Christmas Food Around the World

Spotlight looks at traditional Christmas food from places all around the world. These foods have special meaning.

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Voice 1  

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Liz Waid. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Christmas. It is the most celebrated holiday in the world. Around the world, over 2 billion people celebrate this holiday every year. Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ - an event that happened over 2,000 years ago.

Most people in the world celebrate Christmas on December 25th. However, some Christians from countries like Russia, Egypt and Ethiopia celebrate Christmas on January 7th. Traditionally, the Christmas season lasts for 12 days. However, in many places, people celebrate only Christmas day and the day before, called Christmas Eve.

Around the world, people follow many different Christmas traditions. But no matter how or when people celebrate Christmas, everyone celebrates with food! Today’s Spotlight is on Christmas foods from around the world.

Food is an important part of most holiday celebrations. Large meals, or feasts, bring people together. And often, holiday foods represent what the holiday is about. Join Spotlight as we tell about these Christmas foods.

Voice 2  

In the United Kingdom, people eat a large Christmas meal. When they are done, they eat a sweet dessert called Christmas pudding. Christmas pudding contains ingredients like dried fruit, alcohol, butter, sugar, eggs, flour and spices. Many people make Christmas pudding with 13 ingredients. This number has a religious meaning. It represents Jesus Christ and his 12 closest followers, called the disciples.

Traditionally, people begin making Christmas pudding five weeks before Christmas! They begin by combining and steaming the pudding ingredients. Some people only mix the ingredients in one direction – from east to west. They do this to remember part of the Christmas story. The Christian Bible says that a group of wise men came from the east to see the baby Jesus in Bethlehem.

After cooking the Christmas pudding, people let it set for a few weeks. On Christmas day, they cook it again. Often, they pour an alcohol called brandy over it and set it on fire. It is a beautiful thing to see.

Millions of people in the United Kingdom eat Christmas pudding at Christmas. However, today, many people choose to buy it instead of make it.

Voice 3  

In northern Europe, many people celebrate Christmas with another kind of pudding. In Iceland, it is called Mödnlugrautur. And in Sweden, it is called Julgröt. This sweet pudding is made from rice, sugar, salt, milk and spices like cinnamon. In Denmark, people call it Risalamande and they serve it with a sweet fruit sauce on top.

This pudding is part of a Christmas game. The person that makes the pudding hides a whole almond nut in it. They serve the pudding to everyone at the end of the meal. Each person eats their pudding and hopes to find the almond in their bowl. Finding the almond means you will have good luck in the coming year. The person who finds the almond also gets a special present or treat. People all across northern Europe celebrate this fun tradition.

Voice 4  

Germany also has many wonderful Christmas food traditions. However, the sweetest of these is stollen. Stollen is a sweet bread. People have made stollen during the Christmas season for 600 years! In the 1400s, stollen was not very good-tasting. It was made of only flour, oil, water and yeast - for helping the bread rise. However, over many years, the recipe for stollen has changed and developed. Today, the German people make stollen with sugar, colorful dried fruit, nuts, spices, alcohol and a lot of butter.

People make stollen in the shape of a long bread loaf. Then, they cover it with a sweet, white, sugar icing. The Bible says that after the baby Jesus was born, his parents covered him with white cloth. The stollen’s white icing represents this cloth. And the loaf represents the newborn Jesus.

During the Christmas season, stollen fills Christmas markets around Germany. And there is a famous stollen festival in the town of Dresden!

Voice 5  

Next, we travel to several European countries to learn about their Christmas Eve meals. In the country of Italy, many people do not eat red meat in the weeks before Christmas. They are waiting for the celebration of Christmas. On the day before Christmas, they eat a special meal that does not include meat. It is called the Feast of the Seven Fishes. In the Bible, the number seven represents perfection or completion. This meal completes the season of preparation for Christmas.

In Russia and many other Eastern European countries people also celebrate a special meal on Christmas Eve. The meal includes 12 different foods. The 12 dishes are usually fish and vegetables. The number 12 represents Jesus’ 12 disciples and the end of the 12-month year. Many other parts of the meal represent parts of the Christmas story, when Jesus was born. Some people call this Christmas Eve meal the “Holy Supper.”

Voice 6  

Our next Christmas food is popular all over the Spanish-speaking world. It is called rosca de reyes. This means “King’s ring”. From Spain to Mexico to South America, people make, buy, and eat King’s ring. They celebrate the end of the Christmas season, called Epiphany.

