When I was small, I got to have two Christmas dinners; one was classic American, with ham and all the traditional sides, and one was an Italian version.
On Christmas Eve, my nonna would spend all day cooking, and by the time she was done, we would be treated to multiple courses. We’d start with pasta topped with fish sauce and freshly grated parmesan, and lead into a course with calamari and fried shrimp, another with breaded steak and chicken cutlets with green bean salad, squid salad, and pan-fried peas, and then finish off with one of my all-time favorite foods: artichokes stuffed with sharp provolone cheese. We’d finish the meal with milky, extra-sweet coffee (even the kids), cracked nuts, and panettone with butter or homemade frittole. To me, there is no greater meal.
By the time I was in grade school, I realized that not every family celebrated the same way, and that our tradition was truly special. That’s why I’m always fascinated by other people’s food traditions; after all, the food makes the holiday. I asked around the office and the answers were as diverse as I imagined.
“I’m from Miami so we have a traditional Cuban meal on Christmas Eve: lechon asado con mojo (roast pork with mojo sauce), arroz con frijoles (rice and black beans), yuca frita, and Cuban bread.” –Kristen P-Z
“My family doesn’t stick to any particular food traditions, but on any major holiday or festivity, we drink Martinelli’s apple cider.” –Frances W
“I thought of zucchini quiche when you asked about my family’s food traditions, and I called my mom to ask her about the recipe’s origin. She mentioned a savory noodle pudding she used to make. She learned the recipe from my great grandma and has not made it in forever. She’s now going to make it for us on the holidays, so thanks for giving me an excuse to remind her!” –Mike K
“My family always has king crab legs, homemade coleslaw and scalloped oysters for Christmas Eve dinner. We make the food together, get dressed up in Christmas church outfits, eat, clean up, relax and go to church. The scalloped oysters are my favorite—super rich and super delicious!” –Tenley A
“For the holidays, we always do latkes and apple sauce, kasha varnishkes, and sometimes matzah brei (even though that’s more of a Passover dish, it’s always good!).” –Alisha A
“We always had this home-made spiked egg nog that my mom made and the joke was that you couldn’t drive home from Christmas dinner if you had more than one glass. It’s the #1 family must-have—there’d be Christmas riots without it.We also have a creamy mac and cheese recipe at home. At FreshDirect, there was a question as to whether to add mac and cheese to our holiday meals and now it’s the best-selling item every single holiday.” –Lindsay G
“Two words: sauerkraut casserole.” –John L
“My mom always makes scrambled eggs with herring roe on Christmas morning. It’s especially weird since my mom now lives in land-locked South Dakota, but her family was based in Maryland, so maybe that’s where the seafaring ingredient comes from. I’ve never been fond of this dish, but it’s somehow a family tradition.” –Leitha M
“Each Christmas Day we always have holiday crackers at my house for our big lunch. My mum diligently keeps the silly gadgets/toys in a tin box from each year we have been doing it, which is as long as I can remember. Then every year we open the box and go through some of them. It’s a great way to reminisce about past holiday meals and laugh at each other.” –Yves Y
“That is actually a serious holiday tradition at my house: EZ Cheese on Tostitos.” –Jean S
“My family loves food, and since I started cooking, I’ve made massive, complicated meals. I have family coming from Brazil this year and I am out of my mind with excitement. There will likely be giant slabs of beef. There are never leftovers—even the kids eat the fancy stuff. From braised short ribs with truffled polenta, to full roasts, to lobsters with foie gras. And my mom makes the best cookies in the world, including something called brigadeiro, a typical Brazilian confection made with cocoa and sweetened condensed milk.” –Chef Tina B