While we know that Christmas in Ireland usually involves getting up at the crack of dawn, eating too much turkey and then dozing in a food coma while you watch Harry Potter on RTÉ, we imagine it’s quite different in other countries.

To educate us about Christmas around the world, we decided to call on members of Ireland’s food community from around the globe to tell us about their memories and traditions:

Tomasz Szczepanski

Tomasz is an award-winning sommelier who was awarded the title of 2nd Best Sommelier of Ireland in 2018 by The Irish Guild of Sommeliers. Originally from Poland, he now works in Shanahan’s on the Green in the city centre as sommelier and assistant manager.

Here, Tomasz tells us about Christmas in Poland:

“In Poland, the most important day is December 24th. According to our traditions, we don’t eat anything on Christmas Eve until 3-4pm and then you’re only allowed to eat pescatarian dishes. Around that time, we send the kids outside to look for the first star in the sky and if they see any, we can finally start our Christmas Eve dinner, as we’re all very hungry by this time! There are always 12 dishes in memory of the 12 apostles, including drinks and desserts of course. At my house, you can find forest mushrooms and beetroot soup served with small dumplings. There are always at least two fish dishes, as well as cabbage rolls with tomato sauce and baked cheesecake. Before we start dinner a very important part of the day is for us to share communion wafer. After the third or fourth course, we normally exchange Christmas presents and start singing Christmas carols.

Each house always leaves one empty chair at the dining table just in a lonely or homeless person needs somewhere to eat, which actually happened to our family once!

The whole meal is normally finished by 10pm and then at midnight, the whole family goes to church. Christmas Day is meat day! We always start with a huge breakfast, full of homemade sausages, ham, roast turkey, pate and loads of different types of pickles. After breakfast, we always go to church and we visit family.

A very important part of Polish Christmas is that we have a big Christmas tree, a Christmas nativity scene and lots of presents for the kids.  We always make sure that each member of our family gets at least one present, no matter how poor or rich we are.”

Conor Sexton and Jutarat Suwankeeree (known as R)

Dublin’s Nightmarket in Ranelagh, an authentic spot for delicious Thai food, is run by Conor and R. They met when R, who is originally from Thailand, came to work in Conor’s restaurant Koh in Dublin city centre. Since then the pair have set up Nightmarket, which was inspired by the vibrant street markets in Thailand. Here R tells us about Thai Christmas, which seems to be a relatively new tradition in the area:

“Christmas really is only a recent phenomenon in Thailand and is still only really only starting to catch on in the cities, Bangkok and Chiang Mai predominantly. It would have been celebrated in the 5 star hotels where foreigners stayed or expats visited.

My first experience of Christmas was when I worked at the Shangri-La Hotel in Bangkok, I worked there for six years before I came to Ireland. The Shangri-La holds a Christmas celebration every year, where international cuisines are served in the restaurants and Santa rides his sleigh over the riverside.”

Conor and R receiving an award from Georgina Campbell, courtesy of nightmarket.ie

Conor and R receiving an award from Georgina Campbell, courtesy of nightmarket.ie

Takashi Miyazaki

Takashi Miyazaki is the owner of Miyazaki in Cork, as well as the newly Michelin-starred Ichigo Ichie. Originally from Japan, Takashi’s has built up a stellar reputation for authentic and accomplished Japanese cuisine. Here Takashi tells us about Christmas celebrations in Japan, which involve party vibes and busy restaurants:

“Christmas in Japan is a more like a party than a celebration. I like New Year’s Day a lot but still I always look forward to Christmas every year for a present, some cake and a KFC Christmas variety bucket!

There aren’t really chips at KFC in Japan, we have things called biscuits, which are like scones. The chicken they use in Japanese KFCs is own brand and has its own production area, so high quality chicken is guaranteed. The KFC Chrismas bucket is so popular that there is an online booking site to reserve the meal!

Restaurants are all open through Christmas so it is a very busy time, especially on Christmas Eve as this is the day that couples celebrate. They buy each other secret presents, go to restaurants and have a romantic time.

We celebrate New Year’s from the 1st to 3rd of January with many different types of traditional foods and we keep eating for 3 days!”

