There is so much to love about Christmas. Christmas stockings. Carol singers. Dodgy Christmas jumpers. But best of all is the food! In the UK, we’ve got some fantastic Christmas food traditions, from mince pies to turkey with all the trimmings, but there are lots of delicious Christmas goodies to tuck into around the world.
If you’re thinking of heading off to celebrate Christmas somewhere warm and sunny (and who doesn’t want to escape the gloom and head for some winter sun?!), we’ve come up with some of our favourite Christmas foods from around the world. And if you can’t decide where to go for your Christmas holidays, we’ve come up with some ideas here!
Traditional Christmas Food in Spain
If you come to Catalonia at Christmas, including popular regions such as the Costa Brava, the Costa Dorada or the gorgeous capital Barcelona, you’re find the substantial soup escudella i carn d’olla at every local restaurant. A tasty broth made with meat, vegetables and big, shell-shaped pasta called galets, it is traditionally served in two courses: first, the meat and the vegetables, followed by the broth.
Anywhere you go across Spain, from Madrid to the Canary Islands, you’ll find turrones – which anyone with a sweet tooth will adore. This delicious nougat is a classic Christmas treat and, although traditionally made with honey and almonds, now you’ll find all kinds of flavours, from chocolate to marzipan.
It’s the Three Kings, not Father Christmas, who bring Spanish kids their presents on the night of the 5th of January, and the kings are celebrated with a special brioche-like cake, roscón de reyes, that contains a fava bean and a little ceramic figure of a king. Get the slice with the fava bean, and you have to fork out for the cake the next year. Get the king, and you’ll be lucky all year long!
Traditional Christmas Food in Portugal
On Christmas Eve, families gather to enjoy a traditional meal of bacalhau com todos (salt cod with all the trimmings) or galinha de natal recheada (chicken stuffed with a mixture of breadcrumbs, chicken liver, olives, and eggs) and then often go to Midnight Mass. Before heading out, parents will secretly put out the presents under the tree so that they are there when the family returns, to the delight of the children.
In Portugal, as in Spain, they also have a bolo rei (‘king cake’) with a fava bean and a little figure of a king; get the fava bean and you have to buy the next year’s cake, but if you get the king, you’ll be lucky all year.
Traditional Christmas Food in Malta
Malta is a fabulous Christmas holiday destination, with its irresistible combination of British, European and North African traditions. You’ll find the classic Christmas drink imbuljuta tal-qastan at Christmas markets and cafés throughout Malta. A delicious, cinnamon and spice-scented drink, it’s made with chocolate, orange and chestnuts and served piping hot.
Another tasty treat that is served everywhere are the Qagħaq tal-Għasel, pastry rings filled with a sweet, treacly mixture. Yum!
Traditional Christmas foods in the Caribbean
If you’re heading off to the Caribbean this year, you’ve got plenty more to look forward to besides the tropical beaches of white sand! There are lots of big family gatherings, and one of the classic things to prepare across the Caribbean is a spit roast suckling pig. Lots of restaurants offer spit roasts, which are fantastic fun to take part in.
You’ll also be able to tuck into black cake, a Caribbean fruit cake made with oodles of rum, which is popular in Jamaica and lots of other islands. The fruit is soaked for a long time in the rum before the cake is baked, and it’s then fed over months. The result is a delicious, richly flavoured and heady cake!
If you’re heading to Cuba for some winter sun, don’t miss out on the crema de vie, a local version of egg nog, which is made with condensed milk, lemon, egg yolks, cinnamon and, of course, several big glugs of rum.
Traditional Christmas foods in Cyprus
Cyprus is a fantastic destination for foodies at Christmas. Families spend months preparing specialities to serve at Christmas, and you’ll be able to tuck into them all on your holiday in the sun. Classic Christmas dishes include souvla, roast lamb or pork cooked over charcoal, egg lemon soup, and a special yeasty, sweet bread called Christopsomo, which is decorated with a cross.
There are lots of tasty biscuits around, such as the kourabiedes, brandy or rose-water flavoured shortbread, or melomakarona, which are made with honey, dates, walnuts and a dash of brandy.
In Cyprus, it’s Saint Basil who brings the kids their Christmas presents on the 1st of January, and he is celebrated with a special cake, vasilopitta; whoever gets the slice with the coin hidden inside it will enjoy good luck for the rest of the year.