Like stollen, King’s ring is a sweet bread. However, King’s ring is large and round with a hole in the middle. People decorate the ring with colorful, sweet dried fruits and candies. But, the most special thing about the King’s ring is what is inside it.

Every King’s ring has a small figure hidden in it. It is a symbol of the baby Jesus. Everyone wants to get the piece of the King’s ring with the baby Jesus figure in it. People believe it is a blessing. In some cultures, people bring the figure of Jesus to church with them later in the year. In other cultures, whoever gets the baby Jesus figure must cook the meal at the next holiday! Today, millions of people celebrate the end of the Christmas season with King’s ring.

Voice 1  

These are just a few Christmas food traditions from around the world. But there are thousands more! And almost every person who celebrates Christmas has their own particular Christmas food traditions!

What about you? Do you celebrate Christmas? If you do, what special foods do you eat during the Christmas season? If you do not celebrate Christmas, what foods do you make during your special holidays? You can leave a comment on our website. Or email us at You can also comment on Facebook at

The writer of this program was Robin Basselin. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at This program is called, “Christmas Food Around the World.”

We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

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What is your favorite holiday food? When do you eat it?


Kaleb Kolaibi's avatar
Kaleb Kolaibi
said on December 20, 2016

I have not celebrate Christmas.
I like eat (make or buy) meat with Beer.
God bless you

Avatar Spotlight
said on December 22, 2016

Merry Christmas to all, I live in Italy and here we used to celebrate the Christmas season as described in your story. But in recent years things are changing fast. In Italy now live many people of Muslim religion, and do not to disturb them, in many public institutions (schools, kindergartens ....) there is no longer the Christmas tree and the crib. This way Christmas is going to become increasingly more commercial than religious celebration, it is a shame for our traditions. Thank to spotlight for their helpful work.

Avatar Spotlight
said on December 22, 2016

It is cold in winter and the Christmas day is nearing. We prepare our soul for the celebration of birth of Jesus Christ, the Saviour, the Son of God coming to give the world the salvation and the again coming of Jesus Christ. We thank God for that we are alive and the grace God has given us and our families for the passing year and all our lives. We ask the grace of God that is necessary to our faith life and our everyday lives for the coming year. All the beautiful good things are by God. We keep away from not good things and by the grace of God we live a holy life. We are changed to become better. We are free to do the beautiful good things God loves. Each of us is afraid of difficulty and challenge. However, difficulty and challenge help us be mature. Our lives have difficulty, challenge and suffering. We trust in God.

Severino Ramos da Silva's avatar
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on January 25, 2017

From: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (Severino Ramos)
To: spotlight programme
Subject: answer to the questions above
Date: Wednesday 25, January 2017
São Paulo SP Brazil

Dear Liz Waid, Robin Basselin, and Michio Ozaki:

At first, I want to thank you for bringing us readers and learners of English more one great article, thanks!
My favorite Holiday food is Panettone. Panettone is a kind of bread. So, inside it contains dried fruits and a delicious tasting. However, we only find that kind of food on season Christmas because it is a special season Christmas’ food.  If you want to know more about that delicious food of the Brazil, please just search at  or both are excellent Christmas food.

God bless you
Severino Ramos

Avatar Spotlight
said on December 18, 2017

In my country the Czech Republic we keep traditions of preparing the special Christmas food such as baking Christmas cake created from several oblong parts filled by plums, walnuts, almond. Besides there is the traditional habit making couple kinds of fine crackers having different shape and decoration (using various creams, icing and so on). Naturally, we can not imagine the Christmas festal table without fried carp just as plenty of fruits, quality wine or beer as well. I have almost forgotten to mention the tasted fish soup usually starting Christmas dinner.
Merry Christmas to Spotlight team and all listeners who enjoy learning English on this excellent on-line radio!

Avatar Spotlight
said on December 18, 2018

we live in iran . fars province . mamassani . we celebrite christmas with tradition meal . its name is shole mashaki . it made with rice . vegtable . salt . spice and chickling vetch . every family give one plate to 12 nighbore to honore 12 disciple of jesus .

Avatar Spotlight
said on December 22, 2018

I am Brazilian and love barbecue more than any other meal in the world. Of course, I am very careful about consuming red meat to control cholesterol. But we are here to talk about meals, and I really like fruit ice cream as dessert from a large barbecue ...