12 Fun European Christmas Food Traditions to Try

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Sitting together for a Christmas day meal is a worldwide tradition, but what is served during the festive season differs from country to country. Europe has an extensive history with this particular holiday and each country has diverse ways of preparing and enjoying traditional Christmas dishes. 

We’ve fallen in love with the holiday season in Europe, and part of the reason is because of the thrilling Christmas markets and the divine traditional Christmas foods they sell there. Out of all of the best things to do in Europe at this time of year, we think that visiting Christmas markets tops the list.

As a matter of fact, we enjoy European Christmas markets so much that we’ve spent three Decembers on the Continent!

We’ve discovered a list of scrumptious European Christmas food traditions along the way, and it’s all here in this article.

Cozy up for the festive season and indulge in some of the most delicious Christmas food and drinks from Europe with your family and friends. Get ready to enjoy the flavors and traditions of assorted European cultures through festive food with our favorite Christmas food list.

1. Lebkuchen

Lebkuchen is a spicy, sweet biscuit that has all the makings of all the most delightful food for Christmas. These decadent biscuits come to us from Germany and are one of the most popular Christmas foods in the country. Good thing you can also find them on Amazon, otherwise a lot of German expats would be sad during the holidays.

Traditionally topped with chocolate, sugar icing or glazed, lebkuchen very much remind us of gingerbread, though perhaps a bit drier. They are perfect for people with a not-too-sweet tooth; you’ll be in heaven from the first bite. Plus, if you enjoy nuts, you can add some on top for the perfect holiday treat.

plate full of German lebkuchen in various shapes and sizes. Mostly angels and hearts, all decorated with icing.

2. Panettone

Our taste buds feel the essence of an Italian Christmas whenever we enjoy panettone. It makes for one of the best European Christmas desserts.

When it comes to sweet food on Christmas day, you can’t go wrong with these lovely baked goods. Panettone Christmas cake is one of the most popular traditional desserts in Italy, and it’s one of Milan’s best pastries.

This treat begins with a tasty bread batter that contains sweet fruits, raisins, pine nuts, citron, and anise. Finally, it’s baked in the oven until golden. You’ll have people praising your holiday food list this festive season when you add this to your dessert menu. Buy it here on Amazon.

Panettone Christmas cake

3. Mince pies

Synonymous with Christmas in Great Britain, mince pies are a healthy treat with just the right amount of a sugary kick making each mince pie a satisfying Christmastime snack. The name can be misleading, as this baked dessert has a pleasant raisin-fruit filling and no meat.

When it comes to Christmas food names, this one has quite a fascinating heritage. The name comes from the 13th century, when crusaders returned from the Middle East with a recipe for pies with minced meat, spices, and fruit. These days, mincemeat is available worldwide.

Remove meat from the equation, bake it in a pie shell, and we have one of the most common Christmas foods in Britain.

Wash down your mince pies with a cup of eggnog, which also originated in England, and you be doing Christmas in a truly traditional British fashion.

miniature mince pies

4. Lussekatter

Celebrating Christmas in Sweden is surreal, with twinkling festive lights, magical bells ringing, the dreamy, snowy mountain tops. And of course, one of the most sought-after Swedish Christmas foods, Lussekatter.

A Lussekatter is a mouth-watering saffron bun, baked in the shape of an “S”. They melt in the mouth, except for the traditional decoration of small, sweet raisins. 

Traditionally, Lussekatter (Lucia saffron buns) are eaten on December 13th, which is Lucia’s day (the patron Saint of Light). The celebrations are one of the highlights of the Swedish calendar and the Saint Lucia procession is truly magical, so do try and see one if you can.

ⓘ TIP:  To really enjoy an extravagant European Christmas experience, knock back your Lussekatter with a mug of Swiss hot chocolate.

Swedish Christmas food Lussekatter

5. Vanocni Cukrovi

When it comes to Christmas cookies in the Czech Republic, you’re in for something truly special. Vanocni Cukrovi is a fresh and sweet treat that you can look forward to after savoring a traditional Christmas Eve dinner.

This scrumptious pudding is made from two iced shortbread biscuits that have jam in the middle. Getting creative with how you prepare these is half the fun, with the option to cut out charming Christmas-themed shapes into the cookies to further brighten up the dinner table.

This is one of the most traditional Christmas food items in Europe, and we look forward to them every year. Vanocni Cukrovi biscuits are shared among the local neighborhoods and families during the festive season in Sweden.

3 Vanocni Cukrovi, filled Czech christmas cookies. Assorted shapes cut in the top, circle, bell and star.

6. Pretzels

You’ll find pretzels at Christmas markets around the whole of Europe.

