Christmas will soon be upon us and for many operators, planning for the end of year party season has been underway for months. Turkey and all the trimmings will be piled high on plates as diners get together to celebrate – but while traditional festive fare is always an attraction, there is an opportunity to broaden your customers’ (and your) horizons by looking to our international friends for menu inspiration. This month’s Category Focus takes you on a delicious journey around the world to explore the various international dishes served to celebrate Christmas.


Our first stop is Italy, where in the south of the country, Christmas Eve is celebrated with the Feast of the Seven Fishes, or La Vigilia. This multi-course seafood extravaganza features a variety of dishes such as salted cod (baccalà), calamari, shrimp, and anchovies, all served to symbolize the wait for the birth of Jesus. The feast concludes with indulgent desserts such as cannoli and panettone – both of which are popular sweet treats as an alternative to Christmas cake and mince pies in the UK and Ireland.

In France, Christmas dinner is known as “Réveillon,” a lavish celebration that often lasts into the early hours of Christmas morning. The feast includes escargot, oysters and roasted meats. For dessert, the Bûche de Noël or Yule Log cake takes centre stage. This log-shaped dessert, often made of sponge cake and buttercream, represents the ancient tradition of burning yule logs during the winter solstice. Yule log is not something new to our home market, however understanding the history behind it helps operators educate young minds in school cafeterias and takes care home residents on a trip around the world.

Hopping over to Germany where Christmas traditions are rich with customs, diners can explore the delights of Christollen and Glϋhwien (similar to mulled wine). Christstollen, also referred to as stollen, is a dense loaf filled with dried fruits, marzipan and warm spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg. It is perfectly paired with a cup of tea and sits prettily on a plate, dusted with powdered sugar to resemble the snowy landscape.

For something a little more unusual, tamales take the spotlight during Christmas celebrations in Mexico. These savoury delights are made from masa dough, filled with meat, cheese or beans, and are wrapped in corn husks before being steamed. Christmas in Mexico is celebrated with vibrant colours and mouthwatering dishes, served with Ponche Navideño, a traditional non-alcoholic punch made with seasonal fruit, dried fruits, spices and sugarcane.

Swedish Christmas feasts, known as Julbord, are typically served on Christmas Eve. The elaborate buffet features an array of dishes, including gravlax, meatballs (köttbullar) and pickled herring. This is accompanied by traditional Swedish snaps and beer, but for operators looking for a lighter bite or a handheld treat, try Pepparkakor, a spicy gingerbread cookie or saffransbullar, a sweet, golden saffron flavoured yeast roll peppered with raisins.

Heading even further afield, in the Philippines, Christmas is synonymous with Lechon, a whole roasted pig, often stuffed with lemongrass, garlic, spring onions, chilli, ginger, peppers or pineapple and takes centre stage at festive gatherings. The pig is slowly cooked over an open fire until the skin becomes crispy and the meat inside tender and flavourful. It is a symbol of prosperity and is often served with an assortment of Filipino delicacies.

In South Africa, Christmas falls during the summer months, inspiring a unique and vibrant celebration. Families often gather for a festive outdoor barbecue known as a “braai.” The meal features either turkey, duck, roast beef or suckling pig served with vegetables, yellow rice and raisins. For dessert, Malva Pudding, a warm and spongy cake drenched in a sweet and creamy sauce, is a cherished treat.

Lastly, and somewhat left field, in Japan, despite Christmas not being recognised as a national holiday, it is still celebrated with enthusiasm by some, and the Christmas cake holds a special place in the festivities. This light and fluffy sponge cake, adorned with strawberries and whipped cream, is a delightful treat that brings a touch of sweetness to the season. What’s more, a tradition for ordering buckets of KFC for Christmas has become so popular that orders can be placed from as early as November! The Christmas party bucket draws huge crowds. Diners can expect to wait in long queues to collect it and the tradition contributes to a third of KFC’s yearly sales.


Our population is increasingly diverse, featuring residents from many different countries. Care homes are frequently catering for residents who have spent time abroad or were born outside of the UK and Ireland, so offering a menu that reflects a multi-cultural society helps all residents feel included when it comes to nostalgic traditions. Incorporating international festive dishes also provides another opportunity to pair activities with food, whether making a specific dish or undertaking a tasting session, and sweet treats make great handheld snacks during the day, adding variety and interest.

In schools, caterers can team up with educators and give children an immersive experience, extending their learning beyond the classroom, building excitement each week with a new recipe from a featured country, complete with fun facts to broaden young minds.

With such a plethora of cuisine to choose from, perhaps it’s time for the traditional turkey dinner and mince pies to share a little space on your festive menu this year?