Christmas Traditions- Christmas Dinner

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Christmas is celebrated around the world and each region has their own traditions and favorite dishes to serve. We have collected a few of our favorite traditions from around the globe.

India: A favoritVindalooe Christmas dish in India is Vindaloo. Vindaloo consists of pork marinaded in wine and garlic. A favorite dessert is Bebinca, a type of pudding.

France:  In France a celebration called Reveillon takes place during the evenings leading up to Christmas. Reveillion means “waking” in French and the participants stay up until midnight or later. During the celebration turkey with chestnuts is most commonly served. 

Eastern Europe:  Many Eastern European countries fast during the days leading up to Christmas. To celebrate on Christmas Eve 12 meatless dishes are served. The fast is officially over on Christmas Day. meatballs

Sweden:  In Sweden a traditional Christmas dinner consists of three courses:

— fish: usually a pickled herring and salmon

— cold cuts of meat: sausage, head cheese, and most importantly ham

— warm dishes: meatballs and small fried sausages

Honduras:  Tamales and roasted pork are common Christmas dishes in Honduras. For dessert eggnog and torrejas, a dish similar to french toast, are common.


Australia:  In Australia Christmas falls during the hot summer months so cold meats and seafood are more common than baked dishes for ‘Christmas Lunch’. Barbecues are also common ways to celebrate Christmas.

Many of us have heard the line “now bring us some figgy pudding” in the Christmas carol “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” Christmas_puddingbut what exactly is figgy pudding and why did they want some? Figgy pudding got its start in 16th century England. It can be prepared by baking, boiling, frying, or steaming in the oven. Other names for figgy pudding are: Christmas pudding or plum pudding. Traditionally everyone in the household should help make the figgy pudding, or at least help stir it. As each person stirs the mixture they should make a wish.

Want to make your own figgy pudding? Try this recipe from the Food Network:


1 1/2 cups chopped dried pitted dates
1/2 cup chopped dried figs
2 cups water
1 teaspoon baking soda
100 grams (3 1/2 ounces or 7 tablespoons) butter, softened
1 cup superfine sugar
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups self-rising flour
75 grams (2 1/2-ounces) dark chocolate, grated
Butter, for coating ramekins
Ice cream or whipped cream, for garnish
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups heavy cream
200 grams (7-ounces or 14 tablespoons) butter
Fresh figs, quartered, for garnish
Vanilla ice cream, optional
Whipped heavy cream, optional
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Add the dates, dried figs and water to a medium saucepan and bring to boil over medium heat. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the baking soda. Let cool for about 5 minutes, then add to a blender and puree.

Using a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl. Add the eggs and beat well. Fold in the flour, the pureed date mixture and the chocolate.

Put the mixture into 4 buttered, 1-cup individual ramekins, filling halfway or slightly under. Put in the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

Prepare the sauce by stirring the sugar, cream and butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Simmer until the sugar dissolves. Raise the heat and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the butter and stir until incorporated.

Remove the ramekins from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes. May be served in the ramekin or unmolded onto a small serving plate. With paring knife cut a cross in the top of the puddings for the sauce.

Pour the sauce into the cross in the center of each pudding, then pour more sauce over the puddings and it allow to soak in slightly. Top with fresh figs and vanilla ice cream or heavily whipped cream. Serve warm.

A viewer, who may not be a professional cook, provided this recipe. The Food Network Kitchens chefs cannot make representation as to the results.

Recipe courtesy Jade Thompson

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Christmas Traditions- Coal for the bad kids

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We’ve all heard it before- if you don’t straighten up all you’re getting for Christmas is coal! Some of us have even been known to have said this a time or two. But why does Santa leave the naughty kids coal?Lump-Of-Coal-Cachette

One theory is that coal was left for the children of poor families because their families were bad. It was believed by many that the poor were made poor as a punishment for their previously bad actions. Santa would leave coal for these children to burn under their beds to keep warm during the long winter nights. With this story the coal is less of a punishment and more of a gift.

