In the U.S., the Christmas routine is pretty standard: Thanksgiving 2.0, with a possible substitute of goose or ham for turkey to err on the adventurous side. But across the globe, there’s an astounding variety of ways to celebrate Christmas via eating (and eating, and eating). From sacred breads to sugary drinks and surprisingly palatable fruitcake, there are plenty of tasty traditions to choose from. The one constant? Getting more intoxicated around one’s relatives than is probably wise, obviously.

Sweden

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The tradition: Scandinavia’s most distinctive holiday celebration is actually St. Lucia Day, which takes place almost two full weeks before Christmas on December 13th. The namesake martyr supposedly brought food to persecuted Christians hiding in the Roman catacombs, wearing candles on her head to light the way while carrying provisions. Today, Swedish kids imitate St. Lucia by making crowns out of candles and lingonberry branches—and more importantly, distributing baked goods. Favorites include ginger biscuits (pepparkakor) and saffron buns garnished with raisins (lussekatt). (Photo:Flickr)

The recipe: For Swedish recipes, look no further than Ikea. You’ll have an ace lussekatt, plus cheap minimalist furniture, in no time.


Jamaica

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The tradition: Fruitcake has a well-deserved reputation for being pretty nasty. But the Jamaican rendition, traditionally eaten on Christmas day, incorporates an ingredient that makes almost anything better: booze, and lots of it. The fruit is soaked in rum, and the cake itself is laced with red wine. Eat it and forget all about the dry brick no one touched at the office potluck. (Photo: Greedy Girl Cooks)

The recipe: Greedy Girl Cooks


Italy

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The tradition: Nothing says “the holidays” like truly over-the-top desserts, and panettone’s impressive height and labor-intensive baking process fit the bill. Originating in Milan, the raisin-studded, citrus-flavored cake requires days of planning thanks to its cured dough. It’s best enjoyed with sweet wine. (Photo: Flickr)

The recipe: Brown-Eyed Baker

Russia

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The tradition: In true Russian fashion, Russia’s most distinctive Christmas food isn’t food at all—it’s a drink, albeit a nonalcoholic one. Vzvar, which translates to “boil-up,” is a compote made by boiling fruit (apples, berries, and raisins are all popular choices) with water and honey for several hours; it’s typically consumed at the end of a huge meal. Consuming vzvar on Christmas is a way of commemorating the birth of Christ. (Photo: Flickr)

The recipe: Restoran


Denmark

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The tradition: Danish Christmas celebrations don’t have the best rap nowadays—what up, blackface Santa sidekick!—but that shouldn’t count against risalamande, a delicious (if kinda gross-looking) Christmastime dessert made out of whipped cream, vanilla, and chopped almonds, topped off with cherries. (Photo: Flickr)

The recipe: My Danish Kitchen

Spain

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The tradition: Spain takes your Thanksgiving turkey and raises you one pavo trufado de navidad, a Christmas turkey stuffed with truffles and three different kinds of meat. If the tryptophan doesn’t do you in, the cured ham, minced veal, and pork triple-threat will. (Photo: Cultura Colectiva)

The recipe: CT Spanish


Greece

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The tradition: Like the panettone, the Christoposomo is its country of origin’s showcase holiday bread. The “Christ’s bread,” sweet and egg-based, is often topped off with fruits or nuts, but the main event is the decoration. Bakers typically finish off their loaves with either a cross or decorative elements reflecting their family’s occupation. Preparing the loaf has religious connotations, so it’s done carefully and with top-shelf ingredients. (Photo: Flickr)

The recipe: Martha Stewart

France

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The tradition: On Epiphany—that’s January 6th, the day baby Jesus was presented to the Three Wise Men, for all you heathens out there—French bakers go all-out with the gallette du rois, a flaky pastry filled with frangipane, or almond cream, and a single trinket, or feve. Considering the whole point of baking galettes is to tear them apart and find the feve inside, it’s a wonder they get as elaborate as they do. (Photo: Flickr)

The recipe: BBC


United Kingdom

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The tradition: Christmas pudding is as British as it gets, though like many holiday foods, it lives on due to tradition more so than deliciousness. The alcohol-soaked fruit cake—often aged for a full year, then lit on a fire at the table—is divisive in its treacly booziness. But there’s one part that keeps everyone interested: Coins hidden inside the cake, to be kept by whomever receives a money-laden slice. (Photo: BBC)

The recipe: Nigella Lawson

Mexico

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The tradition: December 16th to 24th marks the posadas, a Christmas celebration that lasts nine days—one for each month of Mary’s pregnancy. Every night, revelers reenact Mary and Joseph’s search for shelter (posadas translates to “lodgings”), and the festivities are capped off with star-shaped piñatas filled with fruit, nuts, and candy. (Photo: Flickr)

The recipe: Doesn’t really apply here, but here are instructions for making your own pinata!