family celebration of the year, Icelanders gather around the Christmas dinner table for carolsgames, seafood, and delectable desserts. In Iceland no Christmas meal goes without roast lamb. Some people like to have it smoked and it was traditionally done over sheep’s dung! Nowadays, the most common Icelandic Christmas dishes are ham (hamborgarahryggur), smoked lamb (hangikjöt) and ptarmigan (rjúpa). The last is no longer a food for the poor and has become very popular with Icelanders the ptarmigan hunting season being one of the most anticipated events of the year for hunters. These dishes are lavishly prepared with sides including potatoes, prepared in many different ways, peas and beans, gravy and jam.


Ham, Roast Goose and Pudding

In Ireland, you’d better eat well to prepare for a bitterly cold Christmas night! Nowadays almost everyone eats turkey for Christmas dinner, though some prefer goose, viewed as more ‘traditional’. Most people also have roast ham with it, accompanied by bread stuffing, roast potatoes, mashed potatoes, gravy and sometime cranberry or bread sauce. In addition, sometimes spiced beef (spiced over several days, cooked, and then pressed) is often eaten. This can be served hot or cold. Dessert hardly seems a possibility after that little lot – but this is not an ordinary day! That’s why Irish family prepare and eat a round cake, full of caraway seeds. One is traditionally made for each person in the house. Now it’s more common to have a pudding with brandy butter or sherry sauce, mince pies or just a slice of Christmas cake.

United Kingdom

Roast Turkey, Brussel Sprouts and Pudding

At lunchtime or early afternoon on Christmas Day, the usual star on the British menu is a massive roast turkey, served with roast vegetables and ‘all the trimmings’ which means vegetables like carrots and peas, stuffing. As if not enough, Brits also adds to their feast some bacon and sausages served with cranberry sauce and bread sauce. Traditionally, and before turkey was available, roast beef or goose was the main Christmas meal. And what best to go with this rich meat? Brussels sprouts! For dessert, Brits usually eat a rich, fruity pudding called the Christmas pudding which is doused every day in flaming brandy it is said to ward off evil but we guess it’s actually more of a disguised way for the hard-working chef to sneak in an extra snifter while preparing. If the Christmas pudding is not to your taste, no worries: you can also opt for mince pies and lots of chocolates…


Roast Pork Belly, Sausages and Rice Porridge

In the great cold of Norway, you celebrate Christmas with a big dinner on 24 December. The choice of food varies depending on the area of Norway you are from, but often consists of lamb ribs, stockfish or sometimes cod. However, the clear favourite, eaten by as many as six out of ten households, is ‘Ribbe’ – roast pork belly. Traditionally served with boiled potatoes, sausages, meat cakes, prunes, lingonberries and pickled cabbage, ‘Ribbe’ and its heavenly aroma is sure to bring a bit of Norwegian spirit into Christmas. Rice porridge is also often eaten on Christmas Eve either as a meal at lunchtime or as a dessert to the main evening meal. If a lucky guest finds an almond in his portion, he’ll be traditionally given a pink or white marzipan pig as a prize!


Smörgåsbord, Herring salad and Lutefisk

Christmas presents are under the lighted tree, candles shine brightly and the smörgåsbord  – a range of hors d’oeuvres served on a buffet – has been prepared. Even if you can’t pronounce it properly, you will definitely enjoy its classical composition: Christmas ham (first boiled, then painted and glazed with a mixture of egg, breadcrumbs and mustard), pork sausage, an egg and anchovy mixture (gubbröra), herring salad, pickled herring, home-made liver pâté, wort-flavoured rye bread (vörtbröd), potatoes and a special fish dish: the lutefisk.  Lutefisk is dried ling or cod soaked in water and lye to swell before it is cooked. Once all have eaten their fill, Santa Claus himself arrives to sing a carol, wish the gathering a Merry Christmas and distribute the presents. God Jul!


