11 Must-Try European Christmas food

11 Must-Try European Christmas food

Christmas is the time for pampering and partying with family and friends. Around the world, and especially in Europe, traditional foods are taken very seriously and are often prepared months in advance. There are as many different foods as there are countries, in fact several, as each country has more than one traditional Christmas food. All are imbued with history and tradition.

Many dishes are a result of the seasonal foods of the old days, such as fruitcake, which is made from dried fruit when fresh fruit was not normally available in the winter, or chestnuts that come in season in the fall. Others simply allow people to pamper themselves a little and be pampered during the holiday season.

Here I have selected a few that are commonly available around the world – maybe not in your local supermarket, but definitely in specialty stores. This way you can add a bit of European festivity to your traditional Christmas food.

1. Panettone

Panettone, a traditional Italian Christmas gift, is a yeast-raised bread, usually made with raisins, candied fruit peels, almonds and brandy. It is quite sweet, resulting in an ongoing debate as to whether it should be classified as bread or cake. To dispel the confusion, you can toast the slices of this tall, vaulted bread and serve them with cheese, or actually eat them cold, like cake, for your coffee.

Panettone originates from the northern Italian city of Milan and is said to date back to Roman times, where they ate a similar bread / cake drizzled with honey.

Stollen, a traditional German and European Christmas food.
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2. Stollen

Stollen, or to give it its more precise names: Dresdner Stollen or Christstollen, originated in the 16th century in the East German city of Dresden. Not unlike Panettone, though a completely different form, the stollen is a sweet type of bread filled with dried fruit, candied citrus peel, marzipan and nuts – and covered with a snow-covered layer of icing sugar. Stollen is very much a Christmas treat, and its fame has spread far beyond German borders.

Mince pies, a traditional English Christmas dessert.
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3. Chopped pies

When I came across minced pies on my first Christmas in England, I was completely confused because I had not long ago learned that “daddy” was a type of minced beef. Imagine my surprise biting into one and finding it filled with dried fruit and warming spices instead of minced beef. I later learned that minced peas date back to the Middle Ages, when they were actually stuffed with minced beef and a mixture of dried fruit as a way of preserving the beef. Although at that time they were much larger than their modern cousins. Today, they are simply a much-loved – and sometimes exuberant – treat. You are “supposed” to eat one a day for each of the 12 Christmas days to bring you luck.

Lebkuchen, a traditional European Christmas cookie that resembles gingerbread.
Gingerbread (Photo credit: anna.q / Shutterstock.com)

4. Gingerbread, Speculoos, Prints or Gingerbread

Call it what you will, but the different versions of gingerbread, gingerbread, speculations, or to print, is a Christmas present. There are variations in all of these, from gingerbread, in general, they are round, often chocolate- or sugar-coated cookie-shaped cakes with edible paper underneath; to the dry, spicy speculations from Belgium, which is related to the Biscoff cakes, which are known all over the globe. Gingerbread is another version, often thicker and made into shapes from gingerbread men to gingerbread houses, while to print originally comes from the German city of Aachen, and again has their own peculiarities and components. But everything generally only comes out around Christmas time – except speculations, which are now so popular that you can get them year-round with your coffee if you are lucky.

Christmas carp, a traditional European Christmas dish.
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5. Christmas carp

Here’s a Christmas food that I do not like at all, but that does not mean that it is not popular. I was first introduced to Christmas carp by my grandfather, who was mightily proud as he pushed an amazingly large, boiled (!) And wobbly fish in front of me. The tradition of eating carp on Christmas Eve stems from the Catholic belief that one should eat fish on Christmas Eve, the last day of Lent over Advent, and the fact that carp live happily in village ponds and are easily accessible. Before Christmas, many households keep a live carp swimming around in their bathtub until it’s time to prepare it. It is still widely eaten in Central and Eastern Europe. Fortunately, most recipes now require it to be baked in the oven.

Olivier salad, a traditional Russian Christmas dish.
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6. Olivier Salat

Often accompanying mentioned Christmas carp is Olivier or Russian salad. This is a cold potato, vegetable and mayonnaise salad, which is largely part of Eastern European Christmas and New Year feasts. Named after Lucien Olivier, a Belgian chef who reportedly made the first version of this dish in the Hermitage restaurant in Moscow in the 1860s, it is now better known as Russian salad or Stolichniy salad, and it can either be easily made at home or purchased cooked in tubs. in supermarket refrigerators.

