Lisa Rivera

With Christmas Day just around the corner, what better way to wind up the year than with a festive post on global traditional foods.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…as the song goes, and for so many reasons too. From gift buying to overindulging on all your favourite foods, Christmas is a special time of year.

While Christmas means different things around the world, one thing we all have in common is tradition. And this is something that’s more evident when it comes to the Christmas dinner.

Whether it’s the tradition of carolling door-to-door, or serving sweet treats to Santa Claus/Saint Nicolas, traditions are a fun way of finding out more about the country. With plenty of time left over the festive season, take in some bonus travel inspiration, and plan to see some of these traditions for yourself.  


For the countries that do celebrate Christmas, it’s a given that there will be plenty of delicious things to eat on the big day. In the UK and Ireland, this is usually roast turkey with all the trimmings like roast potatoes, stuffing, and pigs in blanket.

In Japan however, it’s a totally different affair. Granted, Christmas isn’t really celebrated in the country, so this meal fits in nicely to the novelty of the holiday for the Japanese. Rather than splashing out for the finest cuts of meat, there’s nothing the Japanese enjoy more than a bucket of KFC!

Japan KFC

The novelty has become so popular that KFC Japan even has a Christmas themed bucket, plus festive treats just for the holiday. The good news is, this is one meal where the clean-up takes no time!


In France, and French-speaking countries and places, the meal is traditionally eaten on Christmas Eve. It’s called a réveillon, and is long, and wonderfully delicious way, to celebrate the holiday.

No expense is spared when it comes to French festive food, and there’s a lot to line your stomach with.


A typical meal may start with some caviar on a blini, followed by fresh and juicy oysters, lobster, foie gras, and the main event of roast turkey with chestnut stuffing.

Naturally, this may vary according to region, but wherever you dine in France, just know it’s going to be very good.


When it comes to the most festive foods in Italy, there’s no one size fits all. Each region is different, and families will serve whatever they want!

For instance, in the food capital of Italy, Emilia Romagna, tortellini in brodo (tortellini in broth) is a firm favourite. In Veneto, you may find yourself sitting down to a meal of polenta e baccala (smoked cod and corn porridge), while in Marche, you could be enjoying a generous slice of traditional lasagna.

tortellini in brodo

Desserts also vary depending on where you are in the country. In Modena, a popular sweet for afters are deep-fried tortellini filled with custard and jam, with a sprinkling of icing sugar. However, you’re more likely to gobble down an apple or hazelnut mousse cake if in Piemonte for the festive season.


Christmas is big news in Colombia, and the traditional dinner is an interesting mix of its Spanish and Caribbean influence.

For the main course, the dish of the day is typically either roasted stuffed turkey or lechona. This is when they take a whole pig, and stuff it with fragrant fillings like green peas, onions, rice and herbs, before slow roasting for a good few hours. The meat is usually served with another Colombian staple, a sort of corn cake called Arepas.


Colombians also enjoy savoury treats called Buñelos — deep fried balls of queso fresco or queso costeño (wet cheeses). These may be served with the traditional dessert of Natilla (coconut custard) to give the palate a taste of sweet and sour.

South Africa

Given its colonial tie to Great Britain, it’ll come as little surprise that a traditional South African Christmas meal is similar to what’s eaten in the UK. That said, expect to see the table laden with festive favourites like roast turkey, glazed gammon, and a roast leg of lamb. For dessert, the English influence continues, as many South Africans serve a creamy trifle pudding for afters.


However, given that December is summer in South Africa, many more people are starting to celebrate with a good old-fashioned braai — and on the beach if possible. This bbq gathering is as part of the culture as Boerewors and cricket, so it seems only natural that it’s part of the Christmas fun too!


Canada is huge, and with a wide range of different cultural influence, it’s only normal to find a variety of foods at Christmas.

The majority of Christmas food comes from the neighbouring US and the UK. However, there are some other festive delights that are distinctly Canadian, and delicious too.

The French Canadian Tourtière is one example of this. It’s a classic meat pie, made from pork and potatoes, and with a double-crust pastry that’s made from seriously fatty, but good, lard! Surrounded by some of the freshest waters in the world, a Canadian Christmas table wouldn’t be complete, without some wild salmon. A great alternative to Turkey, it’s also leaner too, which is important to make room for all the Canadian desserts.

Speaking of desserts, Canada knows how to satisfy the sweetest of teeth at Christmastime. Sugar pie is pretty much as the name suggests, as this Quebec favourite’s main ingredient is its famous export, maple syrup.

Hailing from British Columbia, Nanaimo Bars are filled with a triple-decker of milk, white and dark chocolate, and a chewy bottom. Eating just one of these bars is almost impossible!

Bûche de Noël

Christmas just isn’t the same in Canada if your table’s missing a classic yule log. Also known as, Bûche de Noël, this festive pudding can be made in a variety of flavours, and is a staple in Quebec.

Whatever you get up to this festive season, the team at IQPlanner wish you all a merry Christmas, happy holidays, and a wonderful new year.