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A Foodie's Guide to Christmas in Europe

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During the festive season, it's not likely that any of us need much encouragement to start nibbling on Christmas treats, and it is a festive fact that we tend to eat more than we should with all the mince pies and roasted chestnuts coming to town. However you don't need to stick to the same old thing.

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Christmas turkey © sweenpole2001

Why not spread your wings - and your waistband - by enjoying Christmas traditions from another country? Well, put down your turkey meat and gravy boat and come fly with us on a foodie's tour of four festive countries in Europe at Christmas time!

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Christmas table setting © Putneypics

Denmark

Possibly fuelled by the chilly temperatures at this time of year, Danish families cook up a real feast for Christmas - or Jul - with roast pork or roast duck being the centrepiece dishes around which a variety of vegetables and potato dishes are served on Christmas Eve. Desert comes in the form of risalamande, a rice pudding with cherry sauce. Festivities begin at the start of advent in Denmark and as families gather at street markets popular sweet treats will include æbleskiver, doughnut style pancakes, and gløgg for those old enough to cope with this heady mix of mulled wine and spices. Denmark is also one of the places where those 'chestnuts roasting on an open fire...' made famous in the song are also enjoyed at Christmas. Glædelig jul!

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Risalamande © bosworth.dk

France

Christmas dinner in France is rather elegantly known as Le Reveillon de Noël and is eaten during the evening and into the night of Christmas Eve. The French being the culinary connoisseurs that they are, le Reveillon often consists of numerous different courses starting with Champagne and amuse-bouches followed by foie gras and smoked salmon with lamb or poultry as the main meal. This is then followed up with a refreshing green salad, and next come cheeses with the final course being une bûche de Noël; a Christmas log cake decorated with frosting and figurines. That's if you're still awake, of course. Should you be lucky enough to be heading to Provence for Christmas be warned that they take the number of courses to an entirely new level, with it being a local tradition to serve thirteen different desserts! Joyeux Noël!

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Bûche de Noël © masatsu

Germany

Famous for the Lebkuchen that many now recognise as a traditional German Christmas treat, it's comforting to know that the Germans are still as crazy for these gingerbread cookies as we'd like to think, and the tradition of building gingerbread houses is also strong in many parts of Germany. With the main gathering and meal being served on Christmas Eve, many families in southern Germany will sit down to eat Schäufele, a smoked joint of ham, served with potatoes and vegetables. Of course, Christmas is also a good an excuse as any for the Germans to eat lots of sausages with Weisswurst - a white sausage stew served with vegetables, veal and bacon being a popular dish in North Germany. Christstollen, a spiced fruit loaf, is a very common seasonal cake eaten at this time of year. Fröhliche Weihnachten!

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Schäufele © Ctz Nürnberg

Portugal

In the predominantly Catholic country of Portugal, Christmas is a widely celebrated occasion shared with extended family and friends, though gifts aren't traditionally given to children until January 6th, the day which marks the Epiphany of the Wise Men. The main Portuguese meal takes place on Christmas Day starting with consado, a meal that is often centred around roast turkey - though roast lamb or goat isn't unusual. With it being one of the most popular Portuguese dishes year round bacalhao, salted codfish with potato, is also often served. Bolo Rei, which translates as King Cake, is a wonderful white flour fruitcake decorated with glazed fruits, and most bakeries will serve a number of different variations during the festive period. Feliz Natal!

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Bacalhao © zcamerino

There are so many delicious, edible ways to enjoy yuletide. We hope that however you spend yours, and whomever you spend it with, it is filled with good cheer, laughter and just... one... more... piece. Merry Christmas!