Oven-baked Ham, Rutabaga Casserole and Beetroot salad

Santa doesn’t have to travel far on Christmas Eve to deliver presents to people in Finland! Perhaps that’s for the best, as Finns are busy cooking and eating gargantuan dishes. Perhaps the three most essential dishes on Finnish Christmas table are oven-baked ham, rutabaga casserole and mixed beetroot salad. In particular, most Finns could not imagine Christmas without ham – which they call by the cute Finnish name Kinkku. Slowly baking the ham in the oven is a treasured Christmas ritual, and the dish is best served with homemade mustard. Any leftover ham is usually added to pea soup after Christmas. Without the taste of these traditional dishes, there would be something missing in Finnish Christmas celebrations.


Roast pork, Boiled potatoes and Risengrød

If you’re in Denmark in December, you’re bound to hear the word julefrokost at least a thousand times. It means “Christmas party” and is a Danish tradition typically involving plenty of food and alcohol… and chairs full of great company. The traditional Danish Christmas meal is composed of roast pork, boiled potatoes, red cabbage and gravy, although in recent times roast duck and goose have become popular. Every half an hour or so, someone calls out “Skål” to make a toast, and everyone stands up to drink. This is where snaps comes in. For dessert, the classic dish is riz à l’amande – a cold rice pudding with whipped cream, vanilla, almonds and hot cherry sauce – or Risengrød (hot rice pudding). A peeled almond is hidden in the dessert bowl and the lucky finder gets a present…


Ginger nuts, Egg-yolk liquor and Speculaas

How lucky! Christmas is celebrated over two days in the Netherlands, on Eerste Kerstdag (First Christmas Day) which falls on December 25 and on Tweede Kerstdag (Second Christmas Day) which is the following day, December 26. Even more lucky, both are public holidays! Dutch Christmas food was traditionally dominated by ingredients such as spices, white flour, dried fruits, almonds and sugar, all the historically expensive foods that were typically reserved for feast days. Today there are still some sweet treats and cookies that are only eaten during the festive season, including kruidnoten (ginger nuts), advocaat (egg-yolk liquour) and bischopswijn (Dutch mulled wine), although the spiced gingerbread biscuit speculaas tends to be eaten year-round these days. The Dutch also enjoy more traditional Christmas dinners, especially meats like roast beef, duck, rabbit, and pheasant. This is generally served with different types of vegetables, potatoes and salads.


Seafood, Turkey and Yule Log

When Christmas Eve rolls around, Belgians huddle up with the family for a large communal meal and the unwrapping of the gifts underneath the tree. On Christmas Eve (Kerstavond in Flemish and le réveillion de Noël in French), a special meal is eaten by most families. It starts with a drink (apéritif) and ‘nibbles’, followed by a starter course such as seafood, and then stuffed turkey. The dessert is Kerststronk (Flemish) or la bûche de Noël (Walloon) – a chocolate Christmas log made of sponge roll layered with cream. The outside is covered with chocolate butter cream and made to resemble a bark-covered log. In the weeks before Christmas, people also like to go to Christmas Markets. There you can drink jenever (gin) or Glühwein (hot wine) and eat some Smoutebollen/oliebollen (deep fried sweet dumplings).


Roast goose, Red cabbage and Marzipan

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call Germany the land of Christmas. Here you eat roast goose and roast carp for Christmas dinner until you fall into a food coma, although suckling pig or duck will do the trick too. Typical side dishes include roast potatoes and various forms of cabbage such as kale, Brussels sprouts, and red cabbage. In some regions the Christmas dinner is traditionally served on Christmas Day rather than Christmas Eve. In this case, dinner on Christmas Eve is a simpler affair, consisting of sausages (such as Bockwurst or Wiener) and potato salad. Sweets and Christmas pastries are all but obligatory and include marzipan, spice bars (Lebkuchen), several types of bread, and various fruitcakes and fruited breads such as Christstollen and Dresdener Stollen.


Bratwurst with sauerkraut, Goose, Carp and Lebkuchen

What could Austrians eat for Christmas? Sausages with sauerkraut and potatoes obviously! The bratwurst – fried sausage – has a long tradition in Austria and it is eaten with many different side dishes all year round. Another of Austria’s most famous Christmas dishes is the Christmas goose. In fact this dish is a load of work and you need some experience to keep the meat juicy but if you serve it and everyone is cherry-picking the best pieces you know it was worth the effort. A comparably simple but delicious dish is the classic Christmas carp. The carp is a fresh water fish with very strong, white meat. And when the dinner is over and Austrians get together to sing “Silent Night”, they will eventually taste some delicious Lebkuchen to complete the celebrations.


