Traditional Christmas Breads From Around the World

From Slovak Bolbalki to Julekake, Norwegian Christmas Bread

Bulgarian Christmas bread

​The Spruce 

Christmas is the perfect time to show off your baking skills, and there are many delicious traditional Christmas breads that you can bake and enjoy with friends and family or give as gifts during the holiday season. From a Czech braided Christmas bread to a three kings bread from Mexico, there is a nice variety of yeasted fruit bread, as well as sweet, non-fruit recipes and quick breads to try.

Of the eight breads here, most can be made a week or two ahead of the holidays; some of the fruit bread recipes actually recommend a few weeks to rest and allow the flavors to soften. All of these recipes are relatively easy to prepare, and they are certainly fun to bake. Bake a bread from your heritage, try something new and unique, or test a variation on a favorite family recipe.

  • 01 of 16

    Vánočka: Czech Braided Christmas Bread

    Czech Christmas bread recipe

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

    Vánočka (vah-NAWTCH-kah) is an Eastern European braided egg bread not unlike Jewish challah and the Polish chałka, as well as Hungarian fonott kalacs. You can make a simple three-strand braid, although the traditional way to make it is by placing three braids of different sizes one on top of another. The dough is studded with raisins, almonds, and citron (similar to a lemon), and is sprinkled with sliced almonds before baking.

  • 02 of 16

    Julekake: A Norwegian Christmas Bread

    Cut Julekake

    The Spruce Eats / Viktoriya Stoeva

    Norway has its own take on a Christmas fruitcake, and julekake has long been a favorite tradition in many families. The julekake is a simply shaped bread flavored with cardamom and candied fruits. This bread is easily formed into two loaves and is best when served fresh from the oven. If you have to bake it ahead, it does taste fine when toasted.

  • 03 of 16

    Slovak Bobalki

    Slovak sweet bobalki recipe

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

    Slovak bobalki is a traditional Christmas Eve and Lent bread featuring baked balls of dough that make a lovely addition to the dinner table. Bobalki can be served as either a sweet or savory bread and both are tasty. For sweet bread, the dough balls are smothered in honey and ground poppy seeds; as a savory side, they're topped with sauerkraut and onion.

  • 04 of 16

    German Christmas Stollen

    German Christmas Stollen

    The Spruce

    Stollen is a traditional German Christmas bread that is perfect for the holidays. This delicious fruit cake-like bread makes great gifts and can be prepared a few weeks in advance. In fact, it gets better with a little age. Traditional sweet stollens have a variety of flavors and icing is standard. This recipe includes candied fruits and almonds; the powdered sugar dusting is optional but highly recommended.

    If you want to make stollen but have limited time, try using a very easy stollen ​bread recipe.

    Continue to 5 of 16 below.
  • 05 of 16

    Cinnamon Tea Rings

    Swedish tea ring recipe

    The Spruce Eats / Anfisa Strizh

    If you are not a fan of bread filled with dried fruit, a cinnamon tea ring is a good recipe to try. The sweet cinnamon dough is formed into a ring before baking and then finished with icing made from confectioners' sugar and milk. This recipe makes six beautiful tea rings, so you will have plenty of sweet bread to serve after Christmas dinner and to gift to friends and relatives. You can add cranberries, raisins, or nuts if you like, but the tea rings are just as delicious with icing alone.

  • 06 of 16

    Krendel: Russian Christmas Bread

    Russian Christmas bread recipe

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

    Another fruit bread, traditional Russian Christmas bread goes by the name of krendel (or krendl). It's formed in the shape of a large pretzel and hides its delicious dried fruits inside. This impressive bread can be glazed, left plain, or topped with powdered sugar.

  • 07 of 16

    Mini Cranberry Fruit Bread

    Cranberry mini loaf gift breads recipe

    The Spruce / Cara Cormack

    These miniature loaves of cranberry bread are perfect for casual gifting. Since the recipe does not require yeast, there is no waiting for it to rise and very little mixing. This easy recipe calls for fresh cranberries, which are available in the United States from September through January. After baking, the three small loaves are drizzled with icing.