Another theory is that when Santa came down the chimney to give presents for the children in the home he would arrive and then realize there was a child living there that had misbehaved. Not knowing what to give this unruly child Santa would grab the first thing he could find- coal from the fireplace.

downloadSome believe that the tradition of leaving coal for naughty kids shares an origin story with the tradition of stockings. When St. Nicholas left dowry money for the loving father that did not have any money for his daughter the news of his charity spread quickly. Other families started leaving stockings out for St. Nicholas to leave money  in. When St. Nicholas arrived in the home of an undeserving child, or adult, he would leave only coal.

12 Days of Christmas Traditions- Cookies for Santa


It is pretty widely known that Santa loves cookies. That jolly guy just can’t get enough of them. The origin of Santa’s love for cookies and why we leave them out for him is a little unclear. Here are the four best explanations for why we leave cookies for Santa.

1) As part of the Feast for Jolly Old St. Nick children would leave snacks out for him overnight. In the morning the snacks would be replaced by gifts.

2) Before Christmas trees many families had paradise trees. These trees were covered with fruit and baked goods. Santa liked to snack download (1)on these decorations as he traveled from house to house. As time progressed many families switched from edible decorations to decorations made of paper and glass. Without snacks to keep Santa energized he would become very tired so families started leaving him cookies made just for him.

3) In Norse Mythology Odin, ruler of the gods and Asgard, has an eight legged horse named Sleipnir who accompanies Odin on his Odin,_Sleipnir,_Geri,_Freki,_Huginn_and_Muninn_by_FrølichYuletide hunt. Children would leave snacks out to attract Sleipnir, hoping that they would stop by their house. Many Dutch families continued the tradition. This may also be the origin of spreading ‘Reindeer Dust’ in your front yard to attract Santa’s reindeer.

4) During the Great Depression many families were left with next to KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAnothing and barely had enough to survive never mind give out gifts. Many parents feared this would make their children greedy. In an effort to promote sharing parents urged their children to leave gifts for Santa.

Christmas Traditions- Christmas Carols


Like many of our modern Christmas traditions carols began in Europe with the pagans. During the Winter Solstice, on the shortest day of the year-December 21st or December 22nd, people would gather and sing and dance around stone circles. These songs were called ‘carols’. These celebrations were extremely popular and when many pagan worshipers converted to Christianity they kept this tradition. Early Christian carols were songs of praise and worship and were often sang during plays in the 1400s.


In English the word ‘carol’ means dance or song of praise and joy. Before becoming purely a Christmas tradition carols download (1)were popular at birthdays, weddings, and other holidays. With the rise of Puritanism and Oliver Cromwell in England in 1647 singing carols in public was stopped. Many families chose to continue sing carols privately, in their own homes. The Victorian Era saw carols rise to popularity again. The image of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and their family by their Christmas tree and Charles Dickens’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ inspired the Christmas spirit in many and carols were once again heard. In Victorian England taking money from strangers could get you arrested and charged as a beggar so many carolers when gifted money by the public ended up being charged! To avoid being charged as a beggar many carolers would be lead by local officials who were allowed to accept money from the public. These singers would called the “Waits”.

What is the most common Christmas carol? This is a loaded question and almost everyone has a different answer. But many probably believe “JungleMariah_Struts_Her_Stuff Bells” is the most popular Christmas carol. The origin of this popular tune is a little fuzzy but most believe it was written in 1850 in New England by James Pierpont. The other popular origin story is that Pierpont wrote the song in the 1820s while he was the Choir Director at the Jingle Bells Church.

Jingle Bells

Dashing through the snow,
In a one horse open sleigh
Over the fields we go
Laughing all the way.
bells on bob tail ring
making spirits bright
What fun it is to ride and sing
A sleighing song tonight.

Oh jingle bells jingle bells
jingle all the way!
Oh what fun
it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh, Hey!
Jingle bells jingle bells
Jingle all the way!
Oh what fun it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh

A day or two ago
I thought I’d took a ride
And soon Miss Fannie Bright
Seated by my side
The horse was lean and lank
Misfortuned seemed his lot
He got into a drifted bank
And we got upsot

Oh jingle bells jingle bells
jingle all the way!
Oh what fun
it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh, Hey!
Jingle bells jingle bells
Jingle all the way!
Oh what fun it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh

