• Gingerbread inspiration: reindeer gingerbread, spotted at the annual Christmas market in Munich. (Getty Images / Alexander Hassenstein)Source: Getty Images / Alexander Hassenstein
From a table of 12 desserts to confetti latke, these ideas will have your guests talking all year long.
Dilvin Yasa

14 Dec 2017 - 2:33 PM  UPDATED 14 Dec 2017 - 3:19 PM

1. Adopt the tradition of the Provence region of France of serving 13 desserts in honour of Christ and the 12 apostles - a showstopper way to end the traditional Christmas meal.

2. In Denmark, Risalamande – an almond and cherry rice pudding – is a Christmas staple and tradition dictates you add a small toy or whole almond to the mix before it sets. The one who discovers it in their dish is then rewarded.

3. A family that bakes cookies together, stays together – or so it seems in countries from Canada to Germany, where pre-Christmas cookie-baking get-togethers are a popular tradition. Gather the troops, assign each person a different recipe, and buy yourself some elasticised pants for the event which will see each guest going home with a mixed batch of treats.

Get baking
Bakeproof: Festive cookies
We call it a cookie tin, Germans know it as Weihnachtsplätzchen and it's 7 Sorters Kakor in Swedish. Whatever you call it, know that these biscuits are delicious and ideal for holiday gift-giving.

4. Not into baking? Zero in on the Chinese tradition of giving everyone in the house a brightly-wrapped apple.

5. Get the kids involved in the Christmas spirit by ‘encouraging’ them to bring you breakfast in bed. To celebrate St Lucia’s Day on December 13, young Swedish girls (usually the eldest daughter in the family), will dress up in a white gown – complete with a crown of candles (eBay might help there?) and present ma and pa with a breakfast in bed which will usually feature coffee and lussekatt buns. Whether the coffee will be any good is anyone’s guess, but it’s worth a shot - and no-one says it has to happen only on St Lucia Day.

Tasty traditions
Here's a Swedish baking tradition you'll want to know about
These saffron buns, a must for this week's Lucia Day, are sunshine in the form of pastry.

6. Enlist the help of friends to make a classic, alcohol–heavy English fruit cake. Making your Christmas cake sooner rather than later is better as the fruitcake should be adequately saturated with alcohol and aged before it is served, but even made a few days ahead, this rich fruit cake will satisfy lovers of traditional fruit cake. Just remember to add the all-important coin before baking. (Don't love fruit cake? Embrace Europe's gingerbread traditions instead). 

7. In Russia it is not unusual for people to fast on Christmas Eve until the first star appears in the sky, or to break said fast by eating – and occasionally flinging towards the ceiling – a rice or wheat-based porridge filled with fruit, honey and nuts. If the mixture sticks to your ceiling, it’s meant to bring you good luck.  

8. Although it’s quite a departure from France’s sugar and cream-heavy spread, Lithuania is also keen on serving up 12 dishes in honour of the Apostles. The challenge with this one however, is to create a festive meal utterly devoid of meat, eggs or dairy products. Herrings with vegetables and dumplings are popular choices.

9. Skip the department store queues this year and gift everyone a homemade stollen, a rum and spice-heavy fruit cake popular in Germany.

Make your own German stollen this year for a beautiful, and delicious, gift


10. Up for a challenge? Families in Venezuela get together in the lead-up to Christmas to make hallaca, which is like a corn tamale stuffed with all manner of meats, raisins and olives, but then wrapped inside a plantain leaf and cooked. Although recipes vary from region to region, the whole process can take up to three days so the key here is to only invite family members you really like.

11. There’s no good reason why Christmas celebrations should end on December 26 when you can follow the Julian calendar and celebrate as many Orthodox Christians do, from Europe to Ethiopia, on January 7th.

12. I’ve you’ve never made a latke, now is the time to embrace this traditional Hanukkah dish – try latke with apple sauce, these vibrant confetti latke with harissa sour cream, this crisp Lithuanian version or these deep-fried potato-zucchini latkes.

Confetti latkes with harissa sour cream

Get in the Hanukkah spirit with this confetti latkes with harissa sour cream

13. What better way to ring in the birth of baby Jesus than by following the Italian feast of seven fishes? Just as the name suggests, all you have to do is source seven types of seafood (our money’s on starters of lobster, prawns or scallops) and lay out the feast – just the thing for a stinking hot Australian summer.

Serve up Spiced prawns with taratour and caramelised onion or find more ideas in our celebratory seafood collection


14. And for everyone else who just can’t bring themselves to get into the kitchen this Christmas, there’s always Japan, where a big tradition since the mid-70s has been to just order in KFC. We may not have the same Christmas buckets they’re serving up, but it’s a problem that can easily be rectified with the addition of some tinsel and a staple gun. 

In the festive spirit
No-one should feel left out at a festive feast!
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Strawberry, basil and lemon trifle

Fragrant, sweet and fresh, basil brings something truly special to this festive trifle. 

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Rudolph biscuits

You start with a gingerbread man, turn him upside down and then you have Rudolph. It is simple and brilliant – the kids will go crazy for these!