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Thanks so much @finedininglovers ✨🙏🙏🙏✨ #Repost @finedininglovers with ・・・ Ichigo Ichie, which translates as “once in a lifetime”, opened in Cork, Ireland in April 2018. 43-year-old chef Takashi Miyazaki, originally from Fukuoka, brings Japanese multi-course fine dining for the first time to Ireland, in a style that he refers to as “Irish kaiseki.” Miyazaki “dips into the traditions of Japanese cooking but adds his own interpretation”, said the Michelin guide at the announcement of the chef’s first star in October this year. The 12 course “no option” menu at Ichigo Ichie features local, seasonal Irish ingredients that come together in typical Japanese kaiseki courses, seen in dishes such as creamy tofu with rhubarb poached in dashi, or the kamo nanban soba made of Thornhill duck, buckwheat, negi, hay leek and soba. . . Watch the most recent interview on finedininglovers.com . . . #finedininglovers @miyazaki_cork #finedining #finediningram #chef #chefclub #chefs #cheflife🔪 #chefsteps #chefstalk #chef💯 #chefsoninstagram #chefsandfoods #chefsplating #cooking #michelin #michelinstar #michelinguide #starredchef #finefood

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Julie Dupouy

Julie Dupouy, who was awarded the title 2018 Sommelier of the Year 2018 at the FOOD&WINE Awards, is originally from the South of France. Julie also holds the title of Best Sommelier in Ireland 2018 from the Irish Guild of Sommeliers and currently works as Sommelier - Consultant with Chapter One Restaurant, as well as running her own sommelier consulting business, Down2Wine. Here, Julie tells us about French Christmases, which sound absolutely fabulous:

“In France, we celebrate Christmas on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but the most important day is Christmas Eve. We have a dinner that starts around 7pm and could easily end with dessert around midnight. There isn’t really a traditional Christmas menu that every single house cooks, as each region of France has a different speciality. 

I am from the South West of France and very often dinner would start with some oysters and a seafood platter. That would be followed with some foie gras served with some Jurancon wine. Sometimes the foie gras would be served as a canapé with some champagne. Then the main course would very often be poultry but not turkey, we would often have goose, capon, duck or duck magret served with roasted chestnuts and potatoes. The next course would be a cheese platter served with some side green salad, as we always serve lettuce with cheese in France. Finally, the dessert would be a butter cream Christmas log or an iced Christmas log followed by a selection of chocolates. 

We would open Christmas presents after midnight or the following morning, depending if the children were in bed. Sometimes someone would dress up as Santa Claus and deliver the presents! However, I do think that the real magic of Christmas happens when you wake up on the morning of the 25th to find all the presents under the Christmas tree. 

Generally on the 25th, someone would invite everybody again for another big enough lunch, but not as big as Christmas Day, which reminds me a bit of St Stephen's day lunch in Ireland. 

For me, the beauty and magic of Christmas, has always been linked to specific smells; the smell of the Christmas tree, oranges, candles and wood fires. We used to make lots of our decoration with my mum, from learning origami to making some "pate a sel" which we would bake and then decorate. We would also make chocolate truffles and bake our own Christmas log, which was always a very exciting time!”

Asheesh Dewan

Asheesh Dewan is the founder of the Jaipur Restaurant group, which includes Chakra by Jaipur, Jaipur in Dalkey and Malahide, as well as Ananda in Dundrum. The restaurants in the Jaipur Group are well known for their authentic Indian food made with high-quality Irish ingredients. Here, Asheesh tells us about Indian Christmas traditions:

“Christmas Day in India is called Bada Din in Hindi, which is means Big Day. It’s as big a festival as Diwali!

In Goan Christian communities, Pork Vindaloo or Sorpotel is a dish traditionally served at Christmas. In this area, Christmas is celebrated for weeks, with homemade wines and Portuguese influenced dishes.

Keralan Syrian Christmas traditions involve plum wine, a breakfast of meat stew and rice pancakes, then a festive dinner of duck, usually roasted.

Christmas meals in Anglo-Indian communities are elaborate affairs, with lots of traditional sweets, homemade sherry and freshly brewed coffee.”

Asheesh, far right, with his team from Ananda at the 2018 F&W awards

Asheesh, far right, with his team from Ananda at the 2018 F&W awards

Do you practice any of these traditions in your house or do you have your own? Let us know in the comments below!

Happy Christmas!