Forget the presents, Christmas is all about what you're eating and drinking – from what's actually on the table come lunchtime on the Big Day to all those delicious chocolates, treats and desserts you get to enjoy in the festive lead-up or during your Boxing Day comedown. Not to mention the beautifully boxed puddings, shortbreads and sweets that make great gifts for friends, teachers (or yourself!).
This year, perhaps more than ever before given the challenges we've all faced, we've all got a reason to treat ourselves with something delicious or a little bit indulgent this Christmas.
What are we expecting to see on festive tables?
Editor-in-chief of delicious magazine, Samantha Jones, says, "After the year that was, people are looking to have the most sparkling festive season they can muster, and luxurious celebrations will take us through summer.
"There is an element of nostalgia in what people are looking to include on the festive table, and a beautiful glazed ham shows no signs of losing its position centre stage, but there's also creativity in the air with newfound skills refined in lockdown kitchens.
After the year that was, people are looking to have the most sparkling festive season they can muster, and luxurious celebrations will take us through summerSamantha Jones, editor-in-chief, delicious magazine
"Convenience will be key in some households to allow more time for celebrating with loved ones they've missed. There's a sense of community in the air from our shared experience, and the importance of supporting Aussie farmers and producers is a message consumers have received loud and clear this year, and I'm sure we'll see this reflected in our festive menus."
The major supermarkets – Woolworths, Coles, Aldi and IGA – have each now launched their festive ranges to help you plan your feasting. From treats that celebrate Australian producers and ingredients to plant-based options, readymade items that take the hassle out of festive entertaining and eco products for a more sustainable Christmas, here's a taste of what's on offer.
Supporting local producers and exploring native Australian ingredients is a focus of many of the products in this year's festive ranges from Coles, Woolworths, Aldi and IGA.
Interesting native ingredients such as Davidson plum, wildflower honey and macadamia appear in products such as the Woolworths Gold Gin and Davidson Plum Fruit Mince Tarts and Woolworths Gold White Chocolate and Macadamia Tarts (both $9 for six).
Supporting local producers and exploring native Australian ingredients is a focus of many of the products in this year's festive ranges
Davidson plum, a native NSW plum with a soft juicy pulp with a sharp acidity, also features in the Coles Bakery Pear and Davidson Plum shortbread, which scored 64% in our recent shortbread taste test. You'll also find it in Coles' first ever 'turducken' that's available this year – a three-bird combo of turkey, duck and chicken with a Davidson plum, five spice and pistachio stuffing.
A spokesperson from IGA tells us its entire festive range is made in Australia and designed to highlight artisan producers. Woolworths says that most of the 80 new products in its festive range are also created by Australian producers.
Aldi's Christmas ham, turkey and tiger prawns are all Australian. There's also its Aussie-made Pecan, Fig and Burnt Caramel Nougat ($4.99), which is from its new festive Curated Collection – a deluxe collection of treats in chic black and white packaging.
Aldi's new Curated Collection festive range combines nostalgic sweets and luxe gourmet products for treating and giving as gifts.
Woolworths estimates that more than 900,000 Christmas puddings, 639,000 rum balls and 13 million fruit mince pies will be whisked off their shelves in the lead up to Christmas this year – so it seems Australia's love of traditional treats is still going strong.
But tradition at Christmas means different things to different people. If, for you, Christmas means buttery shortbread, our expert CHOICE taste test panel graciously sampled 10 supermarket shortbreads (including this year's offerings from IGA, Woolies and Coles) to help you decide which one you should buy this year.
All supermarkets have the usual ham offerings. But if you're looking for something classic but with a twist, the Coles Crackling Victorian Ash Smoked Rib Rack Roast Ham ($24/kg) comes as a six-rib rack and is made from Australian sow-stall-free pork.
Australia's love of traditional treats is still going strong
For sweet gifts or nibbling while you open the pressies on Christmas morning, the Aldi Curated Collection range has some luxe-looking fudge that gives a nod to British nostalgia ($4.99/150g). Made in Yorkshire, UK, it comes in butter, clotted cream, gingerbread, salted caramel and Canadian maple flavours.
If you're used to hunting down products in Aldi stores that have already been snapped up and you're worried about availability, Aldi tells us they are prepared for stock of their Curated Collection to be available in all stores throughout the lead up to Christmas.
CHOICE tip: Check out our handy tips on how to save time and money on your online grocery shopping.
Although you may choose to buy your ham from a local butcher or supplier, all the supermarkets have plenty of options.