Ham, Scalloped potatoes and Fondue

The main Christmas meal is eaten on Christmas Eve and popular foods include a Christmas ham and scalloped potatoes with melted cheese and milk baked in. While there’s no ‘traditional’ Christmas dinner in Switzerland, a classic choice for the sociable Swiss is fondue chinoise. Instead of cheese, thin slices of meat are dipped into a shared pot of steaming broth and eaten with vegetables and other accompaniments. Sometimes ‘FIGUGEGL’ (fee-goo-geck-ul) is added to party invitations. This means ‘Fondu isch guet und git e gueti Lune‘ (fondue is good and gives a good mood). Desert is often a walnut cake and Christmas cookies which are very popular to buy and make. Each family has their own recipes and favourites. Bon appétit!


Pasta, Capon or Eel and Panettone

The million euro question: what could Italians possibly eat for Christmas? Pasta obviously! Without surprise, the Italian primo is usually a kind of soup made with pasta (usually filled pasta, like tortellini) boiled in meat or capon broth. The secondo is very different from one region to another. In Northern Italy, you would normally eat poultry, often filled, or roasted and seasoned with sauces, like mostarda. In Southern Italy they instead eat the fried capitone eel, which is typical of Christmas Eve, because this is a fasting day. When you return from Mass – ah yes, because you’ll definitely have to attend – you’ll also take comfort by drinking a cup of hot chocolate and eating a slice of Italian Christmas Cake called Panettone. It’s like a dry fruity sponge cake!


Carp, Potato Salad and Cookies

Christmas Eve in Czech literally translates to “Generous Day”. It’s a day for festive traditions and Czech food! The star of the Czech Christmas menu is fried carp. Perhaps not the first thing that springs to mind as a local delicacy but it certainly has its charm and comes with its own unique tradition: some Czechs buy their fish before Christmas and keep it in alive in the bathtub until it’s time to prepare and eat. And the carp isn’t complete without a good potato salad. While the recipe varies from family to family, the main ingredients are boiled eggs, potatoes, mayonnaise, pickles and vegetables. Czech dessert is usually a beautiful assortment of little cookies in more varieties than you could count on two hands.


Carp, Wafers and Sliced Apples

In Slovakia, just like in Czechia, Christmas dinner starts in the bathtub. For centuries, Slovaks have relied on one simple main course for Christmas Eve dinner: the common carp. But getting from river (or carp farm) to table is not so simple. As the tradition goes, the Christmas carp must first swim in the family bathtub for at least a day or two before being killed, cleaned and prepared – kids name them and people can’t bathe! But it’s not just fish that holds a mythical meaning. Two things you will find at every Slovak Christmas table: sliced apple, indicating good luck if the star is unbroken, and Christmas wafers called oblátky eaten with honey. Poppy seeds and peas are also often found; both represent money. To have peňazí ako maku, as much money as poppy seeds, would be nice indeed!


Carp, Borsht and Ravioli

Wigilia – derived from the Latin term “vigil” – is the traditional Christmas Eve supper in Poland. Also known as the Star Supper, Wigilia is the main focus of Polish Christmas celebrations. And it is definitely a celebration, as families got used to serve twelve different dishes! It mainly focus on fried carp and borscht (beetroot soup) with uszka (ravioli). Actually, the carp provides a main component of the Polish Christmas meal with variations such as the carp fillet, the carp in aspic or the gefilte fish. It is often completed with filled dumplings called pierogi as well as some herring dishes. For dessert, there is not better than the makowiec – a roll of sweet yeast bread with poppy seed. If you’ve not had enough already, you can always digest all this feast with a compote of dry fruits served as a drink.


