17 Traditional Holiday Dishes From Around the World

As the holiday season quickly approaches, most people only think about what they will eat on a specific holiday. Holiday food varies around the world, but we all have food traditions we love.

Traditional Sliced Honey Glazed Ham Ready for the Holidays

With hundreds of countries comes a variety of holidays that all have a special meaning to those who celebrate them. 

One thing most people would agree is similar throughout different cultures is that holidays are a great time to share a meal with loved ones.

Whether you live in the United States, Japan, Greece, or anywhere else, food is one of the best ways to come together and celebrate. 

If you’re interested in learning more about how others eat holiday meals around the world or are thinking or making something new, here are some of the most common holiday foods around the world.

Bûche de Noël (France)

Bûche de Noël is a traditional food in France that is usually served during Christmas and throughout the season from Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day.

Outside this time, you rarely see people enjoying this delicious French dessert. You might commonly know bûche de Noël as a Yule log if you speak English.

Cutting the Yule log is a pagan Christmas tradition that people have celebrated for centuries.

There are several variations of this dessert, but most of them are typically made with cocoa powder, heavy cream, sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract. People use sugar, icing, and sometimes fruit to decorate the log.

Check out other famous French cakes to make during the holidays or anytime of the year!

Latkes (Israel)

Throughout the eight days and nights of Hanukkah, you’ll commonly see Latkes on the dinner table.

You can also hear latkes called levivot in Hebrew. Traditionally from Israel, people of the Jewish faith enjoy this holiday staple from wherever they are in the world.

They’re a delicious fried dish and pair well with other Hanukkah dishes. 

Latkes are fried in hot oil, which symbolizes the oil that kept the menorah burning for eight days.

This simple dish is made with shredded potatoes and onions and then held together with eggs and breadcrumbs.

You can eat them on their own or serve them with beef brisket, challah, and other Jewish delicacies. 

Mince pie (England)

Mince pie is the most popular holiday dish in England and has been popular historically.

Other names for mince pie include Christmas pie and mincemeat pie. It’s technically a British dessert that might seem off since it typically has some minced or shredded beef included in the ingredient list. 

The traditional way to make mince pie is to use minced beef, dried fruit, and warm spices. However, most people leave the minced meat out because they prefer to eat it as a dessert.

The modern mince pie consists of raisins, fried apples, pastry dough, distilled spirits, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves.

Learn about other traditional British dishes, or check out other pie flavors to make during the holiday season!

Pasteles (Puerto Rico)

Puerto Rico’s Christmas dish is pasteles. If you ask anyone in Puerto Rico or you stumble into a Puerto Rican household during the Christmas season, there’s almost no doubt this dish will be on the table.

It takes a lot of time and patience to make, but the result is worth all the hard work. 

The filling is made with ground pork and an adobo sauce blended with other spices. People use masa dough made with yautia, herbs, and grated green bananas to encase the ground pork filling.

The pasteles are boiled in water and then served with rice, fish, meat, pigeon peas, and plenty of hot sauce. 

Babka (Poland)

Bread is one of the essential parts of any meal in Poland throughout the holiday season.

But, it’s not just any bread. Polish people enjoy making and eating babka throughout the season, specifically on Christmas Eve after they break their fast from the day before.

Since most Christmas meals lack meat and are served with soup, babka pairs well with the meal. 

Babka is a sweet bread that pairs well with traditional holiday foods like beet soup, potatoes, and herring topped with sour cream.

Polish families often set an extra plate and piece of babka for a lone wanderer who might pass through.

Bibingka (Philippines)

Many of the holiday foods on this list are eaten for dinner, but bibingka is a popular breakfast dish in the Philippines.

Bibingka is usually consumed by those in the Philippines or Filipino people after Simbáng Gabi, which is nine days of traditional Filipino Catholic mass that leads up to Christmas day. 

You’ll even find food stands outside churches selling the dish during the holidays. Bibingka is usually made with sticky rice, flour, sugar, coconut milk, and water.

The mixture is wrapped in banana leaves. Sometimes people will add coconut flakes, eggs, or cheese as toppings to the dish, but the base is always the same throughout Filipino households.

Christmas Pudding (United Kingdom)

An original holiday meal from the United Kingdom is Christmas pudding.

As the name suggests, this is a dessert they consume during the Christmas season, specifically on Christmas Day.

Eating Christmas pudding on Christmas in Britain dates back to medieval times, and you might hear it called plum pudding too. 

You can serve Christmas pudding warm or cold, but most people serve it at room temperature since it sits on the counter before serving.

People make Christmas pudding with eggs, flour, breadcrumbs, spices, dried fruit, and either milk or fortified wine.

It tastes delicious with a cup of milk or a glass of wine for those of legal age. 

Kentucky Fried Chicken (Japan)

This holiday food might seem odd to those in the United States, but in Japan, eating Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) during the holidays is common.

Since the 1970s, eating the delicious fried chicken from this American fast food chain has been a hit with Japanese families throughout the holiday season. 

While you and I might visit KFC for a quick meal, it’s a massive ordeal in Japan when the holidays roll around.

People order their Christmas Kentucky Fried Chicken several weeks ahead of time to ensure they can get the meal they want.

They feast on the chicken, side dishes, cake, and then champagne to top it off.

Kransekake (Denmark and Norway)

Throughout Scandinavia, particularly in Norway and Denmark, kransekake is served during the holiday season.

