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Your Favorite Holiday Food Tradition

No other time of year is so richly steeped in tradition than the holiday season, and lucky for us, lots of those traditions involve cooking, eating and sharing great food. We’ve all got memorable dishes and must-make recipes connected to this time of year. Maybe it’s Uncle Charlie’s extra-strong eggnog or Grandma Ruth’s red cabbage sauté. How about your own famous scalloped potatoes or a special-batch baklava you make every New Year’s Eve? We want to know about your treasured holiday food tradition. Tell us about it in the comments section below by December 21 and we’ll pick a winner at random to receive a $50 Whole Foods Market® gift card. To get in the spirit, we asked some Team Members to share their favorite food traditions. From Mara: "Our family is part Puerto Rican and we celebrate Christmas each year with paella. My mother-in-law spends the entire day cooking and makes her own sofrito as the base seasoning for the rice. While I love Christmas dinner, my favorite is leftover paella — it seems to even be more flavorful the next day." From Anna: "When invited out on Christmas I ALWAYS bring a huge green salad with lots of crispy fresh veggies with mandarin sections and dried cranberries. I use a light lime dressing. It is a tangy wonder that offsets all of the heavy food we love to eat this time of year." From Jennifer: "The children in our Chinese-American family insist on traditional holiday food – stuffing, ham, turkey, cranberry sauce, casseroles — the works! A few years back, one of my cousins who isn’t big on cooking ordered noodles from a Chinese restaurant as his contribution. Now our holiday meals aren't complete without some takeout Chinese noodles — it's the one dish at our table guaranteed not to have any leftovers." From Elizabeth: "For the past four years, my nephew and I have baked molasses cookies while listening to the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack. The cookies have gotten tastier as he's gotten older, and now we know the songs by heart." From Betsy: "It's an unofficial Jewish tradition to go out for Chinese food on Christmas, so last Christmas Eve, my husband, in-laws and I decided to try a hole-in-the-wall Chinese barbecue joint. We enjoyed an amazing feast of Peking duck, hot and sour soup, fried rice, Chinese broccoli and all of the fixings. It was so good we now plan to ring in Christmas every year with Chinese barbecue." From Allison: "My husband’s family in Houston does tamales and chili every Christmas Eve. My mother-in-law makes the chili and the tamales come from our favorite Mexican restaurant down the street, and we open presents with plenty of hot sauce on the side." What’s your favorite food tradition of the holiday season? Share it with us by December 21 for the chance to win a $50 Whole Foods Market gift card. We can’t wait to hear about your festive feasting traditions! The fine print: No purchase necessary. Promotion ends December 21, 2011. Must be a legal resident of the US or Canada (except in Quebec, where it is void) age 18 or older to participate. Taxes on prize, if applicable, are the responsibility of the winner. Employees of Whole Foods Market, Inc., are not eligible. Void where prohibited.

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1104 comments

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Caroline says …

My family originates from Poland and our Christmas Eve tradition is making Pierogies, but meatless (Catholic tradition). We make three types: potato and cheese, sauerkraut, and prune. We boil them and keep them warm in the oven for dinner after mass. A butter and onion sauce is put over them and we have sour cream for the ones who want it! These take nearly all day to make, but are delicious - the secret is using leftover potato water in the dough to help seal them properly.

Jordana says …

Which one?!!! My mom's homemade pumpkin pie and rum balls. Recently I discovered a recipe for the yucky brussel sprouts and now is everyone's favourite.

shannalee says …

My favorite holiday food tradition is one we just started this year, the first Christmas my husband and I have been married: a holiday pie party. Part open house and part Christmas event, everyone brings a pie of their choice (or some other accompaniment) and we all share. This year, we made a brown butter cranberry tart with a hazelnut crust and a chocolate tart, and our friends brought lemon meringue, key lime meringue, pumpkin cream, candied apple, two kinds of ice cream, apple cider and wine. It was a nice twist on a cookie exchange or potluck, and we had so much fun.

Sarah Leibov says …

Latkes (potato pancakes) are a must have for most Jewish families during Hannukah. The smell of cooking potatoes and onions in oil can be overwhelming though. I tried to make them a few years ago and set off the smoke alarm (twice). Now I wait to eat them at my aunt's annual Hannukah party- she makes the best latkes!

Lorraine says …

On Christmas Eve my family will gather in the kitchen and make our traditional Italian Christmas Eve dinner. Each family member including the children has a job and a dish to help prepare. My kids LOVE this tradition and I hope it will carry on for many years with their families. Buon Natalie!

