CHRISTMAS may be a shared tradition it is nevertheless a very personal thing.

Often have friends discussed their own festive customs - whether presents are opened first thing, what meat is the star of the show - but it is always Christmases abroad that fascinate me more.

The 25th is a big day, as we know and are reminded of from November, in this country as it is with our fellow English speaking brothers and sisters across the pond in the US and down under in Australia and New Zealand - although there's is more centred around barbecues in the heat of the summer sun.

But head east towards Germany and Eastern Europe and you will find the majority of the celebration happens on Christmas Eve.

In Spain, Navidad (Christmas) is marked, but it is Nochebuena (Christmas Eve) that is the big occasion comprising a large family dinner that can even last until 6am!

The dishes are often sea-oriented including salmon or shellfish such as prawns, followed by either more of a fish feast or roast lamb.

If you fancy a taste of the continent, Peter Hutchinson Butcher, Greenodd, has a pre-Christmas offer of 24 lamb chops at £30.

Or why not give a nod to South America where they enjoy lechon - a pig/hog roast - and opt for belly pork at £5.50/kilo.

Feeling French? Cartmel Cheeses has Vacherin Mont d'or - the original camembert at £15 each, great for a fondue.

Or go for Martin Gott's very own French-inspired St James at £35.48/kilo - a washed rind unpasteurised ewe's milk cheese.

William Peat, Sedbergh, has a new Italian baker creating pizzas with various toppings at £1 per slice to get you in the continental spirit. Or order a Gressingham Goose at £13.20/kilo for an alternative to turkey.

Greenlands Farm Village, Carnforth, has Italia in Tavola's classic bruschetta at £1.99/150g bag. And if it's a taste of Germany that tickles your festive fancy, they have marzipan stollen by Cottage Delight at £4.25.

In Germany, celebrations begin in the afternoon of Heiligabend (meaning Hole Evening, or Christmas Eve).

Along with lebkuchen (gingerbread), stollen and mulled wine are synonymous with popular Christmas markets even here in Britain.

Staff of Life, Kendal, has homemade stollen with almonds, orange, lemon, raisins, cherries, gift wrapped at £3 a loaf.

In keeping with the Germanic theme, Bowland Bridge Stores has mulled wine by Harvest Fruits at £3.49/7cl or Vivani Winter Chocolate - organic milk chocolate with spiced biscuits at £2.35/100g.

If stollen's not for you, Ingleton's Country Harvest has a home made sticky tea loaf at £4.95.

And finally, how about giving a nod to our Polish friends where they observe the traditional eve supper Wigilia - a supper started with the breaking of a Christmas wafer.

Try your hand at borscht, a beetroot soup popular across Eastern Europe with English beetroots at 99p/kilo from Powells Greengrocers, Sedbergh.

They also have Tunisian dates at 65p/pack, large persimmons (or Sharon fruit) at 69p and large Spanish pomegranates at 50p each to give your taste buds a break from the norm.