Herring, Kūčiukai and Poppy Seed Milk

On the average Lithuanian Christmas Eve table you will find – count ’em – no fewer than three herring dishes. No kdding: herring with beetroot, herring with carrots, herring with apples, herring with hot potatoes – you name it. To go with it, Lithuanians will prepare their potato salad – or as locals call it, “white salad”. You will find plenty of crouton-sized dough bits called Kūčiukai. They are made of plain flour, water and poppy seeds and only ever baked for Christmas Eve. Once baked, they become rock-hard within a day, yet are served as a table centrepiece under an old tradition. Another special for Christmas Eve, poppy seed milk is something like Lithuanian eggnog. It is often served alongside with Christmas Eve cookies – rather like breakfast cereal, only for dinner. 


Grey peas, Pīrāgi and Gingerbread

Priecīgus Ziemassvētkus! – if you can’t say Merry Christmas in Latvian properly, you won’t be allowed to sit at their Christmas dinner table! And you don’t want to miss the feast consisting of 12 dishes which usually include such traditional food as a Christmas roast and grey peas, as well as traditional treats such as bacon rolls and gingerbread cookies. So you’d better get practicing! Because you may also want to taste the Pīrāgi – oven baked crescents filled with smoked meat – which are among the most important Latvian Christmas dishes. In fact, Latvians only make them twice a year – once in the winter, once for the summer solstice. By the way, did you know that while most in the western world celebrate Christmas as the birth of Jesus Christ, according to pre-Christian Latvian pagan traditions it is the rebirth of the Sun Maiden?


Blood sausage, Sauerkraut and Gingerbread

In Estonia, winter dishes are hearty and filling, to provide energy and warmth in the cold weather. The food of the Christmas feast is no exception, and (quite disgusting) staples include verivorst (blood sausage), sült (jellied head cheese), hapukapsas (sauerkraut), oven-roasted potatoes and pork. Special Christmas bread is baked along with gingerbread, often an activity for the whole family. Apples and mandarin oranges are also enjoyed as Christmas treats. The Christmas meal itself, eaten on Christmas Eve or the night of Christmas itself, is an important family event originating from pagan times. There were to be seven, nine or twelve servings of food to bring good luck and plenty for next year’s harvest. Food was to remain on the table all night long, and it was forbidden to peek under the table, for this was a sacred place where spirits dwelled and any food dropped was left there.


Herrings, Mushrooms and Kisel

Christmas in Belarus often takes second place to New Year’s Eve celebrations – a holdover from Soviet times, when ideology demanded the abandonment of “Western” and religious holidays. Nevertheless, an elaborate and ritualised meal of twelve meatless dishes is served on Christmas Eve. This stems from the tradition of treating the pre-Christmas season as a time of fasting, broken at nightfall on the eve of Christmas Day. For this occasion, the table is full of Lenten dishes – herring, many different kinds of pancake, fish and mushrooms, oatmeal kisel (a dessert made of fruit, berries and potato starch and sometimes served with milk). There is straw beneath the tablecloth. Each family member picks straws in order to determine who will be the longest-living. The dish served last is Kutsia itself – porridge with honey, poppy seeds, nuts and raisins.


Kutya, Soup, Dumplings and Fruitcake

In Ukraine, Christmas meal starts with the first star, believed to be the star of Bethlehem. After the singing of Boh Predvichnyi (‘God Eternal’) the meal can begin… with twelve traditional dishes! Ukrainians start with Kutya – a wheat berry dish with poppyseeds that has been simmering in a saucepan all day and flavored with honey. The next dish served is a simple soup. Then comes the meat-free courses such as Pyrohy or dumplings with two different fillings: Sauerkraut and potato with cottage cheese. Ukrainians eat it with Kolach (Christmas bread), braided into a ring, with three rings placed on top of another to symbolise the Christian concept of the Holy Trinity of father, son and holy spirit. For dessert, Ukrainians enjoy an assortment of Christmas cakes with fruitcake and pampushky – a small savory or sweet yeast-raised bun

Romania – Moldova

Sausages, Piftia, Pickles and Colacii 

Romanian food is more than sarmale and papanasi. Pork is the classic main meat used to preparing all parts of the Christmas meal. Strongly related to the tradition of sacrificing the pig before the religious celebration, Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without all the home-made pork products: sausage and ham recipes and a long list of specialties like toba, muschi, caltabos, chisca, the main ingredients of all Christmas appetisers. But one of the most delicious Romanian dishes, piftia, is an aspic recipe prepared traditionally with smoked pork leg and garlic which they eat with a traditional Romanian braided bread, colacii. Romanians also have a strong appetite for eating pickles and many still prepare their own home-made supplies for winter.


