Christmas Food and Drink Traditions Europe

Reading time 8 minutes

For this Holidays season, we thought of sharing some delicious Christmas Food and Drink traditions from around Europe. If you are not sure what to cook this Christmas or want to try something new, we bring you some delicious treats from different European countries. In Europe, we all have particular foods that we cook during the Christmas period. For some, 24 December is more important than 25 December or vice versa. Some eat meat while others eat fish. Religion, tradition, and individual settings influence all of this. It is mouthwatering to see what are we all eating during this period and good to try something different. Here are a few examples of what Europeans enjoy during the Holiday period:


The dinner on the 24th December is a very important meal. During this period called “Consoada”, the Portuguese boil codfish with green vegetables, carrots, boiled eggs, and potatoes.

Christmas Food and Drink Traditions around Europe

This is served with a drizzle of olive oil along with some vinegar and lots of bread to dip in the oil. In some areas of Portugal, it is also common to eat octopus, grilled or roasted with potatoes. The meal is accompanied by a nice red or white wine.

Goat, lamb, or pork used to be the traditional meats for lunch on the 25th, however nowadays stuffed turkey has become quite popular.

Christmas sweets

For dessert, there’s the traditional Christmas cake called “Bolo Rei” (“King Cake”). This is a delicious cake made with Port wine, candied fruit, and nuts, topped with crystallized fruits and with a coin inside. The person who finds it can keep it and becomes the “Rei” (King) and the coin will bring them luck for the rest of the year.

Christmas Food and Drink Traditions around Europe

There are also some other fried sweets like “Filhoses” and “Azevias”, that are eaten on the 24th and the 25th December.

After every meal, a type of liqueur or brandy is served. One of the most popular ones is called “ginjinha”, a sour cherry liqueur that goes very well with dessert.


Our friends up in the North have slightly different food traditions. Their focus is Christmas Eve when family members exchange gifts and gather all together to celebrate and eat. Christmas day itself is quieter and Norwegians don’t pay so much attention to it. There’s also Julebord, another festive day where people, colleagues, friends, etc. celebrate Christmas at work, by having food and lots of drinks.

Christmas Food and Drink Traditions around Europe

One of the most popular foods is “ribbe” or pork belly ribs. It’s usually served with cabbage or sauerkraut and redcurrant sauce. There are also other sides such as sausages, cranberry sauce, fried apple slices with honey. Pinekjøtt (dried and salted lamb meat) is another popular food that can be boiled or roasted and is usually served with rutabaga (a type of root) puree, potatoes, and sausages. 

Norwegians like to eat codfish that is served with boiled potatoes, carrots, and white sauce. They also like Lutefisk, which is an air-dried cod soaked in water several times until it acquires a jelly-like texture. It is then steamed and eaten.

Christmas sweets

For Christmas sweets, there’s “pepperkake” (cookies), crispy gingerbread cookie and “krumkake”(a thin waffle cookie rolled into a cone shape and filled with whipped cream). 

Juleøl is a popular Christmas beer, which is usually spicier and darker than regular brews. Another very important drink is Gløgg, commonly found in Christmas markets. Gløgg is the Scandinavian version of mulled wine, it consists of hot red wine with added sugar or syrup and spices like cinnamon.


As a Catholic country, Ireland still maintains the old tradition of putting a tall, thick candle in front of the largest window of the house on Christmas Eve.

Christmas Food and Drink Traditions around Europe

Christmas dinner offers delicious roast goose, which was the popular dish before the turkey arrived. These are served with roast potatoes, stuffing, and vegetables.

The Christmas dinner menu also includes boiled ham, usually, the night before served glazed and stuffed with cloves. Spiced beef is also a popular food, this is cured and salted with spices like pimento, cinnamon, ground cloves, ginger. It is then boiled or steamed in water or Guinness.

Christmas sweets

Christmas Food and Drink Traditions around Europe

Mince pies are a traditional dessert original from England, but they are also quite popular in Ireland. It’s a savory treat made with a mixture of fruit, nuts, and spices, inside a buttery pastry shell.

There’s also the Irish Christmas cake, consisting of a moist fruit cake covered with spices and soaked in brandy, which can be iced with marzipan. Finally, Christmas pudding, made of dried fruit, egg, and suet (beef fat) moistened with brandy and blended with spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger.  To drink, Irish enjoy Whiskey eggnog, mulled wine, or a good old Pint of Guinness.


