Christmas can look very different depending on where you celebrate it. The climate and environment alone determine if you have a white Christmas by the fireplace or if you spend Christmas day soaking up the sun. While some countries have clear Christmas traditions, the cultural diversity in the U.S. has brought about a mix of different customs and rituals. Nevertheless, there are some festive favorites that are cherished from generation to generation.
Especially this year, culinary Christmas traditions are particularly important. Even if Christmas markets are closed, gatherings are limited, or snow doesn’t fall on Christmas morning, there is one guarantee: holiday cravings can be satisfied with Christmas treats, dishes and baked goods!
The nutcracker is a holiday classic – whether we are speaking about the whimsical ballet or the decorative nutcracker figurines. Originating in Europe, the nutcracker doll has found its way into the hearts and homes of many Americans. Thanks to the magnificent appearance of the wooden man and its connection to the popular ballet, it is seemingly impossible not to see a nutcracker this time of year. However, there is more to the ornament than its colorful display. As the name already implies, the authentic nutcracker provides the tools needed to crack open and enjoy one of the more healthier Christmas treats: nuts.
In many countries, nuts have been a part of Christmas traditions for years. Some may say that the nut craze around Christmas started when Saint Nicholas brought children nuts and oranges at the beginning of December. Others claim that the harvest time of these nuts is the reason for their seasonal popularity.
Either way, the ideal climate and environment of the United States produces a wide range of nuts for every palate. Well known as one of the nut empires, sunkissed California offers some of the best almonds and walnuts in the world. A strong community of farmers in the west coast, is dedicated to producing fresh and flavorful pistachios. If that wasn’t enough, the southern United States is well known for producing peanuts and, the North American native tree nut, pecans. Aside from being a tasty snack for in-between meals, nuts are a nutritious treat that make you feel good and can be enjoyed guilt-free.
Milk and Cookies
The holiday season would not be the same without sweet temptations. As Christmas music floods the radio, a wide variety of baked goods come out to play. Yet, it’s not just those with a sweet tooth that appreciate the sugar cookies and gingerbread being made. For many, the scent of freshly baked cookies is a delight of its own, making their homes feel cozy and warm.
Traditionally, children will bake Christmas cookies – starting with preparing the dough, then making shapes with cookie cutters and finally decorating their self-made treats with icing, chocolate or colorful candies. After all of the work, the cookies taste twice as good when followed by a large, cold glass of milk. The same can be said for Santa Claus. On Christmas Eve, children will set out a plate of cookies and a glass of milk next to their wish list. When morning comes, Santa will have eaten the cookies, taken a sip of his drink, and left gifts beneath the tree.
Since baking cookies is not enough, for many families it is also tradition to make gingerbread houses. While the ingredients for the houses can be store bought, any foodie knows how much better homemade gingerbread tastes. Having the right spices, baking equipment and high-quality ingredients, including the eggs, can make a huge difference when baking soft, yet solid gingerbread. Once the gingerbread house is assembled and embellished, you not only have a new Christmas decoration, but also a yummy treat for later.
Depending on family traditions, Americans gather together with family and friends for a festive feast on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Similar to Thanksgiving, there are a variety of dishes made with seasonal products. The main dish is typically roast turkey or ham on the dinner table. The aromatic and succulent roast turkey is often eaten for its delicious flavor. Aside from knowing what to do in the kitchen, paying attention to the origin and quality of the meat is the first step towards delivering a successful main course. U.S. turkey is versatile and tasty, making it a widely popular choice around the world.
Next to the meat and vegetables, you will typically find a vibrant looking cranberry sauce. Since the red berry is harvested in fall, they are often added to dishes or prepared in a sauce, providing a burst of flavor to the meal. Unlike some European countries, the gift exchange takes place on Christmas morning, allowing the dinner to be the highlight of the night.
As the nights grow colder, those lucky enough to have a fireplace can cuddle up by the crackling fire and get that ultimate winter holiday feeling. With or without a fireplace, it is possible to get in the spirit with some warm, spiced Christmas punch. The mix of wintery pomegranate, Florida Grapefruit, and U.S. cranberries together with spices such as cinnamon and star anise provide a fruity and strong flavor.
While the kids table can enjoy an alcohol-free version of this drink, the grown ups can add some gin or rum. The high-quality and versatility of Distilled Spirits made in the United States make them great to have and great to gift. As always, when enjoying this drink, it is important to note that things come best in moderation.
Whether it’s a Christmas punch, an apple cider or a hot cup of cocoa, relaxing with your favorite, warm winter beverage is a great way to get in the Christmas spirit. Food is often taken for granted, but this season shows us once again, that making a meal can be so much more. Happy Holidays!