Festive foods around the world

What do people eat around the world during the winter season? We have explored festive food in Italy, Greece, Portugal, Germany, Japan and the USA for alternatives to traditional cuisine in the UK. Tuck in!

When you think of Christmas dinner no doubt images of succulent turkey, crunchy roast potatoes, soggy Yorkshire puddings and if you like them or not..sprouts, comes to mind. This will usually be followed by Christmas pud, set alight to really put on a show. If there’s still a little room left you’ll fit in a few mince pies before you fall asleep in front of the TV, ahhh bliss.

It’s easy to stick to tradition and a source states that 76% of UK families will serve roast turkey on Christmas Day. TGI data shows that 52.8% of respondents like to try new food though, so we have looked at festive food from around the world in case you would like to try something different this Christmas. You can find alternatives here in the UK, or grab a last minute break on our site to try them in the place they are most popular! There are lots of unique events over the festive period too to experience while you are tucking in.


If you travel to Milan to experience authentic Panettone, you can also finish up your festive shopping along miles of designer stores and outdoor markets. Celebrations for the patron saint of Milan occur on 7th December and mark the start of the festive season there, with many locals putting up their festive trees on this day.

In Kozani town, Greece, the 23rd December marks celebrations for the shepherds who lit the bonfires to announce the birth of Jesus Christ. Known as the ‘Kladaries’, the locals light fires and dance around them while drinking the local wines. The best bonfires win prizes, which sounds like a sight not to be missed while munching on your Yiaprakia!

A festive break in Lisbon, Portugal can offer a slightly warmer alternative to the UK, with average temperatures reaching 12 degrees Celsius; perfect for enjoying your Bolo Rei while relaxing with a wintery view over Lisbon’s beautiful riverfront square, or after a scenic coastal walk. Christmas starts early in Portugal as children usually receive their presents at midnight on Christmas Eve. We think this is a tradition that could catch on in the UK!

Germany’s oldest Christmas Market in Dresden, called Striezelmarkt, marks its 580th anniversary this year, so is a must-see over the festive period and a perfect opportunity to pick up some authentic Stollen. Full of arts and crafts, as well as kids adventure playgrounds, it provides a magical family winter break. Bakerei Wippler bakery, a short walk along the river from the market, also offers authentic Stollen to complete your festive experience.

Christmas in Japan is an enchanting experience, with spectacular light displays in Tokyo.  It can provide a fantastic alternative to a traditional wintertime in the UK. Along with the festive KFC which has become very popular in Japan, Roppongi Hill area of Tokyo also hosts a German-style Christmas market.

New York can be seen as the ultimate romantic festive destination, with horse- drawn carriages, snow-filled parks and magnificent window shopping displays. It is the setting for the classic Christmas film Miracle on 34th Street which is recreated in the window displays of Macy’s shop every year and not to be missed. What better way to finish your day after all those activities, then indulging in an authentic 7 fish feast in one of New York’s Italian restaurants?

Alternatively, check out the following spots to sample them at home:

Panettone: Pye Baker, Norwich

Yiaprakia: The Greek Larder, London

Bolo Rei: Adilia’s Norfolk St Bakery, Cambridge

7 Fish Feast: Borough Market, London (visit on 14th December).

What will you be eating over Christmas? Will you be at home or abroad? If you like the look of some of these festive foods, recipes will be following shortly so you can make your very own magical treat!