7 Traditional Christmas Dishes Around the World

Gingerbread and stollen, traditional German Christmas cookies
Caro Strasnik / LOOK-foto / Getty Images

Christmas is a time for families across the world to come together and, by nature, such gatherings involve food. While Americans may reach for a slice of Christmas ham, Mexicans will be unwrapping tamales, and Germans will be munching on stollen. Check out what people are eating for Christmas in other countries.

01 of 07

Tamales (Mexico)

tamales in a big bowl
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Tamales have been a feast food since Pre-Colombian times. The corn masa and meat bundles are wrapped in dried corn husks and steamed during the Christmas season throughout Mexico and the Southwestern United States. These time-consuming dishes are made in huge batches, traditionally by groups of women, at a tamalada or tamale-making gathering. Rhett Rushing, folklorist at San Antonio's Institute of Texan Cultures, told NPR that, "By the time the day was over and the tamales were made, the family would be caught up, the arguments resolved, differences aired...It wasn't just about the masa and the meat. It was the love and the tears."

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02 of 07

Vitel Tone (Argentina)

Vitello tonnato with pork
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Italian immigrants brought vitello tonnato to Argentina in the late 19th century and the dish was a hit. Veal slices are served with a tuna sauce, topped with capers and hard-boiled eggs. Served cold, vitel tone is a perfect summery and light accompaniment for Argentina's brutally hot Christmas.

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03 of 07

Doro Wat on Injera (Ethiopia)

Doro wat on injera - Ethiopian food
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Probably the most famous African dish, doro wat is traditionally served during the Ethiopian holiday season for feasts. The super spicy, mouth-tingling chicken stew is made with minimal fat, by cooking chicken chunks with a base of onions and berbere (a very spicy chili blend), with honey wine, and adding hard-boiled eggs at the end of the cooking process.  Doro wat is served on top of Ethiopia's unique sourdough sponge known as injera.

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04 of 07

Stollen (Germany)

christmas stollen on a plate

Stollen is a bread-like fruitcake, made by adding chopped nuts, dried fruits, and candied citrus zest to a flour and water dough. Stollen has been a Christmas favorite since the Middle Ages. Each year, the city of Dresden in Germany bakes a gigantic stollen which is paraded around the city on a horse-drawn carriage. A master baker then cuts the stollen with a 1.6-meter long knife that weighs 12 pounds.

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05 of 07

Imbuljuta tal-Qastan (Malta)

Woman's hands peeling chestnuts
Anjelika Gretskaia / Getty Images

The name may be long and unfamiliar but this traditional Maltese drink of cocoa and chestnuts would tempt anyone. Served at midnight after Christmas Mass, imbuljuta tal-qastan is made by boiling chestnuts with chocolate, citrus rind, and ground cloves. It is warm and spicy, soothing and creamy, perfect for a winter pick-me-up.

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06 of 07

Feast of Seven Fishes (Italy)

Feast of Seven Fishes

In true Italian fashion, the Feast of Seven Fishes is the Italians' version of fasting. Traditionally, on Christmas Eve (known as La Vigilia, in Italy), no meat should be served while waiting for the birth of Christ. Italians have interpreted this partial fast into a luxurious seafood feast, where course after course of delicacies from the sea arrive at the table. There are many theories why seven dishes are served: some say that the seven dishes represent the seven days in the completion of Genesis or the seven Sacraments of the Roman Catholic church. Some families serve 11 or 13 dishes, in reference to the number of apostles.

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07 of 07

Buche de Noel (France)

Contemporary Black Currant Chocolate Yule Log
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For many centuries, Europeans brought the largest log available to burn in their huge hearth for Christmas, to ward off evil and show prosperity. As fireplaces grew smaller, the practice of bringing in a Yule Log disappeared but a clever French pastry chef hit upon the idea of honoring the practice in dessert form. The Buche de Noel is usually a white cake rolled with chocolate buttercream filling and a chocolate buttercream frosting, to resemble a Yule log. The Buche de Noel is often served with meringue mushrooms or berries to resemble holly.

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