Karin says …

We used to do shortbread and gingerbread cookies, but my sister developped a wheat allergy and so we've moved to rely on chocolate macaroons and poppycock...not a bad trade-off, I'd say! As for non-dessert, my mom's mashed potato casserole is to die for. It's full of butter, sour cream and some other cheese too and is such rich creaminess with a bit of a crust from the oven bake that it is making my mouth water and tummy rumble as I write this.

Patti Martinez says …

Our favorite traditions are my granddaughter and I baking sugar cookies while decorating the tree and then on Christmas morning making cinnamon rolls before opening presents. Unfortunately this year my granddaughter will not be with me, she had to go back to her abusive mother, thanks to the court:-( She's a very unhappy eleven year old now, but when she gets to come visit, we love going to Whole Foods together. It's a fun place to shop!!

Lorraine says …

In San Francisco - Dungeness Crab on Christmas eve. It's so easy - melt butter in the microwave, whip up a simple green salad, pour a crisp white wine, cover the table in paper and start cracking!

Rebecca says …

My favorite traditions for the holidays are actually many! My family bakes cookies together, and we have multiple religions in our home, so we also enjoy a night of Hannukah with homemade Latkes....Then comes Yule on the Winter Solstice, and we have a rich spread of foods with hot mulled wine and cider. Finally for Christmas, we have sweet rolls or pancakes for breakfast, enjoy some smoked salmon and hors d' orderves, then we have a delightful family dinner... :) Whole Foods Market helps us pull it all off! :)

Molly Lavrans says …

Every year, my family celebrates Christmas Eve by preparing and eating a "Shepherd's Dinner" together, where we attempt to recreate the dinner that the shepherds in the Christmas story might have had eaten out in the field. We lay blankets down in the living room, and make a spread of foods that, in our minds, they might have eaten: flat bread, dates, grapes, sausage, olives, milk and honey, maybe a pomegranate or two. We would bring our stuffed animals and lay them around - some of which were applicable (sheep, camel, dogs) and some that maybe were not (penguins, dragons, prairie dogs). This tradition started when my siblings and I were but wee youngins, and it captured our imaginations so that we have continued every year since. While our historical accuracy may not be on point, this tradition holds a very special place in my heart.

Sri K. says …

I LOVE to bake and I always look forward to the holidays so I can bake to my heart's content - my family always looks forward to my pumpkin cheesecake for Thanksgiving and various cookies for Christmas.

Ann Marie McDonald says …

I am from Jamaica and my favorite thing is the rich fruit cake that we serve. It is not the American version of fruit cake. Ours is filled with prunes and raisins sometime cherries soaked in rum and wine. For the best flavor the fruit should be soaked for about a month ( or the whole year if you are a planner.) Some like theirs dry but I prefer a moist dense cake. So after it is baked keep dousing it with that rum and wine. :) Best thing EVER!

Jennifer Zunino says …

My holilday traditions are evolving this year .... I went vegan earlier in the year with my family attempting vegetarianism and it has changed most every aspect of our typical holiday fare. Change is good and is helping to make my family and myself healhier, more compassionate humans. We are trying recipes for cookies, classics and more, all with a new twist. I love that no matter what we are in it together and really enjoying the holidays!

Carol says …

Our African American family added a regular non Thanksgiving dish to our feast...Lasagna! So every year when we had family gatherings somebody would make a huge pan. Another non Turkey Day dish was shrimp and yellow rice. Awesome!

katie says …

My family has fondue when we get together for Christmas. This has been our holiday tradition since I was a small child and its wondeful to share it my children now.

Mona says …

Growing up, my family did not have a very healthy lifestyle. I was always told that Brussels sprouts were "horrid little cabbages" and that any kind of greens were nasty, slimy things. Having taken the time to educate myself about health and fitness while in college, I was mindful when creating my own holiday menu for my family. It includes Brussels sprouts glazed with balsamic vinegar and kale simmered with garlic, onions, and ham. In 2001, my parents came for their first Thanksgiving at my house and I made them each take two bites of the new foods, just as they had done with me when I was a child. To their shock, they loved both dishes. So my favorite holiday food tradition is making my parents eat their veggies!

Patti says …

A Christmas Food Tradition in our home is my special seasoned brisket! It's an old family recipe. It cooks slow in the oven for 6 hours making our mouths water the entire time. It just wouldn't be Christmas without it!!

April M says …

Our family loves to make my husband's grandmother's homemade recipe for dinner rolls. It definitely is a multi step process but well worth it and fun to hear my husband say they taste just like his grandma's!

Rachel Hong says …

Every year on Christmas Day, my family from my father's side would gather at my grandparents' house. Although my aunts and uncles have lived here for over 20 years, they cannot go through a day without eating Kimchi (Korean Spicy Cabbage). We would have American dishes like glazed ham, mashed potatoes, lasagna, and sweet corn. However, there would be a big bowl of kimchi in the middle and another bowl filled with rice. For dessert, we top it off my having a family gingerbread house competition and a toast with Korean rice wine (makeoli) which is my family's version of a classic egg nog!

