After Thanksgiving dinner, many people would agree that Christmas dinner is the best of the year. This is when we get to eat the combination of foods that we truly love: savory turkey, carb-heavy mashed potatoes, that lovely gravy, and the desserts that are nostalgic and important to our particular families.
Christmas is so special because we not only enjoy the food (and the treats... so many treats) but we also spend time with the people who are closest to us and who we love so much. Not to get corny but, well, this is definitely part of why this food tastes so good. Of course, there are many different foods that make up this holiday meal, and not everyone serves the exact same menu. But there are enough dishes that are generally served on each holiday table.
It's time to take a look at everything that we eat on Christmas day and get serious about how we feel about everything, from appetizers to the mains to the side dishes and dessert. We rounded up the most popular foods that are made for this merry and bright occasion. Here are every classic Christmas dinner component, ranked from worst to best.
Have we ever said to ourselves, "I'm really glad it's Christmas because I can't wait to dig into a nice piece of fruitcake?" No. No, we have never caught ourselves saying this, and we're pretty sure that we never would.
The truth is that no one likes fruitcake. Okay, maybe a few people do, but they're definitely in the minority here when it comes to Christmas desserts. If there's a fruitcake on a coffee or dining room table on Christmas Day, we're going to be avoiding it. The super hard cake full of nuts and dried fruit just isn't our thing, which means that it's the worst part of Christmas dinner.
19 Mincemeat Pie
Mincemeat pie is a Christmas speciality that some families make every year. It's from Britain and the filling is "mincemeat" made of dried fruit such as raisins and apples, and spices such as nutmeg and cloves.
Sorry but we're not big on this dessert, and if it's served at our family Christmas celebration, we're going to be skipping it. If our own family doesn't serve it up, we can be glad about that because it just seems like the flavors of mincemeat are way too strong. We get the holiday vibe of the spices, but that's about the only thing that makes sense about this.
18 Christmas Pudding
Another Christmas tradition from across the pond, Christmas Pudding isn't the pudding that we typically make in North America. It's not the chocolate or vanilla kind that our moms used to make for us when we were home sick (and even if we loved it, chances are we were begging for ice cream...)
According to the BBC, Christmas Pudding tends to have the following ingredients: dried fruit such as apricots, figs, and raisins, apples, ginger, breadcrumbs, oranges, eggs, and many others. This pudding seems to be in the vein of fruitcake and mincemeat pie... and for that reason, we would prefer just about any other Christmas desserts.
Sure, turkey is definitely the star of the show when it comes to the protein that is served for Christmas dinner, but some families go with other main dishes. One of them is duck.
Duck is number 17 on our list of the worst to best Christmas dinner components because we don't dream about duck and gravy the way that we dream about turkey and gravy. It's just not something that happens. Some of us might not mind eating duck every once in a while, but the rest of us might be thinking that it's not the most appetizing type of meat.
16 Roasted Chestnuts
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire... There's a reason that this seasonal food is so popular around this time of year. It evokes memories and nostalgia and all those cozy feelings.
But do we want to eat roasted chestnuts? Not really. If we've ever had some, we can probably agree that they taste like a super strange combination of mushy and burnt. You might not think that was possible until you bite into a roasted chestnut. These land at 16 on our list because they're not the absolute worst but they're far from something that we crave during the holiday season, or ever.
15 Carrots Or Turnips
Okay, so you have your typical Christmas dinner foods... and then you have your vegetable side dishes. How do we feel about veggies? Are we super into them and we actually make them... or do we wish that they could only exist as pizza toppings because we never want to eat them otherwise?
No matter what our feelings on the humble vegetable are, we can agree that some Christmas dinner-appropriate veggies are carrots and/or turnips. And, sure, these can taste good if cooked properly and seasoned. They land at number 15 because they're not the worst or the best, but just something that we tolerate.
14 Pigs In Blankets
Oh, the pig in a blanket. We basically can't complain about anything that has bacon in it. We just can't. It would be against The Foodie Rulebook or something.
These super retro appetizers have been a part of family Christmas dinners for so long. There are a few different variations -- you can use hot dogs or sausages and you can use puff pastry or croissant dough -- but you will always be wrapping something in bacon. These are just plain good, so of course, they had to be on this list. We think that they're perfect at number 14 because they're delicious but not the absolute best part of the meal.
13 Yule Log
People who make Yule Logs for Christmas dinner take them very seriously. This holiday dessert involves a sponge cake, plus icing. Lots and lots of icing.
It's enjoyable and entertaining since it's literally shaped like a wooden log and often has some seasonal decorations to make it look like one, too. Traditionally, there is chocolate icing on top and totally covering the whole cake, and there are layers of chocolate cake and vanilla/white icing inside. If we eat it every year, we love it. If we don't, we wouldn't say no. After all, it's cake. What could be wrong with cake? (A rhetorical question if there ever was one.)
12 Cheese Ball
Of all the appetizers that scream "festive" and "party", we would say that the cheese ball is at the top of the list. It's number 12 on this list because cheese is always a brilliant idea and we would never say no to a cheese ball and everything it's served with... mostly because we love eating cheese and crackers.
Cheese balls are fun and our family could make one every single year. It might be one of our favorite parts of the meal or it might be something that we like eating but there's another part of the meal that we look forward to more. This is for real cheese lovers only (that's cool, they can eat most of it and they can save the gravy or cranberry sauce for us).
Eggnog is number eleven because if there is one festive Christmas drink that we all love, it's eggnog. It's totally something that you look forward to every year.