In English, kransekake means “wreath cake.” It’s a beautiful cake that is not only tasty but shaped like a Christmas tree with several layers getting smaller as it gets to the top. 

Kransekake can have as few as 18 layers, making it a great dish to serve at a party.

The Danish typically eat kransekake on New Year’s, while Norwegians prefer to serve this cake close to Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

They’ve been eating this cake since the 18th century, so there are no signs of the tradition dying. This Christmas dessert would be popular anywhere!

Kutia (Ukraine)

In Ukraine, Kutia is a Christmas Eve dish that members of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church consume. Members follow the Julian calendar, so they eat this dish on January 6th rather than December 31st.

Kutia is the first meal in Sviata Vechera, a 12-dish feast to honor the 12 apostles. 

The dish is made with wheat berries, dried fruits, poppy seeds, and honey. It is filled with essential nutrients and is perfectly sweet without spoiling your appetite for the other 11 dishes they serve with the meal.

Traditionally, every guest must have one spoonful at least of the dish before moving on to others. 

Melomakarona (Greece)

If you weren’t aware, Christmas is a massive deal in Greece.

Many people in Greece fast before the holidays so that when Christmas Day comes, they can go all out and feast on all the delicious holiday food.

Melomakarona is one of the traditional holiday dishes that the Greeks serve on this holiday. 

Melomakarona is a cookie that is the perfect ending to a luxurious feast. These cookies are sweet, soaked in honey, and then topped with small bits of walnuts.

As tasty as these cookies are, Greeks aren’t allowed to touch them until the fast is broken on Christmas Day, despite making them days in advance. 

Pavlova (New Zealand)

Pavlova is a dessert that originated in New Zealand in the 20th century.

The name comes from Anna Pavlova, a famous Russian ballerina. The dessert honors the ballerina who visited the country in the early 1900s and has become part of New Zealand’s national cuisine since its creation. 

This dessert has a crisp yet soft crust and a meringue filling. It’s served during holiday meals and often during the summertime.

If you visit anyone in New Zealand over Christmas, there’s a good chance you’ll get to enjoy this dish once dinner is over. 

Saffron Buns (Sweden)

On December 13th, those in Sweden and other surrounding countries celebrate St. Lucia’s Day.

This dish is part of a strict tradition where the oldest daughter in the family wears a white dress and a red sash with a crown with lit candles.

She wears this to wake her parents up on St. Lucia’s day with saffron buns and coffee. 

Saffron buns are sweet buns that have a saffron flavor. They include dried fruits, usually raisins and currants. To make the holiday food, you need flour, butter, caster sugar, yeast, and dried fruit.

These are generally small, but they’re called saffron cake if you make them into a loaf.

Spiced Hot Chocolate (Peru)

Who doesn’t love a warm cup of sweet hot chocolate? Almost no one, that’s who.

One of Peru’s most popular holiday foods is its spiced hot chocolate. It’s a perfect beverage to enjoy throughout the holiday season, especially when the weather gets chilly.

It’s ideal for sharing with friends by the fire. 

It’s your standard hot chocolate with additional spices that give it a unique flavor.

To make Peruvian spiced hot chocolate, you’ll need to use chocolate, condensed milk, and then plenty of spices.

They use chili powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. It’s usually served with panteón.

Yebeg Wot (Ethiopia)

Stew is a popular dish throughout Ethiopia and other African countries, but if you’re wondering what a popular holiday meal in Ethiopia is, it’s yebeg wot.

Yebeg wot a lamb stew that people commonly eat throughout the holiday season.

To prepare for this meal, goat farmers will begin feeding lambs more than usual to get more tender and fattier meat. 

To make this hearty and warm stew, they’ll add lamb, onions, tomatoes, Ethiopian butter, garlic, and a compilation of spices that tie everything together.

You can eat the stew by itself, but people serve it with injera, an Ethiopian flatbread. It helps soak up all the flavors and adds some carbs to the dish.

Feast Of The Seven Fishes (Italy)

The feast of the seven fishes is an Italian holiday tradition that people in Italy celebrate, but many Italian-American families partake in too.

This meal occurs on Christmas Eve, and only consuming fish is a way of going meatless until the fast is over. 

This meal includes a combination of seafood. You’ll often see lobster, anchovies, sardines, dried salt cod, eels, squid, shrimp, clams, octopus, and mussels.

Other dishes included in the feast include veggies, pasta, plenty of baked goods, and Italian wine.

This tradition dates back to the Roman Catholic traditions but didn’t get the official name until 1983. 

Eggnog (USA)

If you ask people what eggnog is outside of the United States or Canada, they probably wouldn’t consider it a holiday beverage.

But, in the United States, it’s a famous beverage people drink throughout the holidays, particularly from Thanksgiving through Christmas.

The best part about eggnog is that there’s a lot of variety to the drink.

Eggnog is made with milk, whipped egg whites, egg yolks, cream, and plenty of sugar, making this creamy drink sweet and smooth.

You can add alcohol to it if you want! People enjoy adding rum, bourbon, and brandy to it to create a unique holiday drink that adults will love.

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Written by Brian Nagele

Brian attended West Virginia University, then started his career in the IT industry before following his passion for marketing and hospitality. He has over 20 years experience in the restaurant and bar industry.

As a former restaurant owner, he knows about running a food business and loves to eat and enjoy cocktails on a regular basis. He constantly travels to new cities tasting and reviewing the most popular spots.

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