A day of two ago
The story I must tell
I went out on the snow
And on my back I fell;
A gent was riding by
In a one-horse open sleigh
He laughed a there I sprawling lie
But quickly drove away

Oh jingle bells jingle bells
jingle all the way!
Oh what fun
it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh, Hey!
Jingle bells jingle bells
Jingle all the way!
Oh what fun it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh


Christmas Traditions- Mistletoe


A sprig of mistletoe hung over a doorway during Christmas remains one of the season’s most beloved holiday traditions and it has a pretty cool and ancient history. This tradition dates back to the ancient Druids. It is said that the mistletoe has mystical powers which bring good luck and ward off evil spirits. The Druids also saw mistletoe(2)mistletoe as a symbol of peace and joy. Whenever enemies met under the mistletoe in the forest, they had to lay down their arms and observe a truce until the next day. It is possible that kissing under the mistletoe came from this custom as it is a sign of friendship and goodwill.

Whether the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe came from the ancient Druids or not it was a common Christmas tradition in under_the_mistletoe_by_thesugarbaby-d5mvq8eEngland by the 18th Century. There are several traditions associated with kissing under the mistletoe.  First that it was a custom to pick a berry from the sprig of Mistletoe before the person could be kissed and when all of the berries were gone, there could be no more kisses. A second tradition states that exchanging a kiss between a man and a woman was adopted as a promise to marry. At Christmas a young lady standing under the mistletoe could not refuse a kiss. The kiss could have many meanings including deep romance, lasting friendship, and goodwill. It was thought that if a girl remained un-kissed at the end of the night, she could not expect to marry in the following year.

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Christmas Traditions- Stockings


It has become a wide spread tradition in America to hang a stocking on the fireplace that Santa fills with small treats for Christmas.  While there is no real documentation of how the stocking became so a beloved Christmas tradition there are two most commonly referenced legends.

The first legend states that there was a poor man who had three daughters. The man was worried that his daughters would never be able to marry as they had now dowry. On one Christmas Eve the daughters set their laundry near the fire to dry, hanging their stockings from the mantel of the fireplace. That night Saint Nicholas, heard about the old man and decided to ChristmasEveOhio1928help him. When the family had gone to bed, Saint Nicholas went into the house and placed a bag of gold in each of the girl’s stockings. The next morning, the family was thrilled to find enough gold for the girl’s dowries.  As the story spread about what Saint Nicholas had done other children began hanging their stockings on the mantle in the hopes that Saint Nicholas would leave them a gift. In some cultures, oranges are placed in the stockings. These are said to symbolize the bags of gold that Saint Nicholas gave to each of the poor man’Children_Hanging_Christmas_Stockingss daughters.

The second legend centers on the Norse God Odin.  In Holland many children put carrots, straw and even sugar in their boots/shoes for Odin’s flying horse. To show his gratitude, Odin is said to leave treats such as candy for the kids.  This tradition has been carried on for many centuries and a similar practice is done in Hungary where children place their shoes near the door or window instead of the fireplace.

However the tradition began one thing is certain, stockings are a vital part of childhood for many Americans.


Christmas Traditions- Ornaments


You can tell a lot about a person by the ornaments they hang on their Christmas tree. Are they married? Do they have children or siblings? Are they more on the traditional or eclectic side? Ornaments come in all shapes and sizes these days, some even move and play music. Original ornaments had little in common with today’s singing Santa ornaments.

Ornaments got their start on German Christmas trees as apples. xmas_ballsMany Germans would put apples on their Christmas trees to represent the Garden of Eden. These trees were often called Paradise Trees. Many German families moved on from apples to other foods.  Cookies and pastries cut into the shapes of stars, hearts, angels, and flowers were often seen hanging on trees. Many families also decorated their trees with painted egg shells and paper flowers. Various types of fruit were often hung from trees to remind families that spring would eventually come.

Long before electric Christmas lights Martin Luther is said to have placed candles on his tree to represent the stars twinkling at night. Soon families all over were placing candles on their trees to decorate them. In 19th century Western America ornaments and images (1)decorations were hard to find and afford so many families made their own. A common decoration in the Western states were aluminum cans with holes cut in them and candle that shone through and twinkle much like Luther’s candles. Cranberries and popcorn were often strung together with string and wrapped around the Christmas tree before garland was available in stores. In the United Kingdom hand sewn lace and paper decorations were often hung on trees.

