8 Festive foods from around the world

speculoos and mulled wine on a festive table

Who doesn't love a speculoo and mulled wine? - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas in the UK without our customary tin of Quality Street, pigs in blankets, bread sauce, and of course Brussels sprouts. But while we are tucking into our traditional Christmas lunch and sweet treats, what delicacies are our friends around the world enjoying over the festive season? (And spot how many of them have made their way into our yuletide larders thanks to Christmas markets and speciality shops!) 

Speculoos in Brussels 

These gorgeous spicy biscuits made with brown sugar and cinnamon might be readily available all year round now, but they originated as the traditional treat that children in the Low Countries would receive in early December – left in their shoes by Santa Claus!  

Carp in Prague  

Fishmongers sell live carp on the streets of Prague in the run up to Christmas, where, in traditional Czech cuisine, it would be fried and served with potato salad for Christmas dinner.  

Lebkuchen in Germany  

Luckily for us, lebkuchen, the traditional German Christmas cookies, are now often found in our own seasonal markets and deli shops, but these honey-sweetened, gingerbread-style biscuits were invented by German monks in the 13th century, and have been a festive favourite there ever since.  

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The Swedish Julbord 

The Swedes love a ‘julbord’ at Christmas in place of a Christmas dinner. And what is that, you might ask? Well it’s a huge festive buffet, eaten on December 24, and comprising a vast range of dishes including pickled herring, cold meats, pâtes, and desserts – all washed down with Glögg – Swedish mulled wine, and Julöl, a special dark beer brewed for the festive season. 

French Bûche de Noël 

OK, so we know it as the humble Yule Log, but it sounds so much more exciting when given its French name – and it’s so popular as a Christmas dessert it is also served in Belgium, Switzerland and several of the former French colonies such as Canada and Lebanon too!  

Stollen from Germany 

We’re back to Germany for another dish that is becoming more familiar as a seasonal treat in the UK, too – Stollen, a delicious fruit bread packed with nuts and spices, and traditionally eaten as the bread of choice by our German friends over the Christmas period.  

Italian Panettone  

With its history going back to the Roman Empire, panettone has long been an Italian favourite, and now it’s become something of a fixture on our Christmas shopping list, too. It’s said that Italian bakeries produce 117 million panettone and pandoro (similar but different) cakes every Christmas, an enterprise worth a cool €579 million. 

Canadian Butter Tart 

A flaky pastry shell filled with a concoction of butter, sugar, and eggs, (and occasionally with raisins, walnuts or pecans added to the mix), this tasty pudding is a Canadian staple and will always feature on a Christmas buffet table, too. 

All sound pretty tasty alternatives should we tire of turkey and Christmas pud, right?