Fishermens’ Soup, Cabbage Roll and Beigli

The Christmas dinner is the cherry on the cake for all Hungarian families when it comes to the three-day holiday. Locals enjoy their Halászlé – the fishermen’s soup, a bright red hot soup, prepared with generous amounts of hot paprika and carp or mixed river fish. It is a popular celebratory dish, often served during Christmas Eve. It goes with cabbage roll, (Töltött káposzta), covered with cooked cabbage leaves, and filled with minced pork meat. For dessert, Hungarians couldn’t do without their Beigli – a pastry roll traditionally filled with poppy seed or walnut. If well prepared, the dense filling makes more than half of the cake by weight, and gives it a rich and special taste. If not enough, they can eventually have szaloncukor, which is a typical sweet often used to decorate the Christmas tree.


Home-made Sausages, Roasted potatoes and Sweet dumplings

According to old Slovenian tradition, the table is so full on Christmas Day that not even a glass can be placed on it. They used to believe that, right after midnight, it is good to eat at least some home-made sausage made at the neighbour’s koline (pig slaughter). Roasted potatoes are the most common side dish. Potatoes seared in lard and onions are especially tasty if prepared in a cast iron skillet. To enrich the taste of roasted potatoes, Slovenians like to add cracklings with sauerkraut or pickled turnip. Despite the rich table and delicious dishes, Slovenians always find room in their stomachs for something sweet after dinner. Štruklji (dumplings with various fillings) and Potica Cake are among the most recognisable dishes in Slovenia.


Turkey, Olivier Salad and Fritule

Throughout Croatia, ovens run on full power and the stress level usually rises – because you can’t bake sweet rolls and roast turkey at the same time. Planning is the key! Nowadays Croats traditionally prepare turkey or duck with mlinci, but some people prefer roasted lamb or yummy suckling piglet with potatoes and olive salad. You also need to plan for baking the many traditional desserts such as fritule (mini doughnuts), medenjaci (honey spice cookies), vanilla crescents, Linzer cookies, apple strudel, walnut and poppy-seed rolls and varied sinfully delicious cakes: but the question is how and what goes first? This is where Croatian mum starts to panic and threatens that she won’t bake a cake in her life ever again!


Prosciutto, Roast Pork and Baklava

Christmas Day is for feasting – and Montenegrins don’t do it by halves. To start, there are priganice and dainty slices of cake. Lunch starts with the traditional Montenegrin appetizer of prosciutto from Njegusi, a village famed for the delicacy. There’s also olives, gherkins and heaven on a plate – Russian salad. Russian salad is a mix of peas, carrots, potatoes, ham, eggs, mayonnaise and sour cream. Then comes the boiled prosciutto, served with cooked potatoes and cabbage. It’s enough to have guests loosening their belts and thinking of coffee. They don’t realise they’re just getting started. Roast pork, veal and lamb are next, along with delectable roast potatoes, carrots and fresh lettuce salad. To top it all off, there are traditional sweets like baklava and strudel, served with thick Turkish coffee.

Serbia – Bosnia and Herzegovina – Kosovo

Money Bread, Beans, and Soup

Most Serbians are Orthodox Christians who follow the Julian calendar, with, Christmas Eve celebrated on January 6 and Christmas on January 7. The česnica or božićna kolač, also known as “money bread,” goes out on the table on Christmas Eve, but no one can eat it until Christmas morning, when everyone breaks off a piece, saving one for the polozajnik or first guest to visit. The Christmas Eve meal generally includes a soup course. It might be čorba od patlidžana (tomato soup), fish soup, or meatless pasulj (bean soup). Beans are considered a lucky food, but they also make a perfect fasting food. Salata od pasulja, a kind of kidney bean salad, often appears on the Christmas menu. For dessert, along with dried fruit compote, fruit, and nuts, some families serve Lenten or fasting cookies — so named because they contain no eggs, milk, or butter, which are prohibited during Advent.