As Christmas trees became more and more popular so did Christmas ornaments animagesd the demand for higher quality ornaments. Germany answered this demand by supplying hand crafted glass ornaments to the world. Germany remained the main source of hand blown glass Christmas ornaments until World War I. In 1880 Frank W. Woolworth began carrying German glass ornaments even though he did not think the venture would be successful. By late 1890 Woolworth’s had sold $25 million worth of German ornaments, retailing at five or ten cents each.

When World War I began many Americans, and people world wide, chose not to purchase German products. This nearly killed the German ornament industry, the industry would later revive itself. With Germany losing it’s position as the top producer of ornaments Japan saw this as an opportunity to try their hand at creating ornaments. The Japanese created a more affordable and easily massed produced Christmas ornament which quickly became a top selling product. By 1935 over 250 million ornaments had been imported into the United States. Finally the United States began producing for themselves when they realized they could use and old light bulb machine to create glass ornaments.


Ornaments have certainly come a long way in the last few hundred years.

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Christmas Traditions- the Christmas Tree


The Christmas Tree is a holiday staple in many households these days. Whether your family opts for an easy care, long lasting artificial tree or enjoys the strong smell of a natural tree most families have a tree. The act of getting a Christmas Tree is often times part of the tradition.  Many families will add on layers of winter clothes to go trek through fields and forests, axes in hand, in search of the perfect tree. But, has anyone stopped to ask ‘why’? Here’s the most common theory on the Christmas tree:

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Why do we wander into the woods to chop down a perfectly healthy tree to then stick it in a bucket in our homes and let it slowly dry out? When you say it that way it seems pretty silly, but the tradition actually dates back to pre-Christian Germany. Communities of Pagan Germans would decorate their homes with pine branches. To many the branches of an evergreen tree were a symbol that spring would eventually come. The branches gave hope to people during the long, cold German winters. As Christianity took over in Germany many of the new Christians kept the Pagan tradition of bringing pine branches inside. As time progressed many began bringing in small pine trees that could sit on a table.

But how did the table top Christmas trees spread out of Germany? Like many early traditions the Christmas tree spread through a marriage. WhChildrens_choir_-_US_National_Christmas_Tree_2012en Queen Victoria of England married Prince Albert of Germany she encouraged him to retain many of his German traditions. In 1848, the royal family was featured in the Illustrated London News standing in front of their Christmas tree. Very similarly to the way many fawn after English royals Kate and William, Victoria and Albert were beloved by their people. The Christmas tree caught on quickly and soon became a symbol of status. The more elaborately decorated the tree the more important the family.

In the 1880s the table top Christmas tree was traded out for a full size Christmas tree. Tall trees became a status symbol for many and families were searching for the tallest trees they could find, and fit in their homes. The hunt and demand for trees became so strong that some areas set regulations on how many trees a home could have.In 1882 Edward Johnson changed the Christmas tree forever when he invented Christmas lights. No longer were families putting dangerous lit candles on their trees.KN-C19677

In 1889 President Harrison’s wife and First Lady, Caroline Harrison, started the tradition of the First Lady decorating the White House Christmas tree. This tradition is still practiced today.21577272157729

In the 1900s themed trees became extremely popular. Christmas trees were following the trends of the time with exotic themes like Egyptian or color themes using only one or two colors on the tree. By this time almost one in five homes had a Christmas tree. When World War II started England banned the cutting of large trees for decoration so many families switched to table top trees. Large trees were still decorated in public areas for the community to enjoy.

In the 1960s the artificial tree was the newest trend in trees. the ‘Silver Pine’ took over many modern homes. These silver trees were illuminated by lights with colored lenses to create the affect the timagesree was tinted different colors. These days artificial trees are about as popular as natural trees because of their easy care and their long shelf life. Today almost one million Christmas trees are put up each year. Including community trees like the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree which hosts  nearly 25,000 lights. If you walk into any department store or large retailer you will certainly see aisles full of decorations for trees, artificial trees and wreaths, and strings of twinkling lights. The Christmas tree is certainly a holiday necessity.