A map shows the most popular Christmas dishes around the world


People traveling abroad this Christmas may not find their favorite holiday food on the menu.

That’s because traditional holiday fare varies around the world.

To see who’s eating what this weekend, the culinary website Chef’s Pencil created a map showing what it says are the most popular Christmas dishes around the world.

Where turkey is the tradition

Travelers spending the holiday in the United States, Canada, France, Ireland and the United Kingdom can expect turkey on the table this Christmas, according to the map.

Those headed to parts of South America can too — the map shows turkey is a top Christmas food in Brazil, Chile and Peru.

Source: Chef’s Pencil

Even so, each country has its own take on how turkey is traditionally served, according to Chef’s Pencil’s research.

“For example, in Peru, roast turkey slices are served with a melange of creme fraiche, chicken broth, lime juice, jalapeno peppers, fresh cilantro and cayenne pepper,” the website states. “In Chile, roast turkey is traditionally stuffed with apples.”

Source: Chef’s Pencil

But there is one similarity: Roasted potatoes are served alongside turkey “just about everywhere,” according to Chef’s Pencil.

More countries eat pork

Pork dishes are even more popular than turkey, in terms of the number of countries where both are served, Chef Pencil’s representative Salomea Restea told CNBC Travel.

Pork is the most popular traditional holiday dish in 23 countries, more than the 17 that focus on turkey, she said.

Suckling pig is the center of the traditional Christmas table in Spain and Cuba, while the Philippines feasts on roasted pork, according to the map.

Filipina Marites Rheme Lopez Javier said “nobody eats turkey” in her hometown of Bangar, La Union on the island of Luzon. Instead, families buy a live pig to cook at home, or a pre-roasted whole pig, called “lechon.”

“Lechon is very expensive,” she said, adding that a pig that can feed up to 50 people can cost more than $300.

That’s why “liempo,” or grilled pork belly, is also popular, she said. It can feed 10 people for 300-500 pesos ($5-9), she said.

Source: Chef’s Pencil

Roasted pork also dominates in Haiti, Switzerland and Slovenia, while ham is the favored dish in Jamaica and South Africa, according to the map.

Julskinka, which translates to “Christmas ham,” is a cold ham dish accented with mustard and breadcrumbs that is eaten in Sweden, while crispy pork ribs, or ribbe, is served in Norway for the holiday.

In Mexico and other parts of Central America, pork is steamed and wrapped in corn husks to make tamales, according to Chef’s Pencil.

But pork joint is another holiday hit in Mexico too.

“In Mexico, a pork joint will be covered with a generous layer of homemade adobo, a thick chili paste with vinegar or citrus juice, and enriched with the flavors of onions, garlic, cumin and oregano,” according to the article.

Where other meats prevail

Duck dominates in Denmark, and goose in Belarus and Russia, according to the map.

Yet chicken is the preferred dish for celebrations in Malta and Uganda, it shows. Brazilians also eat Chester chickens, which are larger than average chickens but smaller than turkeys, according to the New York Times.

In the Netherlands, revelers grill a medley of meat and vegetables at the table at a festive meal known as gourmetten.    

Source: Chef’s Pencil

Italians traditionally eat veal, while Rwandans grill both beef and goat for Christmas, the map shows.

Other countries prepare a combination of meats for the holiday. Bolivia, for example, has a penchant for picana soup, which is often made with chicken, lamb and beef flavored with wine and beer.

Rice, fish and prawns

Stuffed cabbage rolls grace Christmas feasts around the Black Sea, in places like Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria, according to the map.

It also shows residents of Nigeria and Ghana celebrate over jollof rice — a dish of long-grain rice, tomatoes, onions and spices.

Carp, a freshwater fish, is popular in Central and Eastern Europe, while saltwater cod tops holiday menus in Italy and Portugal, the map shows.

In a post about Christmas in Portugal, the travel website Portuguese for a Day states, “Christmas is not Christmas without codfish on the table!”

Sydneysider Paula Williams said Australians feel the same way — about prawns.

Crowds gather to buy prawns before Christmas at the Sydney Fish Market, which experiences its busiest week of the year before Christmas.
James D. Morgan | Getty Images News | Getty Images

“Prawns are pivotal for Aussies for Christmas,” she said. “People queue up at the fish markets for prawns. Lines are huge — they’re massive.”

Since Christmas marks the beginning of summer, Christmas in Australia is “all about the outdoors,” she said.

“It’s about the barbie, sitting in the sun and swimming,” she said. “It’s too bloody hot to eat turkey.”

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