There are a million and one different ways to prepare these popular bread snacks, from cheese to chocolate coatings and custard fillings. Pretzels make a deliciously warm lunch, work well as a snack between meals, and can be a tantalizing dessert as well. 


7. Stollen Christmas cake

When it comes to tasting German Christmas food, one cannot miss the chance to enjoy stollen. This simple yet delicious cake has grown in popularity and is a celebrated pudding throughout Europe. 

Topped with a layer of coated icing or powdered sugar, this yeasty layer cake is made of nuts, spices, and dried or candied fruit. Talk about sugar, spice, and everything nice. This is one of the best European Christmas foods to share with friends. In Germany, this is a most-loved Christmas food tradition.

There is quite a fine art to making Stollen. The best way to really revel in the flavors and embrace the culture of this fine Christmas food is to travel to Germany and purchase it from a Christmas market. That said, if you can’t travel this holiday season, handmade stollen is also available through many online retailers. Buy it here on Amazon.

ⓘ TIP: The book Classic German Baking is all about the fine art of preparing some of Germany’s delicious sweet treats. It also covers some great options for the festive season, including stollen. 

German Christmas food to enjoy - Stollen.

8. Roasted chestnuts

Roasted chestnuts are a traditional Christmas food throughout Europe. These are easily prepared, making them one of the most fantastic European holiday traditions to enjoy at home. 

Chestnuts are arguably one of the most widely known foods associated with European Christmases. They are beloved by all those who grew up on the continent. Sit around the fire and share in this nutty pleasure as you soak in the festive atmosphere. You can even roast these over an open fire as you warm up with loved ones.

This snack will be a favorite among everyone and has become a traditional Christmas food in other places, like Asia and America. 

ⓘ TIP:  Roasting chestnuts activates their sweetness, which is why this has become a tradition in Europe during the winter months.

roasted chestnuts with bits of charred peels attached

9. Turron

Another on our list of Christmas foods in Europe is Turron. This decadently sweet dessert will have family knocking down the doors during the holiday season. Originally made in Spain, it captures the over-the-top flamboyance of the Spanish culture in a delicious nougat. 

This Spanish treat has been heart-warmingly prepared during Christmas time since centuries past. It is one of the best Spanish holiday food traditions. Its popularity has even spread throughout Southern Europe and it’s now available online year-round. Buy it on Amazon.

Turron from Spain

10. Glühwein (mulled wine)

In Europe, Glühwein is the most popular and tantalizingly delicious drink in wintertime. Most people drink Gluhwein while strolling around Christmas markets in Europe, because this hot drink goes down smoothly and warms the entire body. It also keeps your fingers warm!

Gluhwein is made from red wine that has been simmered with sugar and a mix of holiday spices, including orange, clove and cinnamon. 

It’s easy to lose track of how many you’ve had, though, so take it easy if you want to remember the holiday season. 🙂

ⓘ TIP: Gluhwein is particularly easy to make, and it’s perfect for holiday parties. You can make a nonalcoholic version by using apple cider instead of wine. You can buy the spice blend and mugs on Amazon.

Two women hold mugs of hot gluhwein at one of the European Christmas markets.

11. Bombardino

Italian Christmas feasts are not complete unless coupled with one of the most popular hot drinks in the country. Indulge in Italian culture and have a cup of Bombardino. This is a decadent mixture, made of half eggnog and half brandy and topped with whipped cream.

Lick your lips and celebrate a culture that is especially well-known to those who holiday at Italian ski resorts in the winter season. 

12. Wassail

The name of this hot Christmas beverage originates from old English, and today it is one of the best European Christmas recipes. It is simple to prepare, and absolutely delicious to drink. This hot festive drink is made with mulled apple cider, ginger, lemon, and spices.

Gather around with your family and friends for a large festive meal as you enjoy one of the most famous Brittish Christmas traditions.

old english wassail

5 European traditional Christmas dinner staples

If you’re looking for the best place to visit and experience an authentic European Christmas dinner, we’re here to help. Here are some European countries that go all out to fill their bellies and treat their taste buds during Christmas.

1. Italian festive food

You can find a host of delicious Christmas foods at the beautiful, local markets. Some of the best Christmas dishes you can look for while here are:

  • Roast lamb
  • Pangiallo – mixed dried fruit, candied peel and honey that is baked and then covered with egg batter
  • Fritto Misto alla Romana – seasonal vegetables covered in a special mineral water and flour batter
  • Tortellini in brodo – pasta served with a liquid broth made from beef or chicken bones, and vegetables.

