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Weird and wonderful foodie Christmas traditions around the world

With Christmas nearly upon us, have you sorted out your Christmas dinner and festive nibbles? It’s likely you’re having turkey or capon, with a riot of roast veg, a ‘yuge’ yule log, and a tin of Quality Street (or are you a Roses house?). Some people might have steak at Christmas, gravlax (a Norwegian salmon dish popular with many UK families), or another familiar meal.

But what about the rest of the world where local foods, tastebuds and customs can be wonderfully different to those in the west? If you’re looking for last minute Christmas dinner inspiration, or a strange fact to tell over the dinner table (because cracker jokes are never enough), then look no further. We’ve rounded up 9 wonderful food based Christmas traditions from around the world that will intrigue you and your Christmas companions. What we want to know is which of these you’d try? Let us know in the comments!

The Christmas Pickle, Germany

Our first funky foodie Christmas tradition isn’t about a food you can eat. It’s about a glass ornament hidden on the Christmas tree, and whoever finds it on Christmas day gets good luck for the whole year (and maybe an extra present). We’re quite glad it’s not a real pickle because it would get a little stinky if no one found it! The origins of this tradition are hard to pin down, but to be honest we’re happy to enjoy it for its whimsy.

Lithuanian Spit Cake, Lithuania

We included this one because it sounds a lot weirder than it actually is. Also known as the Rauolis, Sakotis or Lithuanian Tree Cake, this cake is cooked on a spit - there’s nothing gross about it at all! A rich batter is dripped onto a stainless steel rod as it turns over a heat source. As the batter drips it also bakes, creating the impression of little cakey tree branches.

Pierogi Dumplings, Poland

Pierogi are a popular celebration food in Poland that have become a Christmas Eve tradition. There are probably as many variations of the recipe as there are people and can include things like potato, caramelized onion, cheese and sauerkraut. We definitely think this one belongs on the ‘wonderful’ side of Christmas food traditions because who doesn’t love a savoury dumpling?!

Lampreia de Ovos, Portugal

Directly translating as ‘lamprey eggs’ we promise the dish is tastier than it sounds and doesn’t include any real lamprey. Made from around 50 egg yolks (give or take a dozen), sugar or honey, and almonds, this is a gooey, rich cake that could go back as far as the 15th Century. Lampreys are a truly nightmarish creature that we really recommend you do not Google. They look like eels, but they’re actually fish, and they’re definitely vampires. Lamprey was once a red meat replacement during Lent, and then at some point some resourceful nuns started making cakes that look like them. We’re not sure of the exact link between the two, but we ended up with Lampreia de Ovos: delicious and terrifying.