International Christmas Foods and Christmas in Japan

Finally I have decided to take a break from writing about footy for while (but I cannot say how long it will last though). I had been thinking about writing about Christmas in Japan and it is time to do so.

However this idea expanded into all over the world when I listened to 1116 SEN’s Casual Friday segment where Tony Schibeci (who filled in Daniel Harford) and guest presenters talked about Christmas feasts in different cultures. During my listening, I learned that some Australians with Italian heritage had pasta and lasagne as Christmas lunch. Indeed I found it was interesting and started wanting to know about Christmas foods in other parts of the world.

As results of Googling, I find following sites are useful and have some interesting Christmas foods.

Top 10 International Christmas Dinners

29 Heavenly Christmas Foods From Around the World

I learned that even Commonwealth countries had their own unique Christmas foods. Canadians enjoy eggnog, a milk-based punch that is often infused with alcohol. New Zealand has no goose because they were not raised in New Zealand and due to their Government’s regulation of not importing foreign meat products. But their favourite Pavlova, a typical New Zealand meringue based pudding, is often served at Christmas. Also, Kiwis tend to have barbeques due to the season (it is summer in New Zealand at Christmas) as well as Australians do.

Here is a summary of other interesting international Christmas foods:

Former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth: Twelve meatless dishes on Christmas Eve to honour the spirit of deceased relatives.

Peru: Christmas desserts such as marzipan and assorted bowls with raisins, almonds and panettone, accompanied by a cup of thick hot chocolate.

Finland: Their traditional Christmas meals called Joulupöytä – including Freshly Salted Salmon, Casseroles and Mixed Fruit Soup.

France: a long dinner called revéillon including oysters, smoked salmon, lobster as well as goose or turkey with chestnuts and stuffing. Also they have Coqueilles Saint-Jacques, scallops with herbs and cheese as entrée. An uploaded picture on the Top 10 International Christmas Dinners attracts me!

Mexico: Chiles en nogada looks like pudding with milk cream and strawberries, but is comprised of meat-stuffed, fire-roasted poblano peppers covered in a creamy walnut sauce and a pomegranate seed garnish.

Austria: They have unique chocolate sponge and apricot jam cake called Sachertorte.

Ethiopia: When I saw a picture of Doro Wat on Injera, I thought that it was dipping sauce for tacos (Mexican crisp). But it is spicy meat stew perfect on the spongy bliss that is injera.

Germany: Like Austria, they have delicious cake. It is called Stollen made with rum, spices and a sugary coating.

Malta: Imbuljuta tal-Qastan looks like curry sauce, but it is cocoa-chestnut soup where heaven’s existence can be found.

Denmark: When I read details of Risalamande, I wish I could scream with wow because it is an almond-cherry rice pudding. I had never thought rice could be ingredient of pudding although rice cakes are ingredients of Japanese dessert of oshiruko (steamed rice cakes with sweet bean sauce).

Greece: Chicken soup Avgolemono is served as a first course at a Christmas feast. The absolutely enticing soup is a blend of chicken, lemon, egg and rice.

Back to Italian, Feast of Seven Fishes featured in 29 Heavenly Christmas Foods From Around the World is big and attractive. And the picture on the content shows their beloved pastas come with the seafood dishes. They look delicious.

Surprisingly, Argentina’s popular Christmas food called Vitel Toné has been brought into the country by Italian immigrants in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It is a platter of sliced veal covered in a tuna sauce and capers.

These Christmas foods are unfamiliar with me and interesting. Thanks SEN for making me curious on Christmas foods and letting me to research. And I appreciate these useful and wonderful websites helping me research.

Then here is Christmas in Japan:

Opposed to the western world, Christmas is NOT a public holiday in Japan. People go to work and school as a normal weekday and indeed trains, trams and buses are running under the weekday timetables unless it falls Saturday or Sunday.

Only mainly families with young kids (until the youngest child is a primary school pupil) and young couples celebrate Christmas, and if they do, they celebrate on Christmas EVE rather than on Christmas DAY.

Families with young kids hold Christmas parties at their homes with Christmas food and cakes. But these are only within their family as opposed to the western world where extended family are gathering to the family Christmas. Instead of Christmas, extend families gather around New Year’s Day.

While doing new research for an essay for a Footy Almanac article, I found that Christmas cakes in Japan were different to the western ones and even western ones differ depending on the country – like I featured about those of New Zealand, Austria and Germany above in this article. A Japanese one is a sponge cake with milk-based white cream and strawberries on top.

And then KFC restaurants in Japan offer Christmas meal sets whose main food is deep fried chicken wings. This kind of Christmas food plate is popular amongst Japanese families with young children.

Pictures of Japanese Christmas cake and KFC Christmas meal combos can be found at the bottom of the content on 29 Heavenly Christmas Foods From Around the World

These Christmas foods are likely to be collected in the evening on Christmas Eve after work by fathers.

