Christmas is celebrated across the world, whether as a Christian holiday or as a festival to mark the winter season. Traditions vary wildly, even between neighbouring countries, meaning that for those likely to be travelling throughout the period it can be difficult to know where is best to find the biggest festivals.
Food is a hugely important factor in all festivities, and Christmas is no different – in fact, for many countries around the world, it’s a time of indulgence, and there’s no better time to discover a country’s favourite celebratory dishes. Whether you’re searching for the perfect Christmas dinner or the greatest street food on a frosty afternoon, this is definitely the time to discover new things – check out this guide to our favourite festivals and food fairs across the world to see where you should head this Christmas!
European Christmas traditions vary greatly from country to country. Classic sweets and desserts are enjoyed throughout the month of December, and the focus is very much on meats, cheese and preserves. It’s a food-lover’s paradise over Christmas, boasting the largest traditional festive markets in the world, and throughout December you’ll find a festival in most of the major cities across the continent. The largest attract millions of people, but foodies in particular should check out these recommendations:
- Brussels, Belgium: Here you’ll find stalls dedicated to every European country, all promising beautifully fresh food including plump olives, jars of preserves and mountains of truffles and chocolates.
- Nuremburg, Bavaria: Over two hundred stalls squeezed into the cobbled streets of the city, offering spiced meats and sausages, honeyed gingerbread, and deliciously warming Glühwein.
- Prague, Czech Republic: Famous for its more unusual selection of food and drink, expect to see huge tubs filled with carp, and taste peculiar but delicious honey liquors.
Even if you have no intention of splashing out, Europe’s Christmas markets are always bustling with festive atmosphere, and filled with enough sights and smells to keep even the biggest culture-lovers entertained!
Street food favourite: Warming mulled wine and crisp roasted chestnuts.
While Christmas in South America is often seen as more a festival of light than of food – fireworks, candles and paper lanterns are the focal point of the celebrations – it is a continent that is passionate about the season, starting in Colombia with the “Day of the Candles” on December 7th. In Peru, the Santuranticuy festival sees a huge marketplace set up in Cusco’s main square, and huge fireworks displays in the evenings. For a real taste of South America at Christmas though, head to Mexico, where in Oaxaca the feast day of the Virgin of Solitude is celebrated on December 18th. Processions and marching bands move through the streets, and the traditional food for the event is the delicious sweet pastry called buñuelos, alongside Mexican spiced hot chocolate and menudo, a uniquely tasty tripe soup with hominy and spices.
Street food favourite: The famous tamale, filled with meat, beans and cheese, or the sweeter version with chocolate, nuts and dried fruits.
While Christmas is not widely celebrated in Asia, other than in cities with larger Christian populations where you might see German markets, the festive spirit can definitely be found in the Philippines, a heavily Catholic country with the unique distinction of having the longest Christmas season – prepare to start hearing carols in September! Pot luck parties are a popular way to celebrate, where all attendees bring a homemade dish, and if you’re travelling in the area on Christmas Day you’ll find some delicious traditional foods being served outside churches after mass, including steamed rice buns and thick hot chocolate.
Street food favourite: Putò bumbóng – sticky rice in sugared bamboo tubes, sprinkled with coconut.
While Europe definitely tops the charts when it comes to Christmas fairs and food events, you’re bound to find a way to celebrate Christmas regardless of which country you’re in or what your budget is. As any seasoned traveller will tell you, you haven’t seen a country until you’ve made friends with the locals, so get talking and make it clear that you’re looking to learn more – most families will jump at the opportunity to share their Christmas traditions with you!
This guide has been brought to you by www.onthebeach.co.uk. Happy Christmas and new year everyone.