Christmas pudding, a traditional Victorian Christmas dish.
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7. Christmas pudding

The original Christmas or plum pudding is believed to date back to the 14th century, although it was the Victorians who invented the dish we recognize today. Highly imbued with faith and tradition, a Christmas pudding should have 13 ingredients – representing Jesus and the 12 disciples. Ingredients include raisins, currants, suet, brown sugar, breadcrumbs, lemon, lemon peel, orange peel, flour, mixed spices, eggs, milk and brandy. The puddings are either boiled in a pudding cloth or, more commonly now, steamed in a bowl where some people make their puddings a year or several months in advance to get the full flavor out of the ingredients. When presented, pour brandy over the pudding and turn on. Inside, there is usually a sixpence coin, and whoever finds it in their piece is believed to be guaranteed luck in the next year.

Imprisoned by this holiday tradition? This is the royal family’s Christmas pudding recipe (do-it-yourself video included)!

Fried chestnuts at the Christmas market in Innsbruck, Austria.
Fried chestnuts at the Christmas market in Innsbruck, Austria (Photo Credit: sasimoto / Shutterstock.com)

8. Fried chestnuts

You know, it’s almost Christmas time when you smell fried chestnuts in the streets. Going out into the woods, be it in France or Italy, where most of the chestnuts come from, to collect chestnuts that fall from the trees in late autumn and then roast them over an open fire, is a now common tradition even outside of Europe, and in the cities and near the Christmas markets, there is nothing better than getting a bag of fresh, still hot chestnuts and peeling and gnawing them while you walk.

Buche de Noël, or yule log, a traditional European Christmas cake.
Antonina Vlasova / Shutterstock.com

9. Yule Log, Gold Yule Log

The story of Bûche de Noël starts, not surprisingly, with a real tree trunk that should bring good luck. In the Middle Ages, this pagan ritual involved bringing in a tree trunk and laying it on the hearth, perhaps sprinkling it with a little wine, to ensure a good grape harvest the following year. The thing is, the beam should burn for at least three consecutive days after being lit on Christmas Eve to bring good luck.

Eventually, the real firewood was replaced with a chocolate bar, which thankfully is not lit. Instead, in cities like Paris, the best pastry chefs compete against each other, trying to design the best possible and most beautiful tree trunks, and of course the most delicious. Creations are sometimes quite wild, but inside there is usually a roller sponge, cream and sometimes fruit jam or other sweet creams. And it is always covered in chocolate and decorations. Sometimes designs go so far that one can hardly recognize it as a Yule Log, with for example the Ritz Paris coming with last year’s white chocolate mountain range, the Mont Ritz Log.

Turron de Navidad, a traditional Spanish Christmas candy.
vasanty / Shutterstock.com

10. Christmas nougat

Nougat is a Mediterranean specialty – a sweet, often chewy meringue paste mixed with nuts and honey. The origin is believed to lie with the Moorish invaders and the sweet halwa, which is so popular in northern Africa and Arabia. In Spain, it is traditionally eaten for Christmas and comes in two varieties: the Alicante variety is tough with lots of whole almonds, whereas the Jijona variety is soft and chewy with almonds made into a paste and a little added oil. But in general, the sweet treat has only three ingredients: egg whites, honey and almonds, and it is easy to whip up for your Christmas lunch.

Woman serving mulled wine in Kiev, Ukraine.
Woman serves mulled wine in Kiev, Ukraine (Photo: karnizz / Shutterstock.com)

11. Mulled wine

Call it mulled wine, spicy wine, hot wine, Mulled wine, mulled wine, or mulled wine. What’s in your glass or mug at the Christmas market tends to be pretty similar. Warm red wine, spiced with spices like cinnamon and cloves, orange and other ingredients that vary slightly from country to country. The scent is divine and the taste is just as inviting. On a cold winter day, it warms you from the inside out and it delivers the Christmas spirit from the first sip. We can thank the Romans for the invention of warming the wine they took with them when they went north to colder skies to conquer Europe. They were so cold that they needed hot wine to warm them up. Always traditionally a winter drink, it was the Victorians – again – who thought it was fashionable to drink for Christmas, and the tradition continued.

Nowadays you can also get mulled wine white wine and even beer and cider, but nothing comes very close to the traditional mulled wine red wine with lots of spices.

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