No matter how delicious, eating the same old dishes for Christmas dinner year after year can get pretty boring. Sure, it’s “tradition,” but sometimes even traditions need to be reevaluated — starting with Great Aunt Beth’s famous Jello salad.
This year, look to the unique Christmas dinner traditions of other countries around the world for inspiration. You (and Great Aunt Beth) just might find a new favorite.
Italy – Seafood
Seafood-haters, beware. In Italy, Christmas Eve dinner is all about the fish — seven different kinds, to be exact. In keeping with the country’s Roman Catholic roots, many believe that the number seven was chosen for biblical reasons, but others argue that you should be eating nine, twelve, or even thirteen different types of fish.
Unless you’re up for celebrating full-on Italian-style, try incorporating just one seafood dish into your Christmas meal.
Old School Recipe: Seafood Spaghetti di Nero
Spoon Shortcut: Shrimp Nachos
Germany – Duck & Mulled Wine
From spiced lebkuchen to picturesque Christmas markets, there’s no doubt that the Germans are killing the Christmas game. A traditional Christmas meal in Germany includes roasted duck (or goose), dumplings, red cabbage, and lots of glühwein (mulled wine).
If duck isn’t up your alley, try whipping up some German-style potato salad. In Germany, it’s traditionally eaten on Christmas Eve along with sausages.
Old School Recipe: Roast Duck with Potato Dumplings and Red Cabbage
Spoon Shortcut: Mulled Wine
Slovakia – Carp
A traditional Slovak Christmas meal starts with a warming bowl of cabbage soup, followed by the star of the show — the Christmas carp. But the Slovaks don’t just grab a couple pounds of scaled and de-boned carp filets at the local fishmonger. Instead, the live fish is brought home and chills out in the family bathtub for a couple of days before being cooked, NBD.
If you can’t procure a live carp for the big day, or if you need the tub space for things like you know, bathing, then try these other dishes to get in the Slovakian Christmas spirit.
Old School Recipe: Sauerkraut and Sausage Soup
Spoon Shortcut: Red Cabbage Slaw
India – Spiced Rice & Sweets
While Christmas isn’t widely celebrated in India, those that do celebrate do so with tons of delicious food. Biryani, a spiced rice dish with meat and veggies, is a popular Christmas dinner entrée, but it’s really all about the sweets. Kuswar (Christmas sweets) include bebinca, a layered pudding from the state of Goa, and delicate rose-shaped cookies.
Old School Recipe: Easy Indian Chicken Biryani
Spoon Shortcut: Instead of attempting to make them yourself, pick up an assortment of kuswar at an Indian bakery and pair them with a steaming mug of sweet and spicy chai.
Japan – KFC
Think the Japanese are chowing down on sushi and ramen on Christmas day? Think again. The most popular choice of meal is actually good ol’ KFC. According to this article, the Colonel’s chicken has been a favorite ever since a 1974 marketing campaign started equating Christmas with fried chicken.
So this Christmas, ditch the cloth napkins and fancy silverware, and go to KFC instead. Or, DIY it with one of these recipes.
Old School Recipe: Rosemary-Brined, Buttermilk Fried Chicken
Spoon Shortcut: Waffle-Battered Chicken Wings with Maple-Dijon Dip
Vietnam – Chicken Soup & Spring Rolls
Chicken soup is a Christmas favorite in Vietnam, but we’re talking pho ga — not Campbell’s. Also on the typical menu are Vietnamese spring rolls, which are the lighter, less greasy version of the Chinese takeout staple. A classic French bûche de Noël, or yule log cake, makes for a festive dessert.
Old School Recipe: La Bûche de Noël
Spoon Shortcut: Homemade Spring Rolls
Lebanon – Turkey, Stuffing, & Hummus
Like many US families, a traditional Lebanese Christmas dinner includes turkey and stuffing. But instead of bread and herbs, the turkey’s stuffed with a mix of fragrant, spiced rice, ground meat, and nuts. Another popular food is kebbeh, a bulgur wheat and ground meat mixture that’s the national dish of Lebanon. The meal is rounded off with hummus, various salads, and ma’amoul (date and orange cookies).
Old School Recipe: Baked Kebbeh Pie
Spoon Shortcut: Lemon-Rosemary White Bean Hummus
Ethiopia – Fasting & Chicken Stew
In Ethiopia, Christmas is celebrated on January 7th in honor of the Feast of the Epiphany. Prior to the holiday, Ethiopians spend forty days fasting, where only one vegan meal is allowed per day.
Forty days later, after attending church services, Ethiopians sit down to a feast of doro wat, a spicy chicken stew. The dish is usually served family-style, with a side of injera, a spongy flatbread, to sop up all the sauce.
Old School Recipe: Doro Wat (Spicy Chicken Stew)
Spoon Shortcut: While it’s not exactly traditional, this easy sweet potato and lentil soup contains many common Ethiopian ingredients and is the perfect start to any Christmas meal.
Costa Rica – Tamales & Eggnog
On the other side of the world in Costa Rica, tamales are a Christmas favorite. Just like a Christmas present, these banana leaf-wrapped parcels are full of good things, such as meat and veggies. Around the holidays, Costa Ricans get together to assemble the tamales, then gift them to friends and family. I don’t know about you, but I’d prefer a homemade tamale over stale fruitcake any day.
Costa Rica also celebrates with rompope, an eggnog-style drink spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and plenty of rum.
Old School Recipe: Costa Rican Tamales
Spoon Shortcut: Homemade Vegan Eggnog (swap the bourbon for rum and load up on the spices)
No matter where you are in the world or how you celebrate the holiday, Spoon University wishes you a very Merry Christmas.