The Christmas period in Lithuania is usually very cold, with snow and ice. Christmas Eve is more important than Christmas day itself as well. This food is in tune with the cold weather, and it will fill your belly up!

The main dinner meal is called “Kucios” and consists of 12 dishes symbolizing the 12 apostles. No meat is served, but fish and vegetables instead. Below is a list of a few but not all dishes, which are served during this meal. For starters, there’s “paploteliai”, thin white wafers, followed by herring, a type of fish, served with different sauces, which can be tomato, mushroom, or onion-based. There is also “Ungurys”, or smoked eel. Served with boiled or baked potatoes, cranberry or kissel (a type of dessert drink made of sweet fruit, wine, cornstarch, and fresh dried fruits), cooked sauerkraut, mushrooms, cranberry pudding, multigrain bread. 

Christmas Food and Drink Traditions around Europe

Nonetheless, there is also meat in Lithuanian Christmas food. Popular dishes include Cepelinai, dumplings made of raw and cooked potato dough filled with pork and bathed in a sour cream and bacon sauce.

Kepta Duona dark rye bread fried and seasoned with garlic and salt, and served with a cheese sauce.  This is a good side dish accompanied by beer.

Christmas Food and Drink Traditions around Europe

Beetroot soup, which is warm and comforting made of beetroot, onion, carrot, and celery mixed with meat stock and seasoned with salt, pepper, and dill. Potatoes are then added to the soup.

Christmas sweets

Grybukai or mushroom cookies are a Christmas sweet that don’t involve mushrooms, but they do have a mushroom type shape. These are made with: flour, egg, sugar, butter, chocolate, and added spices like cinnamon and cloves.

Fried cheese curd cakes are another sweet option. These are a cheese curd mixed with a bit of flour, egg, and sugar and fried in oil and are typically served with fresh berries and jam. Kibinai is also a delicious snack. These small crusty pies can be filled with meat, vegetables, cheese curd, or berry jams.

Christmas Food and Drink Traditions around Europe

A typical Lithuanian Christmas cake is Raguolis or Sakotis consisting of a large, hollow ring with some spikes on the edges made of butter, eggs, flour, sugar, cream and cooked on a rotating spit in an oven or over an open fire.


In Denmark, there’s a popular tv show called Julekalender (Christmas calendar), with 24 episodes, one for each of the days in December leading up to Christmas. The storyline is usually about someone trying to ruin Christmas and someone going in and saving it. Christmas itself starts with the advent crown. The crown has four candles and one candle is lit every Sunday of December leading up to Christmas Eve.

Christmas Food and Drink Traditions around Europe

Dinner on Christmas Eve is an important meal, where pork or roasted duck, boiled potatoes, brown gravy sauce, pickled red cabbage, and cranberry sauce constitute the main ingredients.

On Christmas day and on the 26th of December, the food served at lunch consists of “karrysild” (herring in curry), liver paste, meatballs, Christmas ham, and æbleflæsk (apple porridge with pork). Danes like to drink especially Christmas brewed beer or snaps. Glögg is another option that Danes took from their neighbours the Swedes. It consists of hot red wine, with a squeeze of brandy or snaps, infused with cinnamon, cardamom, raisins, and pieces of almond.

Christmas sweets

For dessert, the most popular Danish tradition has a French name “Ris à l’Amande.” It consists of rice pudding made with vanilla, whipped cream, and almond slivers (small pieces), typically served with warm cherry sauce.  Per tradition, there is a peeled almond that is hidden inside the pudding and the lucky person who finds it gets a small “mandelgave” (almond gift).

Another popular Christmas dessert is the Danish “Aebleskiver” or Pancake balls. You can find these from the beginning of November until the end of December. They are fluffy and light, fried and dusted with powdered sugar, and served with honey or jam.


Christmas trees are very important in Germany and originated from here. They were first used during the late Middle Ages. Per tradition, the parents secretly decorate the trees so that the kids don’t see them. These are decorated with apples, candy, nuts, cookies, cars, trains, angels, family treasures, and candles or lights. Christmas Eve is the important day when families exchange gifts.

Christmas Food and Drink Traditions around Europe

German Christmas markets are very famous, where different Christmas foods, mulled wine or Glühwein and decorations are sold.

Traditionally in the Catholic part of Germany, Christmas Eve dinner is celebrated with fish as a light meal, such as carp, salmon, or hake, accompanied by fried potatoes or Kartoffelpuffer and Sauerkraut.

