What Does Christmas Look Like In…? Surprising Seasonal Consumption and Production Statistics from Around the World

  • By Domino Printing Sciences
  • December 05, 2022
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With Christmas just around the corner, it’s interesting to take a look at how countries all over the world celebrate and to consider all the work that goes into making the holiday season a success. 

This blog will take you on a tour of interesting festive traditions, and delicious Christmas treats from around the world – and highlight some surprising seasonal production and consumption statistics. 

What does Christmas look like in France?

One of the most popular Christmas treats in France, the ‘bûche de Noël’ or yule log, tells an interesting tale about the history of Christmas in the country. Today, the bûche de Noël is a type of dessert made from rolled chocolate cake filled with pastry cream and iced or decorated to resemble a wooden log – but it hasn’t always been this way.

Originally, the bûche de Noël would have been an actual log, brought into the house on Christmas Eve, and burned slowly over 12 days, through to Epiphany on 6th January. The ceremony was said to ensure good fortune for the year ahead. In different regions, different substances, including wine and salt would be sprinkled on the log to make the flames of the fire burn a different color. As traditional hearths have become less common, the tradition has slowly been replaced by decorative alternatives, and the edible bûche de Noël.

The bûche de Noël is not the only festive cake enjoyed in France – on 6th January, French families enjoy a galette des rois or ‘king cake’, to mark the day of Epiphany and the arrival of the Three Kings. The galette de rois is composed of two circles of puff pastry sandwiching a frangipane filling. More than 32 million galettes des rois are eaten every year in France, with polls finding that 94% of people in France partake in at least one slice a year[1].

What does Christmas look like in Germany?

Christmas is a very large celebration in Germany – with public holidays taking place on 25th and 26th December. Many modern Christmas traditions have their roots in Germany – this includes Christmas trees, which have been common in Germany since the 16th Century, and German Christmas markets which are now common across Europe, featuring traditional German treats and snacks such as pretzels, stollen, crepes, gluhwein, and bratwurst.

Another typical Christmas treat is the chocolate Santa Claus or ‘Schokoladennikolaus’ – these hollow chocolate figures are typically given as small gifts for the festive season. It may come as a surprise to read that Germany is the EU’s largest producer of chocolate. In 2017, the EU produced around 4 million tonnes of chocolate, of which 1.3 million tonnes, or 32%, came from Germany[2] – compared to just 0.3 million tonnes from Belgium. In 2020, total chocolate production included some 151 million chocolate Santa Claus figures[3] – that’s 1.8 for every single member of the German population.

What does Christmas look like in the Netherlands?

In the Netherlands, the main Christmas celebrations take place on the 25th and the 26th of December. Houses and gardens are decorated with Christmas lights, many families place a glowing advent star in their window, and of course almost every home has a fully decorated Christmas tree. Christmas celebrations focus on spending time with family and loved ones and enjoying typical Christmas food. Some foods that are widely consumed during the festive season are Christmas bread ‘kerststol’, Christmas wreath cookies ‘kerstkransjes’, and stuffed, spiced speculaas cookies ‘gevulde speculaas’.

On 25th December, Dutch families come together for a large Christmas meal – this is often a cook-your-own-style banquet known as ‘gourmetten’. Gourmetten, from the French word ‘gourmandises’, meaning ‘delicacies’, features a large indoor hotplate, with many miniature cooking pans which guests can use to grill a selection of meats, vegetables, and eggs. The meal is served with an array of different sauces and accompaniments and is a great way to serve a large group and ensure that everyone can eat what they like. The most popular sauces to accompany ‘gourmet’ include garlic sauce, whisky sauce, and peanut sauce[4]. As many as four out of five, or 80% of Dutch people sit down to ‘gourmet’ at Christmas[5].

What does Christmas look like in Portugal?

One of the best loved Portuguese Christmas traditions is the setting up of the nativity scene, or ‘Presépio’. Most families in Portugal will have a Presépio in the house, which will include many and varied items and figurines, some which may be handmade, or passed down through generations. Many families will include items from nature, such as sticks, rocks, and moss, to give the Presépio a more natural look and feel.

