December is a month marked by observance and celebration by several religions and cultures. In recognition of these holidays, we’re highlighting the customs and traditional foods of Hanukkah, Christmas, Yule, and Kwanzaa.
This year, the Jewish holiday Hanukkah takes place December 7 through December 15. Hanukkah is an eight-day winter festival of lights, observed through nightly menorah candle lighting, special blessings, songs, and prayer. The holiday celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem after driving out Greek rule and religion. Children are the fortunate recipients of Hanukkah gelt — monetary gifts — during the holiday festivities and often play with a dreidel, competing for a prize. Hanukkah involves oil, so celebrants traditionally eat fried foods like potato latkes and doughnuts during this time.
Try this Spiced Sweet Potato Pancakes recipe.
Christmas is a Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, said to be the living son of God. Christians celebrate by attending church services, singing carols, spending time with friends and family, exchanging gifts, baking cookies, and decorating trees. Christmas traditions vary across the globe, as do the foods people eat when celebrating this holiday. Christmas dinners often include roast meat or poultry, roast root vegetables, and a potato dish.
Give this Beef Eye of Round Roast with Mushroom Sauce recipe a try!
One of the oldest winter festivities globally, Yule is a pagan holiday celebrating the winter solstice. Celebrated over 12 days, Yule is the most important Norse holiday, marking the end of a year and welcoming the new year with growing daylight. Today, Germanic peoples still celebrate Yuletide, synonymous with the Christmas season (Christmastime); nonpagan celebrants use Christmas and Yule interchangeably.
Yule is a holiday directly connected to nature, so tree decorating, making and hanging evergreen wreaths, lighting a yule log, and celebrating a harvest feast with friends and family are all ways people celebrate. Celebratory Yule meals typically include ham or roast pork as the main dish, with seasonal root vegetables, cabbage, and squash as accompaniments.
Celebrate with one (or more!) of these holiday recipes.
Beginning December 26, Kwanzaa is a seven-day secular harvest festival and celebration of life, an African American cultural holiday celebrating African heritage. While Kwanzaa is often thought of as an alternative to Christmas, many people celebrate both. Like the Christian advent or Jewish Hanukkah, Kwanzaa uses candles to represent the tenets of the holiday. During the weeklong celebration, families and friends gather to share meals, exchange gifts, reflect on their heritage, and look to the future. Kwanzaa celebration foods vary by region and family but are traditionally foods associated with the African diaspora. The main dish is usually a stew, accompanied by a starch such as rice, biscuits, yams, or black-eyed peas.
Check out these recipes for Bobotie and Jollof Rice.
How does your family celebrate the winter holidays?