If you’re wanting to get an authentic taste of freshly prepared baked goods in Italy during the holidays, visit the many buzzing Christmas markets. You can then spend time sampling the many different Italian desserts and other Christmas staples.

making cookies with molds

2. Germany – a large festive meal

Germany is well known for providing the world with some of the best known traditional Christmas food.

Taste unforgettable European Christmas foods such as: 

  • Roasted goose
  • German sausages
  • Red cabbage and potato dumplings
  • Stollen Christmas cake

ⓘ TIP: Go on a Berlin Christmas market tour and be enchanted by the dazzling manner in which the festive season is celebrated in Germany.

miniature houses and a horse for decorations

3. Hungary Christmas food traditions

Hungary’s capital city, Budapest, is the heart of many remarkable Christmas food traditions. Some of these include: 

  • Chimney cake – dough that has been rolled in cinnamon, sugar and cocoa powder, then cooked in a spiral formation that stands upright.
  • Goulash soup – meat and vegetable soup prepared with paprika and rich spices
  • Roasted chicken 
  • Spiral strudel – layered pastry with a sweet filling

Budapest is the real gem in Hungary that has pioneered the Christmas food tradition for the whole country. The most iconic market in all of Hungary is the Budapest Christmas Fair and Winter Festival. This is where the city basks in the novelty of the festive season and shares in some of the most noteworthy treats. 

TIP  With so many mouth-watering offerings, consider going on a Christmas market tour in Budapest.

Hungarian treats presented as gifts

4. Christmas food in Switzerland

To us, Switzerland seems to be one of the most iconic destinations to be in during the festive season. Okay, it may be partly because it’s such a snowy destination, but this country has a magical amount of holiday foods and markets. Switzerland’s traditional Christmas foods include:

  • Fondue bourguignon – beef meat cubes that have fondued in boiling oil
  • Anise cookies – traditional biscuits made of anise extract, egg, baking powder, and sugar
  • Amaretti – biscuits made with ground almonds, butter, eggs, caster sugar, and amaretto liquor
  • Basler läckerli – a traditional hard spice biscuit made with honey, hazelnuts, almonds, Kirsch, and candied peel and a sugar glaze coating.

You can enjoy all of the best European Christmas foods at the Zuerich, St Gallen, and Montreux Nöehl Christmas markets.

bassler lackerli swiss hardbread cookies

5. French holiday food traditions

With an incredible amount of French holiday food traditions, you will find something to suit everyone’s taste, whether inclined toward sweet or savory. The French know how to make some of the most marvelous food during the festive season and have a passion for food. 

Some of the most traditional meals enjoyed during the holidays are:

  • Bûche de Noël, the Christmas log cake
  • Roasted turkey with chestnut stuffing
  • Caviar
  • 13 desserts (a range of traditional French desserts, there is something for every preference)

ⓘ TIP:  Be sure to make the most of your festive season by sampling some of the delicious Christmas dishes at the Champs-Elysées Christmas Market. You can also get your fill of the most amazing French Christmas foods on a sensational gourmet Christmas food tour in Paris

Last words on Christmas festive food in Europe

European Christmas foods are not only delightfully delectable but also preserve the rich history and culture that is rooted within the continent. There have been many combinations of religions and backgrounds that have lead to the traditions of Christmas in Europe. 

We have a passion for good food, and Europe is the proud originator of some of the world’s most amazing Christmas dishes. Along with the snow that drapes the landscapes, the carols that hang in the air and the loving gifts shared, European Christmas food is another unique thrill. 

There’s no shortage of warm and filling food and drinks while visiting Europe over the festive period. We hope our Christmas food guide will help you enjoy tasting new treats over the exciting Christmas season.

Need some more wintertime destination inspiration? If you’re an American, we’ve covered the best New England winter getaways, things to do in NYC in winter, warm winter vacations in the USA, and the top day trips from Orlando and Miami. For winter in Europe, read about the best European Christmas markets, Christmas in Crete, and places to visit in Europe in December, We also have cold-weather guides to Vienna, Munich, Salzburg, Hallstatt, Zagreb, and Ljubliana, as well as a winter packing list. We’re here to help you enjoy traveling in the winter!

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Written by Linda

Linda is multilingual and has been to over 50 countries. Her insatiable love of travel, cuisine, and foreign languages inspired her to create As We Saw It, where she documents her trips, shares practical itineraries, and offers insider tips. She’s passionate about helping fellow travelers save time, money, and hassle, and loves to discover new places to explore.

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