The main Christmas celebration in Portugal takes place on the evening of the 24th of December through until the early hours of the next day. The typical Christmas meal, called ‘consoada’, is a dish of salted cod, cabbage, potatoes, and boiled eggs – a relatively humble meal by Portuguese standards. The Portuguese love their cod, however, and so it comes as no surprise to see the fish featured as the centerpiece of the Christmas celebration. Cod represents approximately 38% of national seafood demand in Portugal – though, interestingly, the fish does not exist in the coastal areas around Portugal, and so the majority is imported. Each year the country imports approximately 100,000 tonnes of salted cod from Norway alone[6], and each person in Portugal consumes on average 61.5kg of cod per year, compared with the global average of 22.3kg[7].

What does Christmas look like in Spain?

The holiday season in Spain is celebrated from 24th December, when families and friends sit down to a sumptuous Christmas meal, with festivities continuing until Epiphany on 6th January. On 31st December Spain rings in the new year with an interesting holiday tradition: as the clock strikes 12 it is customary to consume 12 grapes – one for each clock chime. Consuming the grapes ensures good luck for the year ahead.

Spain is one of Europe’s biggest producers of grapes, with 975 million hectares devoted to the cultivation of grapes in 2016. Despite the huge quantity of grapes consumed each year on New Year’s Eve, only 2% of Spanish grapes are grown for consumption. Some 97.4% of all grapes grown are for winemaking, including the production of another Christmas favorite – cava[8].

What does Christmas look like in Sweden?

Christmas in Sweden is celebrated throughout December and traditionally until St. Knut’s Day on 13th January, with the main celebration taking place on 24th December. Houses are decorated with real Christmas trees, soft white lights, enormous quantities of candles, and a straw goat, known as a ‘halmbock’. At 3pm on 24th December, families sit down to enjoy a cavalcade of Disney film scenes on Swedish national TV, the clips have been shown unchanged since 1959. Kalle Anka, as it is known, is one of the most popular television events of the year, watched by approximately 40–50% of the country[9].

On 24th December, people in Sweden typically enjoy a meal known as ‘julbord’ as their main festive meal. Julbord, which translates as ‘Christmas table’, is a large feast featuring multiple staples of Swedish cuisine served over several courses. A typical julbord will include fish, cheese, meats, and desserts. Typical accompaniments to the Christmas table include traditional Swedish meatballs – a delicious dish that is well-known across the globe thanks to its inclusion in IKEA food courts. Pickled herring is also seen in abundance during the fish course. Indeed, pickled herring is a staple product in Sweden throughout the year – in 2018, per capita consumption of canned pickled herring in Sweden amounted to 2.4kg[10].

What does Christmas look like in the UK?

Christmas is a big celebration in the UK, celebrated by more than 90% of the total population. Most families have a Christmas tree, typically pine or fir, in their house and decorating the tree is a family occasion. Holly, ivy, and mistletoe are also often used to create festive decorations.

One of the most prominent Christmas treats in the UK are mince pies – which have been enjoyed as part of festive menus since the 16th Century. Originally made from a sweetened, spiced meat mixture, modern-day mince pies are filled with mixed fruits and flavored with brandy and spices, including cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Mince pies are generally only available to purchase around the holiday season in the UK – with retailers stocking up as early as October. Despite this – approximately 1 billion mince pies are consumed in the UK each year, equal to 19 pies per person[11].

What does Christmas look like in China?

Christmas is not a national Holiday in China – with Christians in the country representing just 1.8% of the population[12]. That said, a good proportion of people in China do celebrate Christmas to some extent – whether just by spending time with friends or family or attending parties at Karaoke bars and restaurants. Today, many retail outlets and shopping malls will be transformed for the season, with bright lights and festive decorations.

