A Brazilian Christmas dinner features foods common to similar feasts in North America and Europe. Ham and turkey are popular central points of the feast, but the main dish is usually surrounded by exotic fruits and regional favorites like codfish balls and rabanada, a sweet dessert.
Although turkey finds its way to most Brazilian Christmas tables, the birds are different from traditional turkeys. A Chester turkey is bred from several different strains of poultry, which creates a larger and much juicier bird than normal.
A strong German background influences the dinners in southern Brazil, where strudel and stollen are traditional items on the table. Coastal towns feature bacalhau, a codfish ball that is heavily salted. Leg of pork, kale, rice and salad are other traditional dishes on a Brazilian Christmas menu. In poorer areas of Brazil, chicken and rice are the mainstays of the holiday meal. Beer and wine are present in all areas of the country to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
Tradition dictates that family members enjoy the Christmas meal, or Ceia de Natal, on Christmas eve, usually following a late-night mass. The children eat first so they can get to bed before Papa Noel brings the gifts.