  • 08 of 16

    Classic Christmas Italian Panettone

    Classic Christmas Italian Panettone

    The Spruce / Yana Karin

    From the Italian panetto or small cakepanettone is a large fruity enriched sweet bread, offered typically during Christmas throughout Italy and in Italian communities around the world. Originated in Milan, it is a large, dome-shaped cake that has been leavened with yeast. It has a slightly light and airy texture but a rich and buttery taste, and is not very sweet.

    Continue to 9 of 16 below.
  • 09 of 16

    Christmas Stollen Sweet Bread

    Christmas stollen sweet bread recipe

    ​The Spruce Eats / Victoria Heydt

    German stollen bread at Christmas time is an old tradition that was brought over to the U.S. by the Germans and Pennsylvania Germans. The recipes for stollen, a delicious sweet bread, can be very extravagant, however this simple and easy to make recipe for stollen is very easy to follow.

  • 10 of 16

    Ukrainian Christmas Bread (Kolach)

    Ukrainian Christmas bread kolach recipe

    The Spruce / Nita West

    This recipe for Ukrainian Christmas bread or kolach is a slightly sweet yeast bread that is braided and shaped into either an oblong loaf, a round braided loaf, or three separate round braids stacked one on top of the other. In the case of a stacked kolach, a candle is placed in the middle and is an essential part of the Christmas Eve supper (Sviata Vechera). The bread isn't eaten until Christmas Day because it contains eggs and Orthodox Christians fast for Advent, including Christmas Eve.

  • 11 of 16

    Cozonac: Romanian Easter and Christmas Bread

    Cozonac: Romanian Easter and Christmas Bread

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

    Romanian cozonac is a slightly sweet yeast-raised egg bread, similar to houska, that is traditionally eaten for Easter, Christmas, and New ​Years. Bulgarians call this bread kozunak. It's considered the Italian panettone of the Romanians. When the cozonac dough is filled with farmer's cheese, it becomes a pasca, similar to a Polish kołacz.

  • 12 of 16

    Bulgarian Christmas Bread (Koledna Pitka)

    Bulgarian Christmas bread

    ​The Spruce 

    This recipe for Bulgarian Christmas bread (koledna pitka) requires only one rise. It is typically eaten on Christmas Eve and throughout the holidays. Often, a silver coin is tucked inside and the one to find it should expect good luck in the coming year.

    Continue to 13 of 16 below.
  • 13 of 16

    Christopsomo (Greek Christmas Bread)

    Greek Christmas Bread (Christopsomo)

    The Spruce/Ulyana Verbytska

    Christopsomo, or Christ's Bread, is considered a sacred tradition in many Greek Orthodox homes and the care with which it is made is said to ensure the well-being of the home in the year to come. Only the purest and most expensive ingredients are used. The bread is often decorated with pieces of dough formed into representations of the family's life (boats, animals, etc.).

  • 14 of 16

    Chalka (Egg-Twist Bread)

    Polish egg bread chalka recipe

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

    This recipe for Polish chałka (HOW-kah) is a rich, braided egg bread that may or may not contain raisins. It's similar to Bohemian-Czech vanocka, Jewish challah, and Hungarian fonott kalacs. Chalka is served year-round, but especially at Christmas and Easter. If you have any leftover chalka, it makes delicious French toast or bread pudding with orange sauce or makowki (Polish poppyseed bread pudding).

  • 15 of 16

    Pan de Jamón (Venezuelan Ham and Olive Bread)

    Pan de Jamón (Venezuelan Ham and Olive Bread)

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

    In Venezuela, this slightly sweet bread stuffed with ham, olives, and raisins is especially popular at Christmas time. The bread dough is rolled up around the fillings into a log, similar to the way cinnamon rolls are made. Once baked, the bread can be sliced into attractive spirals.

  • 16 of 16

    Gluten-Free Fruitcake Au Naturel

    Gluten-Free Fruitcake Au Naturel sliced on a platter

    The Spruce / Cara Cormack

    Though this may be considered more a cake than bread, we felt it necessary to include fruitcake on this list. What makes this recipe for gluten-free fruitcake different from the fruitcakes of legendary jokes? This from-scratch recipe is buttery moist and loaded with nuts and dried fruits, 8 cups to be exact. And the fruit is not the unnatural, artificially colored variety but dried dates, apricots, ginger, cherries, and raisins.