19 Unique Holiday Foods from Around the World

by Ella

The holiday season is a time of joy, celebration, and, of course, indulgence in festive culinary delights. While many holiday tables feature traditional favorites, cultures around the world boast a treasure trove of unique and mouthwatering dishes that add a distinctive flair to seasonal festivities. In this exploration of global gastronomy, we will embark on a journey to discover some of the most unique holiday foods that grace tables during this special time of the year.

Unique Holiday Foods from Around the World

1. Japan: KFC Christmas Chicken

In Japan, Christmas is not complete without a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken. This unique holiday tradition, known as “Kurisumasu ni wa Kentakkii” (Kentucky for Christmas), originated in the 1970s when KFC launched a successful marketing campaign. Japanese families eagerly place pre-orders for their fried chicken feast, complete with special Christmas-themed packaging, creating a festive and unconventional holiday meal.


2. Italy: Feast of the Seven Fishes

The Feast of the Seven Fishes, or “La Vigilia,” is a cherished Italian-American Christmas Eve tradition. Rooted in the Catholic tradition of abstaining from meat on this night, the feast features an extravagant spread of seven different seafood dishes. From salted cod to shrimp scampi, this seafood extravaganza is a testament to the rich culinary heritage of Italy and the importance of family gatherings during the holiday season.


3. Iceland: Fermented Skate

In Iceland, a unique holiday dish called “hákarl” takes center stage. Hákarl is fermented shark, a traditional dish with roots dating back to the Viking age. The shark meat is buried and fermented for several weeks, resulting in a pungent aroma that challenges the uninitiated. Despite its acquired taste, hákarl remains a symbol of Icelandic cultural heritage and a distinctive addition to the holiday table.


4. Mexico: Tamales

Tamales are a beloved Mexican holiday tradition, with families coming together to create these flavorful, masa-filled delights. Filled with various ingredients such as meats, cheese, and chilies, tamales are wrapped in corn husks and steamed to perfection. Making tamales is a communal activity, often carried out in the days leading up to Christmas, creating a sense of togetherness and festive spirit.


5. Australia: Christmas Pudding with a Twist

In Australia, the scorching heat of December calls for a unique take on traditional Christmas pudding. With a climate unsuitable for the steamed or baked versions common in colder regions, Australians have adapted by creating a chilled variation. Cold Christmas pudding, often featuring ingredients like summer fruits and ice cream, provides a refreshing twist to the classic dessert while maintaining the essence of holiday flavors.

6. South Africa: Bobotie

In South Africa, the Christmas table often features bobotie, a savory and spiced baked dish with roots in Cape Malay cuisine. Made with minced meat, curry spices, and an egg-based topping, bobotie showcases the diverse culinary influences that characterize South African cuisine. It has become a staple during the festive season, offering a unique blend of flavors that reflect the country’s cultural melting pot.

7. Philippines: Lechon

Lechon, a whole-roasted pig, is a centerpiece of Filipino holiday celebrations. Often reserved for special occasions, lechon embodies the spirit of festive abundance. The pig is seasoned and slow-roasted until the skin becomes crispy, while the meat remains succulent and flavorful. The preparation of lechon is a labor-intensive process, making it a true symbol of celebration and togetherness during the holidays.

8. Sweden: Julbord

In Sweden, the traditional Christmas smorgasbord, known as “julbord,” is a feast for the senses. This elaborate spread features an array of dishes, including pickled herring, cured salmon, and various types of sausages. Accompanied by traditional Swedish bread and cheeses, julbord captures the essence of a Scandinavian Christmas, with families coming together to enjoy the diverse flavors and textures of this festive buffet.

9. India: Biryani

In India, the holiday season brings forth a feast of aromatic and flavorful biryani. This fragrant rice dish, layered with marinated meat, spices, and herbs, is a symbol of celebration and hospitality. The preparation of biryani varies across regions, showcasing the diversity of Indian culinary traditions. Whether it’s the Lucknowi biryani or the Hyderabadi dum biryani, this dish adds a touch of grandeur to holiday gatherings.

10. Peru: Panettone with a Peruvian Twist

While panettone is traditionally associated with Italy, in Peru, this festive bread takes on a unique and flavorful twist. Peruvian panettone often includes local ingredients such as candied sweet potatoes, pecans, and Andean fruits. The result is a delightful fusion of Italian tradition and Peruvian flair, creating a sweet treat that reflects the country’s culinary diversity.

