Holiday Food Traditions


A bûche de noël cake

Faith Smith, Community

All over the world, people celebrate Christmas. A variety of traditional foods are made at this time of year. Some are tasteful side dishes, like apple and sausage stuffing from Germany. And, of course, there are wonderful desserts like bûche de noël from France and buñuelos from Latin America. Most cultures have the same main dish for Christmas: turkey. Others have duck, ham, goose, or lamb. Dinner wouldn’t be complete without drinks, like malt og appelsín from Iceland. Everyone has their own Christmas food traditions. Many different cultures often influence these traditions. 

Each country has its own ‘traditional Christmas cookie’; for Germany, it’s heidesand (brown butter shortbread cookies). This cookie is tender and buttery, with a nutty, caramelized flavor from the brown butter. In France, it’s their chocolate truffles, a combination of crème fraiche (similar to sour cream but heavier and slightly milder), vanilla, and cocoa covered with melted chocolate. Latin America has a delicious, buttery cookie, similar to shortbread cookies, called polvorones. And last but not least, Iceland has a cookie similar to gingersnaps: piparkökur or pepper cookies.

Not all food traditions are influenced by culture. The first weekend of December at my house consists of decorating and making Muddy Buddies, a combination of Chex cereal, peanut butter, and chocolate covered in powdered sugar. My family usually has to make a large batch because of how good it is. Another holiday food tradition is boxes of cookies to give as gifts. Sugar cookies are, of course, a staple of Christmas sweets and are a treat I enjoy making. Another cookie in the cookie boxes is a maple pecan thumbprint cookie; a simple shortbread cookie pressed into chopped pecans with a thumb-sized indent in the center filled with a maple flavored frosting. Although it’s not a cookie, homemade fudge is a third sweet in the boxes. We usually add another cookie, but it changes by year. Last year it was chocolate-peppermint macarons. Another time it was rolos between pretzels.

No matter your culture we are all connected by delicious food traditions during the holiday season. It could be making food together, sharing it with friends and family, or simply knowing that there’s someone out there who shares a similar tradition to you. There is no denying that love for food is universal.