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Share your quirky holiday season food traditions

Last year I prompted the forum for holiday pastries/baked goods that mark the season, so this year I'm starting a thread on holiday food traditions that make the time special.
What marks this time of year in your household, and in your favorite travel destinations?

This week at an office party, we had Polish and Ukrainian coworkers who had one that's new to me:
Throwing wet barley up on the ceiling so it sticks. You have to let it fall down naturally or risk bad luck in the coming year.
They say they can see the remnants of years past on the ceilings of their relatives homes!
They also tell me that it's bad luck to count the number of pierogies you put in the big pot.

What quirky doings have you come across?

Posted by
2606 posts

A quirky Catalan holiday tradition we have is called Tió de Nadal. Instead of a Santa Claus we have this guy, which is a log of wood that sands up on two feet and has this smiling face. Children take good care of the log, keeping it warm with a blanket and feeding it, so that on Christmas Day, it defecates small candies and presents. One actually bashes this poor log with sticks, at the accompaniment of traditional songs, so that it poops out better presents or candies. The log is affectionately called the "Caga Tió" or "Shitting Log" in Catalan. Maybe this tradition is a bit toooo quirky... lol

Posted by
1893 posts

Wow, great example, Carlos!
I think the Caganer is preferable to the Krampus :-)

Posted by
846 posts

My grandmother, Isabella (née Barclay for Kirkcaldy) gave us her ancestors’ Scottish shortbread. There are dozens of variations on this classsic biscuit recipe but ours is the best. We’ve been making shortbread at Xmas for a bit less than one hundred years.

Posted by
1606 posts

We don’t have family in AZ so made our own traditions when we moved here 33 years ago. We make homemade pizza on Christmas Day using a modified recipe from my mother-in-law who modified it from her Italian mother’s recipe. For the past 30 years we have had a Christmas Day Pizza Open House for our friends, usually about 20-25 people who don’t have family here or want to escape their’s.

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas if I didn’t make my Grandma’s Rum Balls. My thighs can do without the variety of cookies and candy but I seldom bake the rest of the year.

We don’t put lights outside. I’m married to the Grinch and I don’t climb ladders. But I put up 10 Christmas trees of various sizes and decorated in themes ranging from crystal and silver to Santa’s to angels to horses. And that doesn’t count all the Santas in all the rooms. Snowmen are relegated to the guest bath.

Just sign me:
Mrs. Santa Claus

Posted by
1074 posts

My family is very German so while it isn't quirky we make molasses cookies every year.

Posted by
1219 posts

My grandma and now my mother make Oyster stew to eat around midnight on Christmas Eve. Don’t know where it comes from no one else I know makes oyster stew on Christmas Eve.

Posted by
4470 posts

Heather, I’ve heard of the oyster stew on Christmas Eve tradition. I grew up in the Midwest and heard it was a Catholic tradition in our area.

Jlkeman, my background is German, too. My grandmother made the best molasses cookies that were hard with a stiff white frosting. She also made a soft pinwheel cookie with a thin layer of date filling inside the pinwheel. Brings back sweet memories!

Posted by
921 posts

My friend in Germany sends me all the ingredients to make lebkuchen every year. It’s noy really quirky, but when I first introduced it to my family they thought you had the tear off the oblaten wafer to eat it. I also have started making fondue and raclette every year around Christmas. Raclette might be Swiss, but it was my German friends who introduced me to it.

Posted by
2472 posts

After visiting Amsterdam and few years ago and eating poffertjes everyday, we purchased the special pan and mix online when we returned. We now have them for breakfast every Christmas. Just waiting for my boxes of mix to arrive.

Posted by
519 posts

We’re Italian on my Dad’s side and Ukrainian on my Mom’s so our Christmas breakfast is panettone and pierogies with kielbasa. 🇮🇹 🇺🇦

Posted by
3551 posts

My British background lends itself to fruitcake taste yrly.
Sometimes up to 4-5 diff fruitcake combinations.

Posted by
3369 posts

We are fortunate to have Larsen's Danish Bakery near Seattle. They make the most delectable Kringle. They make 80,000 Kringle every year! It's our favorite holiday treat.

Posted by
1606 posts

It's baking week. So far today -- pistachio/cherry bark and peanut brittle. Next on list is Rum Balls. After a trip to the store for candy canes, I'll make peppermint fudge.
I'm allergic to chocolate, so no chocolate goodies. But one of our Christmas Day guests always bakes a bûche de Noël.
Wednesday and Thursday will be spent baking an assortment of cookies. Except for almond sugar cookies and mincemeat/marzipan tarts, I have no idea what the other batches will be. Depends on my muse and ambition.
Christmas Eve morning I'll bake a couple rum cakes. Fruitcake was made a month ago, a little late so it'll be very boozy.

Jingle bells! Jingle bells! Whoops, they spooked Logan the Christmas Pony!

Mrs. Santa Claus

Posted by
1893 posts

These are great stories, everyone! Thanks for sharing.

Another co-worker of mine explained that her mother came from a big family -- like a dozen siblings -- so she never learned to make small batches of tamales. At this time of year they would do about 250 tamales at a time!

If you think about it for moment, what's probably driving this to continue is that 10 kilos of masa will yield about that number of tamales. But it means you're using every burner in the house plus one or two set up in the back yard.

Posted by
1940 posts

Two things .... first one not that unusual, second one likely a Southern thing:

1) three layer chocolate cake (Hershey's cocoa recipe...back of box), topped with shaved dark chocolate, then topped with three chocolate mice (made with Hershey's kisses, a cherry, almond slices for ears, and a small rectangle cookie dipped in chocolate as a base) called the Traditional Chrismouse Cake.

2) Brown sugar bacon.....slightly thick bacon brought to room temp....pat with paper towels to remove any excess moisture, toss a few slices at a time in a ziplock bag with brown sugar.....shake to thoroughly coat. Bake on a flat rack with another on keep slices straight....with a drip pan under. My husband (heck anyone) LOVES the stuff. Many who love it casually call it "Crack Bacon." Can be habit forming, so this household has it only at Christmas (or at any party where my hubby gets lucky that it is on the table). Some like to stick a whole slice in a Bloody Mary with all the other drink trimmings. Real Crack Bacon fans might even crumble it on top of their favorite ice cream.......or on a salad. Purists, like my spouse, like to eat a whole strip by itself....but never stop at just one!!!!

Posted by
360 posts

Although we’re not Swiss or French we enjoy hosting our family and friends to Raclette dinners near Christmas. Then we go British for dessert with a Mincemeat and Lemon Curd trifle. The raclette dinners take most of the evening as it is fun and social to each cook our own dinner as we visit. We also attend other family dinners on Christmas Eve or day where the turkey is served so it’s nice to serve something different.