Erika says …

On Christmas Eve we eat fish. E.g. Salmon baked in the oven.

Regis says …

Using up our left over turkey to make turkey hash is my holiday tradition, done in tribute to my Grandma who taught us creative ways to use left overs and leave behind less waste. Her turkey hash along side a bucket of Texas iced tea was always a treat! I make this every year, but leave out the shortning from her recipe and throw in chopped spinach.

Chris says …

Mine has to be making and decorating the little christmas cookies. Nothing else makes it feel like xmas until the christmas cookies are lined up out of the oven.

Kathy Gervasio says …

Our tradition is stufoli...italian honeyballs. As there was no recipe we all got together with my inlaws and as we made them measure and when she said "it needs to feel right "we made up the recipe. This was all video taped. As my beloved mother in law passed this year at 96 years old we will make them in her memory carrying on the tradition for a new generation, maybe watching the video for insipration and a few tears I am sure.

marina says …

12 days of baking with my family using old traditional recipes that have been passed in my family for generations. Christmas eve we gather for a all seafood day, and Christmas day is a meat feast, both accompanied with all goodies baked ahead of time.

Robin says …

Every year after my husband, kids and I decorate the Christmas tree, we indulge in ice cream sundaes!

jenn huff says …

every year i make a cranberry relish that mu husband's grandmother had made. she passed the same year i met my husband so although i never got to meet her i get to be part of her by making this for him every year taking him back to a special place in his heart that he shares with his grandmother

Christine says …

My favorite holiday tradition is making Christmas cookies.

Krista says …

For as long as I can remember, my family has made dozens and dozens of cinnamon rolls to share with our friends and family around Christmas. Almost nothing smells better than fresh cinnamon rolls!

Leane L. DeFranicis says …

We have a tradition on Christmas Eve of having a German meal. Fleish soup, German bread,cold cuts and a variety of cheeses.

Martha Mattes says …

We always used to eat Stollen (a German Christmas bread) on Christmas morning. My grandmother (first generation in the U.S.) made it, and after her passing my mother carried the tradition on. We would be munching on Stollen for ages, since the recipe made so much. I haven't made Stollen in several years due to my busy schedule-it is truly an all-day project. But I'll probably purchase or order some. Fröhliche Weihnachten!

L. Cerasuolo says …

Peanut butter kiss cookies - the only thing my mother ever baked from scratch and now I bake them with my own daughter. A lot of singing, dancing, and laughing can be found on our recipe.

Ana says …

Tradition for my family is making our Christmas meal together! In Venezuela we make Hallacas, similar to tamales, that we only eat at Christmas time. Really good homemade Hallacas filled with the best meat and pork, plus all the special seasoning and veggies my mom makes! Nothing beats this special meal, accompanied by chicken salad, pork and the best bread with ham! Just thinking about it, makes me hungry! Oh wait... i am missing desserts~

Seth says …

My family makes beef stroganoff every Christmas Eve, an unusual holiday meal choice.

Ali says …

Unfortunately like so many, I am from a broken and troubled family - so we had no Christmas traditional foods to speak of. However as an adult and a member of a very special Anonymous fellowship, we host a 3 day (72 hours) gathering with back-to-back meetings and delicious Food brought by members. This gathering is open to anyone who desire unity, support, and HOPE thru the Holidays. Therefore, I have made it part of My Christmas tradition to always bring something healthy, delicious and comforting. Every year I try a new healthy receipt and my dishes have always been a hit. I now have a Wonderful reputation in my Cincinnati Community for being a "Great Cook!" - more importantly, my being of services has filled me with the true meaning and spirit of Christmas.

Pip Hunt says …

My mum and I immigrated from the UK when I was a child. Her mince pie recipes are the best around! She uses almond meal instead of wheat flour and adds a scoop of brandy butter on top before sealing the mini pies with their lids. We warm them slightly and nibble on them with a warm cup of tea after a day on the slopes. This year, my mum is in Australia studying for her master yachtsmen, so it's up to me to replicate them.....