Stuffed Turkey, Russian salad and Bakllava

While in many countries, Christmas Eve dinner is the most important end-of-year event, in Albania the big feast is reserved for New Year’s Eve. This is due to the fact that the population of the country is a mix of Muslims and Christians. But Christmas in Albania is still unique. On Christmas Day, every home in the country cooks up sumptuous Christmas meals in the conventional manner. Stuffed turkey is the most important part of Christian meals. It goes with Russian salads composed of boiled and cubed carrots, potatoes, beans, fresh pickled cucumbers and peas mixed together with a substantial amount of, preferably home-made, mayonnaise. Another  specialty of the Albanian Christmas dinner is Bakllava – made with extremely thin and flaky homemade layers of dough and soaked in a thick and spicy sweet syrup.


Sarmi, White Bread and Walnuts

The Bulgarian Orthodox church recommends 13 different meals for Christmas Eve, all vegetarian, and the odd number represent luck. Сарми (Sarmi) is a popular dish around Christmas. You either use leaves from grapes or white cabbage to fill them with rise, onion and parsley. You can also fill them with minced meat but then it won’t fit in for the vegetarian Christmas food. Other food connected to boiled wheat and stews are a hit. Bulgarians also enjoy their Коледна питка (koledna pitka) a traditional white bread that is being beautifully decorated with what the person feels like doing and served around Christmas and New Year. Walnuts are also a must on the Bulgarian Christmas table! Traditionally each member of the family cracks a walnut to determine their fate for the next year. It is believed that if the walnut is a good one the next year will be full of success, a bad one predicts bad luck.

North Macedonia

Vegetables, Pogaca and Dried Fruits

North Macedonians have a specific word for Christmas Eve: Badnik. On this day people stay at their homes with their families. According to tradition, the whole family gathers around the dinner badnik table in the evening, which should be festive and rich, but lean. The fasting supper is composed of strict vegetarian recipes, such as cooked vegetables, nuts, bread (pogaca), and dried fruits. In the bread, a coin is being put before it is baked. The traditional belief is that whoever gets the coin will have a particularly successful year to look forward to. The Christmas candle is then lit and everyone sings a Christmas hymn. Unlike most other Christian nations in the World, Macedonians don’t really exchange gifts on Christmas.  Doesn’t that sound sad: think of the children…!


Tzatziki, Pork, Veal and Melomakarona

All over the country tables will be set with Christmas dishes that have become tradition, passed from generation to generation. No dinner can start better than with a selection of sauces and spreads from different areas of the country. From the traditional tzatziki, made with fresh yogurt, to the rustic skordalia, with potatoes and garlic. Add some hot pita bread, a generous amount of olive oil, and let the dinner begin. Pork is the number one meat to eat in Greece in Christmas and it is part of a very old tradition when families used to raise a pig to slaughter on the Christmas Eve and to serve it as the main dish on the following day. Veal is another delicacy bound to be served at the Greek Christmas table. Tender bites of beef stewed are even better when cooked with and served together with cognac, apricots, and plums. Also, traditional Greek Christmas cookies such as melomakarona and kourabiethes are to be expected towards the end of the dinner but only if you can stomach more food.


Egg Lemon Soup, Souvla, Kourabiedes

In Cyprus, Christmas is Kourabiedes time – this time of the year when the sweet aroma of melomakarona cookies fill kitchens. Dishes such as stuffed turkey, or Souvla which is roasted lamb or pork meat cooked on charcoal, are traditionally eaten on Christmas day. Cypriots also usually enjoy a soup of frumenty, a sort of boiled porridge, or one of egg lemon. Every family will prepare its Christmas Cake which decorates the Christmas table for many days, made with a lot of dried fruit and nuts. On the top of it, white icing is spread which represents snow. They can alternatively opt for Kourabiedes a light shortbread, typically made with almonds and shaped either into crescents or balls, then baked till slightly golden. Kourabiedes are sometimes made with brandy, usually Metaxa, for flavouring, though vanilla, mastika or rose water are also popular.


Christmas is not really a big deal in Turkey. Well, not as much as in the Christian world anyway. However, it’s still very possible to have a lovely Christmas with services at Istanbul’s churches and a special feast at home with the best ingredients.

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