Although ham, pork and seafood are regulars on many Aussie Christmas tables, perhaps this is the year you try a turducken? First popularised in the US, the three-bird roast – turkey and duck wrapped in a deboned chicken – is now popping up more regularly in our Aussie Christmas supermarket ranges. As well as the Coles turducken, Aldi has a frozen version with cranberry and apple stuffing for $29.99/1.5kg.
And for some unusual but intriguing additions to the festive spread, Coles is slinging cheeseburger spring rolls and Aldi is selling a Popping Candy and Prosecco Honeycomb ($4.99/250g) – surely providing some tasty talking points for your festive gathering.
This vegan chocolate mudcake from Woolworths is one of the new plant-based festive products on offer at the major supermarkets.
Vegan options have surged in popularity in recent years and the number of plant-based products on Australian supermarket shelves has visibly increased. Christmas is no different, with both Coles and Woolies offering a plant-based roast again this year, plus plenty of other veg-forward, plant-based alternatives for a vegan or vegetarian feast.
Vegan options have surged in popularity in recent years
A spokesperson for Woolworths says it's seen a 20% jump in demand for its vegan Plantitude line compared with last year and they are launching five new plant-based products especially for Christmas this year, including a vegan chocolate hazelnut mud cake and a dairy-free brandy custard.
Plant-based taste test
But what do these plant-based products taste like – and are they a worthy addition to your spread? We put the Coles plant-based roast head to head with the Woolworths version to see which one tastes the best. Here are some of the plant-based options you can add to your festive table:
- Woolworths Plantitude Plant Based Christmas Roast Cranberry ($15)
- Coles Plant-based Christmas Roast with Sweet Tomato Chutney
- Woolworths Vegan Cauliflower & Mushroom Wellingtons ($8)
- Woolworths Plantitude Vegan Petite Meringue Nests ($6).
Coles also says, "The Coles Bakery has expanded its dessert range to include more sweet treats suitable for vegans including new Coles Meringue Kisses, Coles Finest Mirror Glaze Chocolate and Salted Caramel desserts, matured Christmas pudding and a gluten-free fruit cake."
Anything that takes the stress out of hosting Christmas is welcome. The supermarkets have come to your aid this year with plenty of readymade 'cheat' products you can mix and match – so you can spend less time in the kitchen and more time making merry with your guests.
From a ready-to-bake Woolworths Gold Glaze & Bake Ham with Davidson Plum & Honey Glaze ($12.00/kg) – there's that native Davidson plum again – to IGA's Decorated Hanging Shortbread Cookies ($9.50 for a six-pack) that come with a ribbon detail for hanging as decorations, there are some handy options available.
Products to help you put on a cheat's Christmas spread
- Hate beating eggwhites? IGA Pavlova with Caramel Swirl ($14)
- Options for mains with less fuss: IGA Beef Wellington ($15); Aldi Lobster Tails with Garlic Butter Glaze ($29.99 for two); Coles Festive Hot Smoked Salmon with Maple Glaze
- Easy-to-prepare sides: Woolworths Gold Truffle Prosciutto and Potato Salad Kit ($10); Aldi Specially Selected Honey Glazed Parsnips ($2.99); Aldi Specially Selected potato gratin mushroom and truffle ($4.99)
- Readymade showstopper desserts: Woolworths Gold Dulce De Leche Trifle ($22); Woolworths Gold Hunter Valley Shiraz & Chocolate Pudding ($16.50).
Coles and Woolies are offering more sustainable options for decorations and bon bons.
Our waste output is estimated to rise by almost a third (30%) at Christmas, which is not a jolly statistic. There are lots of things you can do to limit your eco footprint at this time of year, including buying fewer products (especially those likely to end up in landfill), reusing what you already have, or making an effort to buy more gifts and decorations made from more sustainable materials.
Coles and Woolworths have both made an effort this year to make Christmas a little more sustainable. Woolworths says it has omitted 37.5 tonnes of plastic from its Christmas range this year, including packaging on selected cards, light and bon bons (including the toys inside the bon bons).
Coles is touting its "most sustainable Christmas ever" – it now has a range of 100%-plastic-free and recyclable festive crackers made from FSC paper and 100% recyclable and plastic-free (including glitter) greeting cards, hanging decorations and some wooden children's toys.
CHOICE tip: There are lots of things you can do to be more eco friendly at Christmas – check out our Christmas recycling dos and don'ts to find out the best ways to deal with Christmas waste, from wrapping paper to batteries to Christmas trees.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.