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I love eating. There I said it. I’m not ashamed to admit that Christmas is the perfect excuse to indulge in all those festive treats. And turkey. With lots of gravy. Delicious!

However the British spread is just one possibility for Christmas. Different cultures around Europe do things rather differently and we decided to explore this idea. Here’s our top 7 eating traditions that will get your juices flowing over the holidays! If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you could even take a last minute weekend break to these awesome places for that authentic taste. Our 7th pick may not be European, but it does illustrate the diversity point rather well. Besides we found it rather bizarre!

Before we dive in, a quick shoutout to our app – TakeMeAway. TakeMeAway inspires your next weekend break, all within your budget. All the destinations (well apart from number 7….) are available in-app. It’s available to download for both iOS and Android.

1. Smörgåsbords, Stockholm

Picturesque Stockholm is beautiful all year round

Smörgåsbords are quite the Scandinavian tradition. Christmas allows the Swedes to ramp up their Smörgåsbord game with a special table called julbord (Christmas buffet). First thing to note is the meal is normally eaten on Christmas Eve and it’s a big meal – it’s about maximising the number of items on the table as possible. Therefore you’ll need all your family and friends to help you devour the meal!

Seafood is just one part of this Swedish feast

The food itself comprises of pickled herring, cured and smoked seafood and fish, cold meats – especially the julskinka (Christmas ham), maybe some reindeer, pate and terrine. And that is only the ‘cold’ course! The hot stuff includes meatballs, ribs, sausages and spiced cabbage. Finally desserts, with the pick of the bunch being the risgrynsgröt (rice porridge). Your Christmas Day hangover cure is also taken care of with the leftovers….

Flights from London to Stockholm are available from £60 return in December.

2. Pepernoten/kruidnoten, Amsterdam

Addictive goodness!

Yours truly has spent many years living in the Netherlands and so fond memories very much exist with the country. The Dutch do most of their gift giving on the 5th December to celebrate Sinterklaas (pub quiz fact – Santa Claus is actually derived from the Dutch….) and there are a few confectionary items that are eaten around the time.

Giving chocolate letters to friends and family is another popular sweet treat

One of these items is pepernoten (or kruidnoten, depending on how pedantic you are….). These small rounded biscuits of absolute joy are insanely addictive and I’ve spent afternoons and evening devouring these spiced delights. The biscuits date back to the 1600-1700s but recent innovations include covering them in chocolate and as well as an entire concept around pimping up pepernoten – making them even more addictive. What’s made it worse is that supermarkets are beginning to sell them as early as end September, so factor in putting on a few extra pounds….

I know it’s after 5th Dec, but don’t worry you can still get your pepernoten fix throughout December. Flights from London are available from £80 return.

3. Marzipan, Madrid

Anyone else a fan of these almond sweets?

Sticking with the sweet theme, we go to Spain where Marzipan is another popular Christmas sweet. I love almonds and this sugary treat is made from ground almonds and formed into various shapes. The best best marzipan is arguably made in Toledo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a small historic town which has been influenced by many cultures and is only an hour away from Madrid. Having visited Toledo myself, it’s quite a picturesque place.

Flights to Madrid can be had from £100 return from London.

4. Reibekuchen, Bonn

The perfect accompaniment while browsing Christmas markets!

These literally translate into English as potato fritters/cakes. Our last blog post covered Christmas markets (links) and these are a staple at the German markets in particular. Potato cakes are so tasty because of their versatility. You can do them as a savoury dish served up with sour cream or cottage cheese; or as is traditionally done on the markets, with applesauce and rye bread. Moorish it maybe, but a great warm comfort food for a cold December when shopping for gifts.

Reibekuchen is more traditional to Rhineland in West Germany, so we think Bonn is a great break this month. You can fly there via Cologne from £130 return.

5. Natale feast, Rome

All feasts have to begin somewhere…..

It probably doesn’t come as a great surprise that the Italian way of eating at Christmas is an absolute epic. Let’s first start with Christmas Eve dinner – a lighter meal with no meat but a lot of seafood. The Italian-Americans turbo charge this idea with the ‘Feast of Seven Fishes’ with even more seafood and fish.

Having slept off and digested the night before, we get to the Natale feast proper for Christmas Day. Prepare to eat for hours. And hours. It’s a hard life really eating antipasto, pastas and tons of meat. The key must haves include pasta (of course), which are prepared differently depending on the region. Pasta is normally baked in central and southern Italy and filled in the north such as the ‘Tortellini in Brodo’ stuffed with Bolognese. The latter in particular is a favourite of Team TakeMeAway with a meaty filling with lots of Parmigiano-Reggiano and a velvety broth for the little goodnesses to sit in. It remind me, I need to find an Italian family to adopt me….

Bologna where the Tortellini in Brodo are popular has an airport which can be a bit expensive. We suggest flying to Florence (flights from £120 return) and taking the short train ride up.

6. The Christmas Carp, Bratislava

Did you know this cute Japanese carp isn’t actually that tasty compared to its ‘regular’ cousin?

One thing I’ve noticed is fish being more popular than I realised at Christmas time. Slovakia is a great example though the tradition there is slightly eclectic. Let’s start with a week before Christmas. Tubs with cold water start popping up all over the country filled with carp. The carp is a bottom feeder, so there is a rationale behind putting them in the cold water – it helps to flush the fish’s digestive system.

A couple of days before Christmas, you select a live carp, take it home and put it in your bathtub until Christmas Eve, when you gut the fish and prepare it for Christmas Lunch. The whole family normally gets involved, kids may go as far as naming their carp! Nowadays most buy their carp dead from the fishmonger (boo!). To prepare, the fish is sliced, breaded and fried served with a cabbage soup and a potato salad. The Slovaks had me sold at deep fried fish!

If you fancy seeing the quirky tubs, you can get to Bratislava from £105 return from London

7. KFC ‘Christmas Chicken’, Tokyo

Fried chicken or turkey? Tough life choices….

This is not a joke. You read that right. KFC for your Christmas lunch! This may seem bizarre but it is the product of genius marketing from Kentucky Fried Chicken. In the early 70s KFC discovered that expats were going to their fast food chains on Christmas as they were unable to source a turkey in Tokyo. Not being a Christian country, Japan never really got into the Christmas spirit. Seizing on this opportunity, KFC launched the ‘Christmas Chicken’ marketing campaign in 1974.

It has become so popular in modern Japan, that families across all parts of society see KFC as a Christmas must. One has to place their orders weeks before the 25th December to ensure they have a spot saved in their local KFC. Getting into the Christmas spirit can truly span different cultures!

Sadly there are no cheap flights to Tokyo, with the cheapest starting from £515 return. If deep frying that turkey goes horribly wrong (if someone does try this, please let me know how it goes), you probably could pop into your local KFC to rescue the day. Preorders not required!

I hope you enjoyed this article! Our mission is to give you inspiration for you next weekend break. And please let us know your Christmas tradition on Facebook and Instagram. We hope you enjoy eating your way through December. Merry Christmas!

TakeMeAway is available to download for Android and iOS.