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Traditional Christmas Dishes from Europe

June 08, 2024 9 min read.

If you dream of a Christmas in Europe because you fantasize about its fantastic lights, its incredible decorations, and its beautiful Christmas choirs singing Christmas carols, then you should know that the gastronomy is not far behind, and is, in fact, a true gem of the Old Continent. Continue reading to learn about some of the typical European Christmas dishes.

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Italian Gastronomy: A Guaranteed Christmas Eve

If we talk about delicious gastronomy, the undisputed queen is Italy, which never ceases to surprise during the Christmas season with its traditional dishes, rooted in centuries of history and culture. 

The Italian holidays are not only a time of family togetherness, but also, an opportunity to delight in unique flavors and iconic dishes that encapsulate the essence of Christmas in every bite.

Italian cuisine during Christmas is a feast that goes beyond flavors, it is an amalgamation of tradition, history, and love shared around the table. Every dish tells a story, every dessert evokes memories, and every holiday unites families around the warmth of Italian cuisine, turning the holiday season into an unforgettable culinary journey.

1. La Cena della Vigilia (Christmas Eve Dinner)

La Cena della Vigilia, typical of Christmas Eve, is a celebration that consists of a multi-course dinner without beef, in honor of the Catholic tradition of abstinence. Among the most notable dishes is "Capitone", an eel prepared in various ways, such as fried or stewed. Other delicacies include "Baccalà", cod prepared in multiple ways, and "Zuppa di Pesce", a sumptuous seafood soup.

2. Christmas Sweets

"Panettone" is a sourdough bun with candied fruits and raisins that is served in slices, often accompanied by sweet wines such as "Vin Santo". An iconic Italian sweet bread is a must-have during Christmas. 

Another traditional dessert is "Pandoro", a sponge cake in the shape of a dome, sprinkled with icing sugar and symbolizing the alpine mountains.

And originating in southern Italy, especially Naples, there are "Struffoli", small fried dough balls, dipped in honey and decorated with candied fruits or nuts, often arranged in a tower shape.

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3. Regional Specialties

In some regions, such as Emilia-Romagna, Tortellini in Brodo are served, which are small and delicious pieces of pasta filled with meat, served in a comforting broth. Similar to this, "Cappelletti" are small pasta hats filled with meat, traditional in the Umbria region and other parts of northern Italy.

4. The Afternoon of January 6: The Epiphany

Although technically after Christmas, January 6 is a special day in Italy. The Epiphany holiday is celebrated with the arrival of "La Befana", a folklore figure who brings gifts to Italian children. 

French Gastronomy: Culinary Exquisiteness

And if we continue the tour of the places in Europe that conquer the palate, secondly, France is known for its refined cuisine, which during the Christmas season displays all its elegance and splendor. 

The festivities in this country are a feast of flavors and traditions rooted in the culinary and cultural wealth that characterizes each region. From main courses to desserts, every bite during Christmas in France is a tribute to celebration and gastronomic delight.

Christmas in France is an occasion to gather around the table, enjoying abundant and exquisite food, where each dish tells a story and each dessert is a work of culinary art.

These traditional and refined flavors encapsulate the essence of French Christmas, offering an unforgettable dining experience.

1. Christmas Eve Dinner: Réveillon

The luxurious French specialty is called “Foie Gras”. It is made from the fatty liver of duck or goose and is a star dish during Christmas Eve dinner. It is served in the form of a terrine, accompanied by freshly baked bread or toast.

Also, Fresh oysters are a classic delicacy enjoyed in many French homes during the Christmas festivities. Their freshness and marine flavor make them a perfect start to the festive dinner.

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2. The Main Dishes

Although turkey is not as common as in other cultures, some French households opt for Stuffed Turkey as a main dish. It is filled with a mixture of meats, nuts, and aromatic herbs, accompanied by elaborate sauces.

Also, a popular option is Roasted Lamb, which in some regions is the star of the Christmas table. It is seasoned with Provençal herbs and cooked slowly to obtain tender meat full of flavor.

3. Special Accompaniments

As a special accompaniment, Roasted Chestnuts are a  seasonal classic, served as a side dish or as a stand-alone dish, bringing a fall flavor to the holiday table. If you take a trip to France, try this simple but satisfying delicacy.

And we can't forget the Fish Soup. In coastal regions, fish soup, full of local varieties, is a comforting and nutritious dish enjoyed during the holidays.

4. French Christmas Desserts

The most emblematic dessert of French Christmas, the "Bûche de Noël", is a cake in the shape of a tree trunk decorated with buttercream, chocolate, or mocha, with details that imitate the bark of a tree.

In Provence, there is a tradition called "Les Treize Desserts" where thirteen different desserts are served, representing Jesus Christ and the twelve apostles, which include dried fruits, figs, nuts, and dates, among other sweets.

Spanish Gastronomy: Intense Flavors in Every Bite

Continuing with the route of culinary pleasure, Spain, a land of rich culinary heritage and deep-rooted traditions, celebrates Christmas with an exquisite selection of typical dishes that reflect the diversity of its regions. This time, Spanish tables are filled with gastronomic delights that unite families and friends around authentic flavors and endearing celebrations.

