An alphabet of Christmas sweets

The holidays are all about the birth of Jesus Christ, but they are also a great excuse to indulge your sweet tooth more than the usual

GLÜHWEIN Mulled wine in a German Christmas market back in 2017. You give a few Euros as a deposit for the mug but you can also forfeit it and keep the mug instead

Celebrating Christmas as an adult is different. Sure, the songs still put you in a somewhat jolly frenzy, a sort of frantic trance that results in the voice of Mariah Carey and Jose Mari Chan often getting stuck in your head the moment September rolls in. But it’s also the cause of a lot of stress. The holiday rush includes trying to get work out of the way and preparing for celebrations with family, colleagues, friends, and even people you just have to put up with. Buying presents, shopping for food at crowded stores, and the inevitable traffic jams throughout the Metro. “It’s only fun when you’re a kid,” I found myself telling a friend from France recently.

“Then maybe you should make a list of what makes Christmas fun for you back when you were a child and even now as an adult,” she said. It was a brilliant idea to help me get rid of my inner Grinch and I have exactly a week to get in the mood. Sharing one’s blessings is already a given during this season and while that truly makes someone feel better, I wanted to add something that was truly just for me. So “Holiday sweets!” was something I exclaimed before she fully finished her sentence.

Just in time, my editor AA Patawaran talked to me about traditional holiday desserts from all over the world. And that, my friends, is how we ended up with a list of one of the best things about Christmas. Yes, there’s the birth of Jesus Christ but also a great excuse to have more sweets than the usual.

Arroz Doce


A rice pudding dessert using milk, cinnamon, vanilla, and raisins.



A traditional rice cake baked over a terracotta oven with charcoal. This sweet-salty treat is served with salted egg and cheese on top—the only reason my grandmother was able to wake me up for Simbang Gabi.

Chimney Cake


Tradtional Kürtőskalács are hollowed cakes rolled over powdered sugar or cinnamon (the latter is better). But it has become quite the Eastern European Christmas market sensation. In Prague, you can get it the traditional way but why settle for that when you can have it pumped with ice cream and toppings like chocolate and marshmallows?

ORNAMENTS GALORE They're practically art pieces at the Christmas markets



A folded, deep-fried pastry topped with honey drizzle, cinnamon, and walnuts. I have yet to find someone in Manila who makes this!



Warm, creamy, and with a rum base, this was so comforting to drink as soon as it got dark in Europe. Yes, around 3 p.m.



A go-to giveaway for people you don’t really know that much. I kid – but really. Do you know anyone who buys this for themselves?


It’s only fun when you’re a kid.


Gingerbread Cookies

UK and the Nordics

A must! Though I must say, I never had to wait for Christmas to start looking for gingerbread anything.

Hot chocolate


No explanation needed. You need it when you live in a cold place but in Manila, just go get it iced or turn the air conditioner on.

Irish Christmas Cake


This one is prepared at least one month before Christmas but for good reason. You have to keep soaking it in whiskey. Later, it decorated with icing on Christmas Eve, then eaten on Christmas Day. The best kind of moist chocolate cake if you ask me.

THE WEINACHTSZAUBER in Berlin's Gendarmenmarkt is one of the most beautiful markets in Europe that offers a wide selection of holiday treats



As the land of Santa Claus (he lives in the Finnish Lapland), Finns bring their A-game this time of year. Joulutorttu are star-shaped cookies made of flaky pastry and a dollop of jam. It’s light and airy with a sweet-salty taste.



Eighteen layers (sometimes more) of rings make up this cake to form a cone with steep slopes. Decorated with white icing, it feels hard on your hands but becomes soft and chewy in your mouth.



Spiced, gingerbread bars that usually come in the shape of hearts and decorated with colorful icing is native to Nuremberg, whose Christmas market is the best in the world. Just don’t tell the people from Dresden I said that.

Mulled wine


When asked what I liked about winter in Europe, this is always number one on my list. Warm wine with cinnamon, spices, and fruits. Drinking this as early as when the Christmas markets open is never judged. You need it to keep warm after all!



Confession: I like the taste but not the consistency. This one gets stuck in your teeth.



Deep fried dough served with ice cream. The Dutch really know how to party. This is traditionally eaten on New Year’s Eve but it never stopped me from buying it off the streets of Amsterdam even before Christmas.



An Italian sweet bread originally made in Milan, I bought one during a holiday trip to Italy with chocolates and I almost ate it all without sharing it with my husband. This has also gotten popular in the rest of Europe with German supermarkets selling them by November.

NURNBERG The Christkindlesmarkt is one of the oldest Christmas markets in the world

Quince cheese

Latin America

This sweet-tarty, thick jelly is made of the pulp of the quince fruit. Popular in Latin America, in Spain, but also in Provence for Christmas.



Another rice dessert but this time, with fruits and red berry syrup!



This is a fruit cake done right.



A type of nougat with three ingredients: almonds, egg whites, and thick meringue. It is traditionally manufactured in Jijona during the holidays.

Ube Halaya


Is it really a Filipino spread without a dessert made out of purple yam?



Crescent-shaped biscuits made of walnuts, almonds, or hazelnuts with a heavy dusting of vanilla sugar.



Another warmed up version of something that’s already good, this one is made from hot cider. It is traditionally part of “wassailing,” an ancient yuletide drinking ritual for a good harvest the following year.

Xmas Pudding


Another version of the fruitcake using dried fruits, it is kept moist with brandy.

Yule Log


The Swiss roll getting a chocolate makeover may not be too exciting for some but it’s a classic for a reason.



Cinnamon stars made mostly out of nuts.