How Do You Holiday?

December 12,2017 | Curiosity

December is a month filled with celebrations all over the world. Whether a religious holiday or a national day of celebration, there are countless opportunities to learn more about cultures, religions and nationalities that may be new to you – and explore some locally inspired recipes, too!


A great way to learn about a celebration is through the food. Cooking, serving and eating bring family and friends together, no matter the purpose. So, this December, invite your favorite dinner guests over for a global exploration of new cultures, traditions and tastes. Who knows, maybe you’ll start a new worldly, food tradition of your own!


Here are some ideas to get you started. And we hope you’ll share your traditions and ideas back with us!


Explore Jewish Traditions


Hanukkah is a festival celebrated over the course of eight days, but you don’t have to cook eight days’ worth of meals to explore Jewish traditions. The holiday, which is often referred to as the Festival of Lights, starts on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev; that means this year those that celebrate will do so between December 12th and 20th. Want to start out with a crowd-pleasing favorite? Try beef brisket with a side of vegetables or egg noodles. Or, take your latkes to the next level with an assortment of toppings – from the savory flavors of smoked salmon, dill cream, red onions and capers to a sweet stack of these potato pancake favorites layered with mascarpone, maple syrup and lemon! (Tip for if you have kiddos at the table – have some gelt chocolate coins handy!)


Feast on Seven Fishes


Step aside Christmas Ham; during Christmas Eve in Italy, also known as “La Vigilia,” you can enjoy the Feast of the Seven Fishes. As part of this custom, participants prepare seven seafood dishes, with everything from salt cod to eel, calamari to snails, squid to anchovies. While it may be commonplace in the boot-shaped country, bringing home a live eel in the United States is a little out of the ordinary, but there are some simpler, healthy recipes available. If you had your fingers crossed for a pasta-based Christmas celebration, don’t worry, traditions are what you make them, and many Italians wouldn’t dare go without their favorite Bolognese or the rich flavors of Osso buco alla Milanese.


Celebrate A Traditional Japanese New Year


Let your stomach take a trip around the globe this New Year’s Eve when you celebrate a traditional Japanese New Year. Did you know that New Year, also called “Shogatsu” or “Oshogatsu” in Japanese, is among the most important holidays in Japan? The celebration typically lasts January 1-3, and similar to the American tradition of New Year’s Eve, the day before includes a lot of activity and delicious treats. To recognize the fresh start of 2018, this celebration bids farewell to the previous year’s worries and troubles. Take a look at a Japanese market, in the Japanese section of your regular market or explore an online grocer to serve toshikoshi soba (buckwheat noodles), which symbolize longevity, along with other special dishes such as otoso (sweetened rice wine) and ozoni (a soup with mochi). (Decorating tip: traditional Shogatsu celebrations involve ornaments made of pine, bamboo and plum trees. Do some crafting with your guests, and send them home with a memorable ornament of their own!)


While it may not be possible to learn and explore new holidays with friends and family living all over the world, you can still let loved ones know you are thinking of them. Send everything from Hanukkah gift baskets to bottles of wine to wish them well, and find great deals and discounts available to AARP members on the AARP Member Advantages website.


We know every person, family, community and culture has their own special way of celebrating, and there is no better way to learn than by sharing and exploring! What traditions are you looking most forward to, or what new traditions do you want to explore this year?



These articles present general information and are for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for legal, financial, medical, or other professional advice.

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