A fun and surprising Christmas tradition in China is the giving of apples on Christmas Eve – because ‘apple’ sounds like ‘Christmas Eve’ in Mandarin. Apples are sold pre-wrapped in shops and are often printed with messages including words such a ‘love’ and ‘peace’. With the giving of apples becoming such a popular tradition, it’s no surprise that China is the world’s top consumer of apples – consuming more than 30 million tonnes of apples per year[13].

What does Christmas look like in India?

India is a plural society where all the major festivals across different faiths are celebrated by people with enthusiasm. Christmas celebrations can be seen across the country where many Indians decorate their homes for the occasion, with twinkling lights and brightly colored decorations. It is also common for families to decorate a Christmas tree adorned with a large star.

Typical Christmas food in India includes sweet baked snacks and treats – such as Christmas cake, a decadent, rich fruit cake flavored with Indian spices including cloves and cinnamon. It’s not just Indian baked goods that benefit from these sweet flavorings – cinnamon is a flavor synonymous with Christmas, and India is one of the only places in the world that produces highly-prized Ceylon cinnamon.

Globally, there are two types of cinnamon – cassia, from the Cinnamomum cassia tree which is native to China, Indonesia, and Vietnam; and Ceylon or ‘true’ cinnamon, from the inner bark of the Cinnamomum verum tree which grows in Sri Lanka and some parts of southern India. Approximately 70% of global cinnamon is cassia, however, Ceylon cinnamon is much more highly regarded, and fetches a much higher price in global markets. In 2020, India exported $9.7 million worth of cinnamon[14] to countries including the USA, Canada, Australia, UK, and New Zealand.

What does Christmas look like in South Korea?

Christmas is not considered to be a big holiday in South Korea, with Christian’s representing just 29% of the total population[15]. However, South Korea is the only East Asian country that recognizes Christmas as a national holiday, and so many citizens will mark the occasion in some way. For many this means spending time with family and enjoying a slice of Christmas cake. In South Korea, this can be any type of cake – including cheesecake, chocolate cake, and whipped cream cake – provided it has a Christmas decoration on top.

A much bigger holiday tradition in Korea is Lunar New Year, which begins with the first new moon of the lunar calendar and ends on the full moon 15 days later. The dates vary year from year but will typically fall between 21st January and 20th February according to western calendars. A very popular, if somewhat surprising, gift for Lunar New Year in South Korea is Spam.

In fact, South Korea is the second-largest consumer of Spam in the world after the United States[16]. One of the country’s top food store chains, CJ CheilJedang, claims to have sold approximately 1.2 billion 200g cans of Spam in the product’s history – the equivalent of 24 cans for each person in Korea. Spam gift sets account for 60% of annual sales[17].

What does Christmas look like in the UAE?

The UAE, with its large expat community, prides itself on its multiculturalism. As the festive season approaches, malls are transformed into magical landscapes, festooned with twinkling lights and Christmas trees.

Those spending Christmas in the UAE can be sure of a packed program of festive events and activities for young and old alike, lavish lunches and dinners, and a good dose of winter sun. Each year the Mall of the Emirates shopping center in Dubai plays host to the world’s largest stollen cake. In 2020, the 700-metre cake was made available for guests to the mall to purchase, with all proceeds donated to the Dubai Centre of Special Needs[18].

What does Christmas look like in Mexico?

Christmas is a huge celebration in Mexico, with festivities taking place from 12th December until Epiphany on 6th January. While traditions such as Christmas trees have become more popular in Mexico over the years, traditional Nativity scenes, called ‘Nacimientos’, are a much more common addition to the home. The main Christmas meal is served on 24th December, when families sit down to enjoy an array of dishes, the most common of which is roast turkey.

Mexico is another country where apples are enjoyed as part of Christmas festivities, although Mexico is only the 20th largest apple producer in the world – producing some 761 thousand tonnes of apples in 2019[19]. A significant portion of these apples are used in the production of sparkling alcoholic cider, a traditional beverage that Mexicans use to toast the New Year. In Mexico, the cider that is enjoyed each December has been fermented for a year, so this year, the country will enjoy apple cider from the 2021 harvest.