Opposed to these families, young couples enjoy a Christmas dinner at a restaurant. Many hotel restaurants nationwide offer Christmas dinner packages for couples who are excited and expecting a romantic night.

At the annual occasion for them, they exchange Christmas presents. Just talking about the families with young children again, kids are excited to get Christmas presents under pillows on Christmas Eve (they will see presents in the morning on Christmas Day). Before going to bed, they place a red or green pair of socks by a pillow telling Santa Claus where to drop off a present. They believe that Santa Claus is coming to their home over night on Christmas Eve.

After having a romantic dinner, young couples stay at a hotel for a romantic night. Hotels offer Christmas Stay packages and couples can stay in a room on high floors where they will see stunning night views. The accommodation packages can include a bottle of champagne and a box of chocolates.

It’s said that Christmas in Japan is more celebration and much less religious event and sadly, commercial promotions dominate Christmas over the true meaning of the important day.

It is very early to say, but Merry Christmas to you all!

About Yoshihiro Imagawa

Love, passion and pride are seen on the footy that is the biggest part of my life. 1. St Kilda Club member: I am a passionate and crazy Sainter. Just hope we will win the second flag soon, especially after Dogs and Tigers having ended long premiership draughts. 2. The Osaka Dingoes Player and Public Relations Officer: Player number 44 that I chose to honour Stephen Milne with my wish being like a small forward like him. Lenny Hayes' hardworking attitudes are adopted on my trainings and practices. Nick Riewoldt's great plays are in my player audiobook too. 3. Writing: Here on the Almanac and also on the World Footy News. My skills utilise on great footy websites.


  1. Ben Footner says

    Nice work Yoshi!

    Our family Christmas has always been cold meat and salads – I think a lot of Australian families do the same as it’s usually very hot, 40+ degrees Celsius is not good for cooking!

    Cold ham off the bone, cold turkey, cold chicken, silverside (pickled beef). Salads like coleslaw, pasta salad, rice salad.

    This is followed by Grandma’s trifle for desert. A trifle is a layered desert, with sherry (an alcoholic spirit) soaked sponge cake topped with fruit, custard and cream.

    My grandma is now 90 years old and the alcohol content of her trifles has been increasing each year – I think she forgets how much sherry she’s put in! You wouldn’t want to drive a car after eating it these days, you would lose your licence!

    A merry Christmas to you mate, looking forward to your match reports next season!

  2. G’day Ben,

    Thanks for your comment with nice compliment on my writing and sharing your Christmas food stories.

    Yes, it is hard to cook meals when it hits 40+ Celsius degrees! But are you cooking turkey and silverside in advance and placed in room temperature? Or are they available at supermarkets?

    It sounds that people need to catch a train, bus, tram or taxi or stay a night to celebrate Christmas with family in a place other than your own house. I would not drive to go to family Christmas meal(s).

    I would love to write footy match reports in 2015, but have to get a job so that I can afford to go to an Australian pub to watch live St Kilda games if the time slot is good (indeed when the pub is open – not Saturday or Sunday afternoon). Otherwise, I will listen to live radio coverage on SEN or Triple M through AFL App. My current worry is about the Anzac Day clash against Carlton in Wellington, New Zealand. It will start at 1.10 pm local time which is 11.10 am in Melbourne and 10.10 am here in Sapporo, Japan. I wish I could be in Wellington at the time. Also I would love to move to Melbourne within two years to be close to St Kilda boys although it is hard to lure Australian potential employers to offer me a job. But I believe I can do because nice Almanackers are calling me.

    Merry Christmas to you and have a wonderful holiday and enjoy delicious meals with your family, mate!


  3. Ben Footner says

    A lot of the meat is available pre-cooked in the supermarket or from the butcher Yoshi, otherwise it is prepared beforehand.

    Lots of people travel long distances around Christmas in Australia as well – my family and I will be doing a 200km drive on Christmas Day to be with my wife’s parents for Christmas/New Year. I will be driving before I eat or drink anything though!

    I sympathise with your work dilemmas, I hope you manage to find a way to gain a job in Melbourne so that you can follow your Saints more closely! Until then keep posting, I have really enjoyed your writing since you started contributing to the site.

  4. Thanks Ben for your warm wishes for getting a job for Melbourne and reading my articles. I am very happy to contribute writing to the wonderful Footy Almanac community! You are one of great and loyal members of the Almanac family!

    Actually I should have said that families gather around New Year’s Day here in Japan rather than Christmas. I hope road conditions at Christmas are good and you drive safe.

    Cheers – Yoshi

  5. John Ambrose says

    Hi Yoshi,
    We have a seafood Christmas here in Yamba. Prawns, lobster, oysters and crabs. Early morning surf then bbq some chicken satay sticks.
    See you early in 2015 in Niseko for some ramen and a ski.

  6. G’day John,

    Thanks for your comment and telling us what you are having on Christmas Day. Doing an early surf and having seafood sound nice.

    Yes, indeed we will see next month in Niseko :)

    Merry Christmas to you!


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