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Dublin: 2°C Wednesday 12 May 2021

What do they eat around the world for Christmas?

And why do we eat turkey?

Image: Shutterstock/Africa Studio

TOMORROW WE WILL all sit down for our Christmas Day dinner.

While some around the world have done the big meal today, the day isn’t the only thing that will vary.

The menu will differ around the world too.

But before we get to the rest of the world, why do we eat what we eat?

While the vegetables are pretty straightforward – they’re in season at that time of year – the turkey is a little more complicated.

Historian Max Shadbolt says that two British monarchs played a large role in this: Henry VIII and Queen Victoria.

Henry VIII is reputed to have eaten turkey at Christmas, but a lean spell followed in England under Oliver Cromwell and the bird fell out of use as a Christmas food.

Once Queen Victoria ascended to the throne, trade with the USA had reopened and turkeys became freely available in the UK.

However, being more expensive than goose, it was still considered a luxury – A Christmas Carol features Scrooge buying one for Bob Cratchit.

But as families grew in Victorian Britain, it became economical to buy a larger bird for the period to feed all of the family (and anyone who might call by).

Around the world

But what of the rest of the world? What do they eat?


77490884_a897ff0b6a_z Source: Daniel Bagel via Flickr/CC

German dinner differs in a couple of ways to ours. Mainly in that their fowl is weihnachtsgans, a white goose dish.

They also eat fruity Stollen cake, along with mulled wine called Gluehwein. Stollen is traditionally baked to have a hump, symbolising the humps of the camels that carried the wise men to see Jesus.


2589337235_b84b1471d3_z (1) Source: NuOveParoLe via https://www.flickr.com/photos/nuoveparole/2589337235/in/photolist-4WP2Kr-cteECw-dRxS84-ctWN4Y-4fBD4Q-6jgjHQ-84dHFx-84gMg9-84gMt1-84gMm3-84gN6m-84gMBf-84dJov-84dJdK-84dJZ4-84gNMU-84gNvU-84gNxS-84dJWT-84dHYe-84dJPk-84dJm6-84dJgc-84dJ78-84dHSR-84gNem-84dHqi-84gNbA-84dJEx-84dHuR-84gMqw-84gMXJ-84gNnN-84dKbZ-84dJL2-84dJCD-84gMaC-dC73u9-dg5dJz-21Mexdn-aJ33W-6o28y1-6o28nG-8X9aym-6jgkHE-qpayMF-7mQohi-6nX1xk-6aQfQa-7C5qgh

In many parts of Italy and among many Italian-American families, the Feast of the Seven Fishes remains popular. It is not limited to seven courses, but always contains fish. A popular dish is baccala, a salted cod dish.


In Sweden, a rice pudding, or Risgrynsgröt, is served during Christmas time. One of the bowls will have an almond submerged in its center, and the lucky one who gets the almond receives good luck for the rest of the year.

shutterstock_238375702 Source: Shutterstock/Andreas Argirakis


Egyptian Christians keep vegan on the three days before Christmas. A main staple during this time is Kushari, a macaroni, rice, and lentils dish, which is topped with tomato-vinegar sauce.

shutterstock_297262304 Source: Shutterstock/koss13


Promptly at 6pm every Christmas Eve, Icelandic people sit down to a massive meal of cooked meats, including reindeer meat.

shutterstock_269257244 Source: Shutterstock/Fanfo


KFC Christmas Party package Source: Matt Alexander

An odd tradition in Japan is to go to…KFC. In fact, around 3.6 million Japanese families will sit down to the Colonel’s finest tomorrow.

As the BBC reported last year:

“According to KFC Japan spokeswoman Motoichi Nakatani, it started thanks to Takeshi Okawara, the manager of the first KFC in the country. Shortly after it opened in 1970, Okawara woke up at midnight and jotted down an idea that came to him in a dream: a “party barrel” to be sold on Christmas.

“Okawara dreamed up the idea after overhearing a couple of foreigners in his store talk about how they missed having turkey for Christmas, according to Nakatani. Okawara hoped a Christmas dinner of fried chicken could be a fine substitute, and so he began marketing his Party Barrel as a way to celebrate the holiday.”

These days, the party buckets are so popular, people book them weeks in advance.

Read: 30 Irish pubs feature in Michelin’s newest eating out guide

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