What does Christmas look like in North America?

Christmas is widely celebrated across North America – with some 90% of Americans[20], and 87% of Canadians[21] joining in with the festive celebrations. Christmas trees are a popular tradition in both countries, along with wreaths and garlands made from seasonal foliage including berries and pinecones.

Candy canes are a popular Christmas treat across North America. Made from hardened white sugar syrup, with red or green stripes, and flavored with peppermint or wintergreen, these cane-shaped sweets are synonymous with Christmas, and are often used to decorate trees, or given as small gifts.

In the US, candy canes are the top selling Christmas confectionery and are produced en-masse each year by large-scale manufacturers and family-owned units alike. In total, some 1.7 billion candy canes are produced each year in the US[22] with 90% of all sales taking place between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. By comparison, in Canada, the majority of candy canes are produced by a single confectionery manufacturer, Karma Candy, located in Hamilton in Southern Ontario. The company begins ramping up production in March each year, producing approximately 1 million candy canes per day[23].

What will your Christmas look like this year?

We hope that this blog has brought you a little festive cheer, and some food for thought as to the huge amount of work from global suppliers, manufacturers, logistics workers, and retailers that goes into creating Christmas around the world each year. So, whether you choose to enjoy a piece of bûche de Noël, a mince pie (or 19), or a slice of Christmas cake, remember to raise a glass (of cava, or sparkling cider) to all our supply chain heroes around the world this year.

Merry Christmas from everyone at Domino.

[1] https://www.connexionfrance.com/French-news/France-celebrates-with-traditional-galette-des-rois-treat-for-Epiphany-January-5-and-6
[2] https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/web/products-eurostat-news/-/EDN-20190417-1
[3] https://www.statista.com/statistics/987656/chocolate-santas-production-germany/
[4] https://www.quest.nl/maatschappij/cultuur/a25625372/10-dingen-over-gourmetten/
[5] https://www.coolesuggesties.nl/vier-op-vijf-nederlanders-zoeken-kerstpret-bij-gourmet/
[6] https://www.fishfarmingexpert.com/article/portugal-ndash-a-seafood-friend-in-south/
[7] https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/en/news/how-much-fish-do-we-consume-first-global-seafood-consumption-footprint-published
[8] https://www.foodswinesfromspain.com/spanishfoodwine/wcm/idc/groups/public/
[9] https://slate.com/culture/2009/12/sweden-s-bizarre-tradition-of-watching-donald-duck-kalle-anka-cartoons-on-christmas-eve.html
[10] https://www.statista.com/statistics/561904/per-capita-consumption-of-canned-herring-in-sweden/
[11] https://tasteat55.co.uk/2020/12/22/nations-mince-pie-eating-habits-revealed-the-south-west-scoffs-the-most-mince-pies-in-the-uk/
[12] https://news.cgtn.com/news/2019-12-24/What-is-Christmas-like-in-China--MGBWlxQc48/index.html
[13] https://www.helgilibrary.com/indicators/apple-consumption-total/
[14] https://www.worldstopexports.com/cinnamon-exporters/
[15] https://thediplomat.com/2016/04/christianity-and-korea/
[16] https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/04/08/396759474/spam-in-korea-it-s-not-junk-meat-it-s-a-luxury-treat?t=1632386730062
[17] https://www.hormelfoods.com/newsroom/in-the-news/spam-hits-sales-record-in-korea/
[18] https://uaenews4u.com/2020/12/10/mall-of-the-emirates-kempinski-celebrate-the-15th-year-anniversary-of-stollen-charity-cake-sale/
[19] https://www.statista.com/statistics/912084/mexico-apple-production-volume/
[20] https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/12/18/5-facts-about-christmas-in-america/
[21] https://abacusdata.ca/celebratingchristmassurvey_abacusdata_canada-poll/
[22] https://www.candystore.com/blog/holidays/christmas-candy-popular-states/
[23] https://globalnews.ca/news/3143416/a-peak-inside-karma-candy-canadas-only-candy-cane-factory/

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