Eggnog is made of, yes, eggs, and also has heavy cream, milk, sugar, and nutmeg. While, sure, you could technically whip it up at another time of year, you wouldn't. It wouldn't make any sense. It's a holiday drink and that's all there is to it. This drink is so rich and creamy, we might swear to never drink it again... but then the next Christmas rolls around and, oops, we're drinking it again.
Shortbread is number ten on this list and is buttery, sugary happiness. It's hard to put into words how we feel about this cookie. They have a very old-school vibe to them since people have been baking them since forever. They will just never go out of style.
Shortbread is pretty easy to make, too, which is always a bonus... and which means that we can make tons of batches of shortbread before we even sit down for Christmas dinner. (And eat them all, obviously. Sorry but although the spirit of Christmas is about giving and sharing, we can't share these cookies).
9 Brussels Sprouts With Bacon
We're in an interesting culinary time where veggies can be anything that they want to be, including pizza and a substitution for rice and even a beloved side for an important dinner such as Christmas.
That's right, we're talking about Brussels sprouts. People are going pretty nuts for these things since they are often served at restaurants and are totally delicious. Why are we so crazy for them? Because of one food that never, ever lets us down: bacon. The smoky, salty meat that is often served next to eggs is also great for making us love Brussels sprouts. It's totally the reason why braised or roasted Brussel sprouts with bacon are a beloved part of Christmas dinner and are number nine on our list.
8 Roast Beef
If your family doesn't do turkey on Christmas, there are a few other popular proteins. One of them is roast beef.
Roast beef is delicious and just feels special, probably because it's not what you tend to make for a regular Monday night dinner. Ground beef is the best and can build so many awesome meals, from taco salad to chili to spaghetti sauce, but it's not as festive and glorious as a big hunk of roast beef that is placed on the holiday table. We might not look forward to roast beef at Christmas as much as some carb-heavy side dishes, but if our family makes it, we do love eating it.
No turkey? No roast beef? And no duck (what a surprise)? Your fam probably makes ham, or maybe they make a few different meats (aka Christmas heaven... or anytime heaven).
Making ham for Christmas (and Easter, of course) is a tradition in many families. It's often sweet and glazed and delicious. Sometimes the glaze has maple and mustard, other times it has fruit like apricots or pineapple juice, but it's always a really big showstopper. Seeing that huge ham on the table has a super festive feel. Some people prefer ham to turkey... but that's just wrong.
For many people, the crowning achievement of Christmas dinner (and Thanksgiving too, of course) is a perfectly cooked turkey. It should have enough meat on it to feed an army (or just our family... which could totally be an army depending on how big it is). We want savory flavors. We want crispy skin. We want white meat only or dark meat only, thank you very much, depending on our preferences. And if we're lucky enough to snag a massive turkey leg, we're in Christmas dinner heaven.
Turkey is number six on the list since it's not the number one best part of this holiday dinner but it's super close to the top. It just wouldn't be this holiday meal without it.
5 Cranberry Sauce
Okay, now we're talking. Cranberry sauce is one of the most delicious parts of the meal for many of us... and if you don't like it, we can't be friends.
What would turkey be without cranberry sauce? What would anything that's on our plates for Christmas dinner be without cranberry sauce, really? Not everyone wants their food to touch or to put this stuff on everything, but we're not in that camp. We want this sweet red stuff over absolutely everything on our plate... and we're going to take seconds. And thirds.
4 Roast Potatoes
You can't go wrong no matter how you cook a potato. From chips to fries to roasted, they are always epic. When you're feeling grateful for everything in your life around the holidays, you're also going to say that you're grateful for carbs, right? Of course you are. And one of the best carbs ever is definitely roasted potatoes.
These take the number four spot because they're not as amazing as another way to cook potatoes (which is the number three spot on this list) but they are still really, really magical. Crispy and salty and just perfect, we would never say no to these spuds.
3 Mashed Potatoes
Of the two types of potatoes that you could make for Christmas dinner, mashed potatoes are obviously superior. They just are. They're creamy and usually full of butter and, well, do we really need more reasons than that?!
Just picture this holiday scene: turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce... and mashed potatoes. You can eat everything at all once and get all the flavors and just be so happy that it's Christmas. It really is the greatest meal of the year. It's one of the times when you can forget that resolution you made to eat more vegetables or salad and just focus on the mashed potatoes. Veggies will be there in the new year.
Do you feel like you want to write a love letter to stuffing? No, it's not weird... it's totally normal. We all love stuffing. Of course, we all love bread, and so stuffing is basically just bread with herbs and flavor added. And that's just fine with us.
Whether we put sausage in our stuffing or leave it vegetarian-friendly, we can agree that Christmas dinner just wouldn't be what it is without it. We would seriously miss it if our mom didn't make it... so let's be super thankful that she always does. Hey, she would never let it slide because she is just as obsessed with stuffing as we are.
1 Christmas Cookies
Here we are at number one on the list of the worst to best components of Christmas dinner: Christmas cookies.
These are totally the crown jewel of the whole holiday meal. They are sweet and crunchy and also super beautiful since we decorate them with frosting and/or sprinkles (maybe even colored frosting, which is even better). Plus, they're super fun and festive since they're shapes such as stars, Christmas trees, Santa, Showmen, or gingerbread men. What is Christmas dinner without dessert... and what is Christmas dessert without cookies? Exactly. We can't wait to enjoy one (or ten) on December 25th.