Kathryn says …

Every Christmas Eve since I was a baby my grandmother made ciopinno loaded with shellfish and crab legs...nothing made Christmas like the smell of ciopinno cooking in the kitchen. Now that I've moved across country and have my own children, it's been many years since I've had Christmas with my entire family but that's a tradition I've carried with me to this day. Ciopinno every year on Christmas Eve but now with my own homemade French baguettes. I absolutely refuse to make it any other day of the year :)

Janice Lilburn says …

My favorite dessert tradition is my grandmother's cheesecake, it is not your traditional cheesecake. It is made with ricotta and lady fingers and topped with strawberries. It is the yummiest cheesecake in the world! I never knew there was a different type of cheesecake until I went to the cheesecake factory when I was in college for the first time! My grandmother has declared herself off duty now. After raising 9 of her own kids and taking care of most of the grandchildren and great grandchildren I think we can grant her time off. But the recipe has been passed to me and not her children! I hope I don't mess it up! Wish me luck!

atxitmom says …

I can't believe I'm sharing this with Whole Foods, but since it's my ex-husband's tradition, I'll blame him ;-) On Christmas Eve, they have Chef Boy-ar-dee canned ravioli. I continue this on for our daughter. For my family, we often have "silkies" on Christmas day. They are similar to crepes or Norwegian pancakes. They are thin and generally spread with butter and brown sugar, rolled up, sliced in half, then eaten. Yum!

Kelly says …

We are trying to start new food traditions. We are tired of turkey and big amount of a meat product so we are trying more side dishes including vegetarian and raw dishes.

Cheryl flynn says …

My mother for over 50 yrs has made greek butter cookies. As an adult I have had this cookie with my coffee in the early hours of xmas morning by myself before the kids and husband awake. As someone who can cook pretty good....i just cannot make them like she does. She is in her 70.s now and one of my neices is learning the technique. I am not sure if they will ever be the same as Mom.s....but I will relish this cookie again this year. Let me point out, that she brings me the cookies xmas eve day, so I am sure to have it in the morning

Kris Liane Norbraten-DuVernay says …

When I was a child my grandparents (from the coast in East Texas) and parents made turkey gumbo on Christmas Eve while my Grandpa dressed up like Santa. Now, in my 30s, my husband and I live in Colorado and have brought the tradition back to life. We roast the turkey then boil parts down to make an amazing, nutrient-rich bone broth; we make a home-made (gluten free) roux then make the gumbo like my Grandmother and Mom used to make. It takes me back and tastes amazing.

Sarah Melusky says …

The Italian side of my family does the seven fishes on Christmas Eve. We have a birthday cake for Jesus' on Christmas day after dinner to celebrate the real meaning of the holiday. Pork and saurkrat new years day is a popular polish tradition in my family. They say to start the new year with pork because pigs only move forward.

Gina says …

Christmas food tradition in my family would be posole,carne adovada,tamales and appetizers on Christmas eve. Then when you are full of warm,spicy goodness its time to go to Old Town Albuquerque and see the beautiful Luminarias in the Plaza.

Cathrine says …

Christmas is my most favorite holiday!! My parents are from Norway, therefore we have a very scandinavian holiday. My mom cooks, bakes, and preps for weeks prior to Jul, while my dad is in charge of the glog!! Christmas eve we go to church early evening, then come home, drink glogg and chit chat while dinner is finishing up. Then we gather around the table for a crown roast and bratwurst! After dinner we open gifts, drink more glog, akvavit, coffee, cookies...ect and have a great time!! Christmas Day close family friends come over and we have a typical norwegian smorgasbord filled with eggs, salmon, herring, ham, meatballs, potatoes and sardines, ect. It is definetly the best time of year!!!

JB says …

We are changing tradition this year and doing Italian: pastas, antipasti, breads, wine... Tiramisu!

Rainy says …

My favorite tradition of the holiday season is getting together with family and friends being surrounded by love. The smells coming from the kitchen while I help my mom and step dad bake, cookies, pies, etc. also warm the heart. One of my favorite dishes is my step dad's cheese cake drizzled with carmel sauce and fudge! It's the best of the season!

Jill says …

I LOVE MY MOTHER'S POTATO SALAD BECAUSE IT IS SWEET & THE WHOLE FAMILY BEGS HER TO MAKE IT!

Marla says …

Without a doubt, I could not have a Hanukkah celebration without frying dozens and dozens of thin, crisp potato pancakes! Paired with homemade applesauce, we never have enough, no matter how many I make. I serve a crock pot sweet & sour brisket (very easy) for the perfect holiday meal.

Brenda Gallagher says …

My husband's family used to all gather at his grandparents' house for Christmas where she would make a wonderul spread of food and he has very fond memories of those times. She passed away shortly after we got together and although I never had the chance to meet her my husband has shared all the wonderful memories. He says I cook a lot like her and I love that he can have a little taste of grandma's cooking. One of the things she always made were chicken livers wrapped in bacon, I don't eat them but I make sure to make them every year for him and our girls, and now our friends love them too so we have a new tradition of getting together with them and he can enjoy them with friends!

Lisa Rodriguez says …

Our favorite holiday food tradition is a wonderful nut loaf with halloumi cheese in it! We love ham too.

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