11. Poland: Pierogi

Pierogi, a staple of Polish cuisine, takes on a special role during the holiday season. These dumplings are filled with various ingredients, including potatoes, cheese, and sauerkraut. In Poland, it is customary for families to gather and spend time together making pierogi, turning the process into a cherished holiday tradition that embodies the spirit of togetherness and culinary heritage.

12. Brazil: Rabanada

In Brazil, rabanada, also known as “Brazilian French Toast,” is a popular holiday treat. This dessert is made by soaking slices of bread in a mixture of milk, eggs, and sugar before frying or baking until golden brown. Rabanada is often dusted with cinnamon and sugar, creating a sweet and crispy delight that brings comfort and joy to Christmas celebrations across Brazil.

13. Greece: Melomakarona

Melomakarona, Greek honey cookies, are a beloved treat during the Christmas season. These soft, spiced cookies are soaked in honey and sprinkled with chopped nuts, offering a delightful combination of textures and flavors. With a history dating back centuries, melomakarona symbolize the warmth and sweetness of the holiday season in Greece.

14. China: Eight Treasures Rice Pudding

In China, Eight Treasures Rice Pudding, or “Ba Bao Fan,” is a traditional holiday dessert with a symbolic significance. The dish includes glutinous rice, red dates, lotus seeds, and various dried fruits, each representing a different blessing. As families come together to prepare and enjoy this dessert, it symbolizes unity, prosperity, and good fortune for the upcoming year.

15. Argentina: Vitel Thoné

Vitel Thoné, a festive dish in Argentina, showcases the country’s culinary blend of Italian and Spanish influences. This cold dish features thinly sliced veal served with a tuna sauce, capers, and mayonnaise. The unique combination of flavors creates a refreshing and elegant addition to holiday feasts in Argentina.

Iran: Yalda Night Fruits

In Iran, the winter solstice celebration known as Yalda Night involves the consumption of specific fruits with symbolic meanings. Pomegranates, watermelons, and dried fruits are enjoyed during this celebration, symbolizing the hope for a fruitful and abundant year ahead. Yalda Night foods reflect the cultural significance of embracing the changing seasons and looking forward to renewal and prosperity.

16. Finland: Lanttulaatikko

Lanttulaatikko, a Finnish Christmas dish, is a casserole made with rutabaga or swede. This savory dish is baked to perfection, creating a soft and flavorful side that complements the holiday table. Lanttulaatikko is often enjoyed with other traditional Finnish dishes, contributing to the rich tapestry of flavors that define Finnish Christmas celebrations.

17. Lebanon: Ma’amoul

Ma’amoul, delicate filled cookies, are a staple of Lebanese holiday celebrations. These buttery pastries are filled with dates, nuts, or figs and shaped into intricate molds. Ma’amoul is often enjoyed during religious holidays, marking a time for reflection, gratitude, and the joy of sharing delicious treats with loved ones.

18. United States: Turducken

In the United States, the holiday season sometimes calls for a carnivorous masterpiece known as turducken. This culinary creation involves stuffing a deboned chicken into a deboned duck, which is then stuffed into a deboned turkey. The layers of meat are separated by stuffing, creating a flavorful and indulgent dish that captures the essence of American holiday feasting.

19. Norway: Lutefisk

Lutefisk, a traditional Norwegian dish, is made from dried fish that has been soaked in a lye solution, rehydrated, and then cooked. While the preparation may seem unconventional, lutefisk holds cultural significance in Norway and is often served during the holiday season. Accompanied by potatoes, peas, and bacon, lutefisk is a unique dish that reflects Norway’s historical connection to the sea.

See Also: 16 Heavy Appetizers for the Holidays


The world is a diverse tapestry of cultures, each contributing its own unique flavors and traditions to the holiday table. From the spicy warmth of Mexican tamales to the cool sweetness of Australian Christmas pudding, these unique holiday foods offer a glimpse into the rich tapestry of global culinary heritage.

As we celebrate the holiday season, embracing the diversity of festive foods can be a delightful way to connect with different cultures and appreciate the significance of culinary traditions. Whether you find yourself savoring the crispy skin of Filipino lechon or indulging in the sweetness of Greek melomakarona, these unique holiday foods invite us to experience the joy and richness of global gastronomy. So, as you gather with loved ones this holiday season, consider incorporating a touch of international flair into your festivities and savoring the world’s diverse and delectable holiday offerings.



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