Roasted goose, turkey, or duck are the main staples for Christmas day lunch. These are served with braised red cabbage (Sauteed in oil or bacon grease), apple and sausage stuffing, along with potato dumplings. This filling dinner is accompanied by a nice Riesling wine.

Christmas sweets

Germans like to eat amongst others, a Christmas fruitcake called Stollen, made with nuts and fruit, and Lebkuchen a type of gingerbread biscuit. For drinks, there’s the typical Mulled Wine (Glühwein), which is a must on a cold day, and Feuerzangenbowle – translated as “Fire tong” punch, which contains hot mulled wine, rum, and open flames.


France holds of the biggest Christmas markets in Europe, in Strasbourg. There, you’ll find typical Christmas ornaments, mulled wine, and plenty of tasty local food.

Christmas Food and Drink Traditions around Europe

The main Christmas meal occurs on Christmas Eve, called the “Reveillon”. As France is a vast country with many different food cultures, Christmas foods vary, these can include: roast turkey with chestnut, veal and parsley stuffing, roast goose, “venison” or deer meat, oysters, foie gras, smoked salmon, lobster, all kinds of seafood and many kinds of cheese.

Christmas sweets

For dessert, there is a tradition in Provence to eat 13 different ones! These can include dates, dried plums, a marzipan-like candy made from almond paste and candied melon, quince fruit paste or jam, Oreillettes – light thin waffles, etc.

“La  Bûche De Noël” or yule log is a typical French cake made of lots of chocolate and rolled with chocolate whipped cream. 

For drinks, there’s plenty of good wines and champagne to choose from. A cheaper alternative to champagne is “crémant”, a sparkling wine version.


The most important Christmas meal in Poland is Christmas Eve dinner. Polish also have 12 dishes served as a symbol of the 12 apostles and 12 months of the year. A delicious starter is “barszcz” or beetroot soup. This is traditionally served with small dumplings stuffed with a mix of soaked and dried porcini and fried onion.

There is also mushroom soup made with noodles and mushrooms. Fish is the more traditional food, with carp being served with sauerkraut, dried mushrooms, a salad, and potatoes. There is also a Jewish based Carp recipe being a traditional meal for the Ashkenazi Jews living in Central-Eastern Europe. This dish consists of slow-cooked fish in fish stock and served in jelly with onion, almonds, raisins, and soft bread. Herring is another quite popular fish, served in different ways: in oil, in cream, in jelly.

The famous Pierogi are also a must, dumplings stuffed with cabbage, or sauerkraut and dried mushrooms. There’s also a sweet version in other regions. 

Christmas sweets

Polish sweets can include Kutia, a mix of cooked wheat grains, poppy seeds, honey, dried or candied fruits soaked in Port or red wine. Poppy Seed Cake is also a popular short crusted base cake, topped with poppy seed mixture. Piernik consists of a juicy moist cake made with honey, similar to gingerbread.

Poland is a cold country during Winter and they try to keep warm by drinking hot drinks. Mulled beer (similar to mulled wine) is hot, spicy and sweet with undertones of Christmas spices (cloves and cinnamon). There’s also a type of tea which is made with alcohol (can be rum or vodka). Polish liqueur is a highly alcoholic drink, between 40-45%, and it is made with spices, herbs, and fruits.


Christmas food in Greece is usually lamb or pork roasted in the oven or over an open spit. Nowadays, turkey has also become a popular food. This is served with spinach and cheese pie, various salads, and vegetables.

Christmas sweets

Christmas Food and Drink Traditions around Europe

For sweets, there is the mouthwatering “Baklava”, “Kataifi”,  kourampiedes and the popular melomakarona, oblong-shaped cakes made from flour, olive oil, and honey and rolled in chopped walnuts.

New Year’s Eve is a big event for Greeks, with the family gathering all together playing card games and eating “Vasilopita” a cake that has the “lucky” coin hidden inside. On New Year’s Day, many Greek families also have a tradition called “Bounamathes”, where adults giving money or gifts to their children wishing them a happy new year.

There you go, some Christmas Food and Drink Traditions from around Europe to get you started. We shared with you a few delicious treats and traditions you can find in Europe during the festive period. We hope this has given you some ideas of what to cook and try something different this Christmas. Perhaps we cannot travel right now and experience these yummy dishes in the countries of origin, but the food is part of the travel experience, so why not try it yourself at home with friends and family. For Christmas gift ideas, you can check our article: Christmas gifts for Travelers 2020.