Christmas in Spain is an explosion of flavors that embrace the country's culinary diversity. Each dish tells a story of tradition and each bite evokes fond memories. These Christmas delights not only satisfy the palate but also celebrate family togetherness and the festive spirit that defines the season in Spain.

1. Christmas Eve: The Gala Dinner

A gastronomic treasure, the "Iberian Ham", is an almost obligatory presence on Spanish tables during Christmas. It is served cut into thin slices and is a true delicacy for lovers of good ham. One cannot say that they have taken a trip to Spain if they have not tried this culinary gem.

The same happens with seafood. Prawns, prawns, crayfish, and cod are protagonists on many Spanish tables. Dishes such as "Hake in Green Sauce" or "Roasted Lamb" can also be part of this dinner.

2. Festive Tapas

The well-known “Gambas al Ajillo” prawns cooked with garlic and chili are a classic tapa during Christmas celebrations. Their simplicity and intense flavor make them a must-have.

And you can´t miss the Croquettes. Whether made of ham, chicken, or cod, "Croquettes" are a delight that cannot be missing from the table. These small fried balls of béchamel and filling are enjoyed as starters or appetizers.

3. Regional Traditions

As for regional recipes, in Catalonia, "Galets Soup" is a typical Christmas dish. It is a hot soup with noodles in the shape of giant shells stuffed with meat.

In some regions, especially in northern Spain, "Pavo Trufado" is served, a turkey stuffed with minced meat and flavored with truffles.

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4. The Emblematic Desserts

Spanish Christmas would not be complete without these sweets. "Nougat", made with almonds and honey, and "Marzipan", made with ground almonds and sugar, are the kings of the sweet table.

And we have to mention the Roscón de Reyes. Although it is enjoyed more during the Three Kings Day holiday, this sweet is an icon of Christmas. The "Roscón de Reyes" is a circular cake decorated with candied fruits and sugar that contains surprises inside.

English Gastronomy: Tradition in Every Dish

Last but not least, England is a land of rich tradition and has a culinary history that stands out even more during the Christmas season. English tables are filled with iconic dishes that reflect both the history and festivity of Christmas, turning each bite into a tribute to family togetherness and festive joy.

Christmas in England is a celebration that is savored with each typical dish and dessert, each one loaded with history and tradition. These delicacies not only feed the body but also nourish the Christmas spirit, creating fond memories around the family table at this special time of year.

1. The Gastronomic Preambles

In some regions, fish or shellfish soup is served as an appetizer, making it a comforting and tasty option to start Christmas dinner.

Before dinner, it is common to enjoy the "Christmas Cake", a fruit-rich cake, decorated with marzipan and royal icing, which is baked weeks before Christmas and saved for the occasion.

Picture of Bruna Branco on Unsplash

2. The Main Course: Stuffed Turkey

Stuffed roast turkey is the central dish for excellence during Christmas dinner in many English homes. It is prepared with a sage and onion filling, accompanied by sauces such as cranberry or gravy, a thick sauce made with the juices from the roast. This English tradition is a “must” for every home.

3. Classic Accompaniments

Cooked and sautéed Brussels sprouts with pieces of bacon or pancetta are a traditional accompaniment to turkey that you will find in England at Christmas.

Also, they are popular the carrots cooked and glazed with butter and sugar, often with a touch of rosemary or thyme, bring a touch of sweetness to the table.

4. Festive Delights

And for sweet lovers, the iconic Christmas dessert "Christmas Pudding", is a dense pudding made with dried fruits, spices, and liqueur, traditionally served flambéed and accompanied with a brandy sauce.

And we recommend you to try the “Mince Pies", small pies filled with a mixture of dried fruits and spices called "mincemeat", although they do not contain meat. These cakes are a must-have treat during the Christmas season.


As you can see, Christmas in Europe is everything promised and much more. The usual gastronomic excellence doubles down during the Christmas season and the tables of all European homes and restaurants are adorned with the most colorful and tastiest dishes you can try.

If you enjoy good food and the festive atmosphere of Christmas then book your trip to Europe with Greca and enjoy the best gastronomy and an atmosphere full of magic and communion. There are travel packages for all tastes and needs!

How much does it cost to eat in European restaurants?

Prices vary, but in general, an average meal at a European restaurant can cost between 10 and 35 euros, depending on the location and type of establishment.

Can I visit several cities in Europe during the Christmas season?

Yes, you can visit several European cities during the Christmas season. Shuttle services are usually open, but it is advisable to check schedules and availability due to possible changes during the holidays.

What clothes should I wear to tour Europe at Christmas?

When traveling around Europe at Christmas, it is advisable to bring warm, versatile clothing, such as coats, scarves, gloves, and hats, along with thermal base layers. Also, comfortable and resistant shoes for walking, since the weather can vary from moderately cold to snowy, depending on the region you visit.

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