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10 Little-Known Holiday Traditions

10 Little-Known Holiday Traditions

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Check out some of the curious celebrations happening around the world today

Can you incorporate some of these bold traditions into your holiday celebration?

Each year during the holiday season, it is not uncommon to find houses decked out with twinkling lights, glowing candy canes, Santas shimmying down chimneys, and faux icicles hanging from rooftops. Housing an evergreen tree in your living room is a completely acceptable way to celebrate the season. But all over the world, dozens of holiday traditions come to pass that vary greatly from the aforementioned Christmas customs we are so used to taking part in every year.

It is easy to overlook the relative absurdity of the holiday festivities we hold near and dear to our hearts. Year after year, traditions become banal and commonplace. For instance, no one bats an eye when giant socks are hung on mantles, lying in wait to be stuffed by an old man who is essentially good at breaking and entering.

That being said, there are some truly interesting holiday traditions across the globe. One shining example is Krampus, the terrifying, demonic anti-Santa popular in Austria and a handful of other Middle European countries. He is St. Nick's evil cohort, punishing misbehaved young ones for their annually accrued misdeeds.

Another odd but heartwarming tradition takes place in the Ukraine, where it is customary to adorn Christmas trees with spiderwebs. On the surface it may seem like there's some confusion between Christmas and Halloween. But according to European folklore, a peasant family grew their very own tree from a single pinecone. Disheartened by the fact that they didn't have the money to properly decorate the tree, they awoke on Christmas morning to find the tree's branches covered in silky spiderwebs glistening in the morning light. Today, citizens of the Ukraine bedeck their trees with webs to welcome good fortune in the New Year.

10 Simple Christmas Traditions:

  1. Vote on your family’s favorite Christmas cookie recipe and make it every single year.
  2. Choose a night to drive around and admire the best Christmas lights in your neighborhood, or visit a neighborhood that’s known for its beautiful light displays.
  3. Read “T’was the Night Before Christmas” or another Christmas book as a family together every year on Christmas Eve.
  4. Make or choose an annual ornament for your tree that represents something you did or enjoyed as a family that year. Include the date so you can look back at all the ornaments from years past.
  5. Start a collection of themed decorations (ie: Santas, deer, or gingerbread men) so that you have something fun to hunt for when you’re out and about during the holidays.
  6. Watch the same holiday movie together as a family every year, complete with popcorn and hot cocoa.
  7. Play a fun board game or gift exchange game on a night before Christmas ( this is a fun idea I found online ).
  8. Pack up cookies or other treats and deliver them to neighbors.
  9. Make scent memories by burning the same holiday candle year after year, or making stovetop potpourri throughout the season.
  10. Decide on a special appetizer or other dish that you only make on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day or create a special Christmas breakfast that you make every year.

If you’re looking for more ideas, just spend some time thinking about the things you remember and loved most about the holidays when you were a kid. Chances are, the memories that stuck weren’t necessarily the most elaborate or expensive events.

It’s the tradition of doing something over and over again that ties you together as a family and creates the memories you’ll look back on and cherish (or at least laugh about).

I’d love to hear about your favorite holiday traditions, and maybe pick up some new ideas. Please share in the comments!

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originally published December 1, 2015 &mdash last updated October 28, 2019 // 7 Comments

Holiday baking traditions: German Lebkuchen

Welcome to our special holiday series of blog posts, Holiday Baking Traditions. We're very excited to bring you our versions of several cultural and regional holiday favorite recipes, the ones that families and friends turn to year after year.

These are the recipes that have to be on the table for the holiday meal, the ones that are eagerly awaited all season long. They speak to our ethnic upbringings, our traditions to pass on to the new generation. Some have crossed cultures over the years some are less well known, but all are rich in history, meaningful to our community of bakers. and, above all, amazing and delicious!

Today we're baking Lebkuchen, which are native to Nuremberg, Germany and enjoyed as traditional holiday fare in that country.

Out of all of the Holiday Baking Traditions recipes this year, I found Lebkuchen to be the most daunting to approach. It certainly wasn't the most technically challenging in fact, it's very simple to put together. No, this recipe for me was the first to bring up the comment we knew we would get from readers more than any other.

"That's NOT how my family makes it!" Sometimes this is followed by sympathy, a bit of pity for the uninformed heathen who doesn't know any better.

Sometimes the comment is followed by a how-dare-you-ruin-100-years-of-tradition speech.

In the best case, the comment is followed by a wonderful recipe and shared family story, a real outreaching of spirit and community. We WELCOME all of these comments, honestly we do. Bring on the recipes, bring on the history, bring on the personal family stories.

Sure, you can even bring on the tirades just keep 'em civil! It's OK to disagree, so long as we do it agreeably.

Thanks so much for joining us for this special holiday journey. Let's begin our trip with Lebkuchen, a German favorite: spicy bar cookies with the snap of ginger and the tang of orange and lemon.

Stir the honey and brown sugar together in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat.

Bring the honey/sugar mixture to a boil. Remove from the heat, transfer to a large bowl, and allow to cool until just lukewarm. If you can stick your finger in the mixture and it feels just barely warm, you're good to go.

When cooled, beat the honey mixture with the egg and grated citrus rinds. If you're using orange and lemon oils instead, add them now. If you're using candied diced peel, add that when you add the flour.

Dried ginger root (left) and whole nutmeg (right) are deeper and more robust in flavor than pre-ground spices. If you have them, definitely use them in this recipe they'll make the spice mixture sing. Simply grate them with a Microplane or spice grater as you would grate hard cheese.

Don't be daunted by the amount of spice in this recipe. These bars are meant to invigorate the senses and mind on cold winter days.

To save time and dishes you can grind the crystallized ginger and nuts together in a food processor. The nuts will also keep the ginger from becoming too sticky to work with.

If you don't have a food processor, you can use a chef's knife to mince the two together.

Combine the flour, spices, nuts, and ginger with the honey mixture. If you're using candied diced peel instead of grated peel, it would be added now as well.

I'm a big fan of candied peel in this recipe. I like the chewy bits of citrus, and the slight bitterness of the peel. It's what keeps me coming back for just one more bite.

Stir until the mixture is well combined and no flour is left unincorporated. It will be thick and sticky, and will smell divine!

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill overnight.

Next day, preheat the oven to 350°F and lightly grease a 9" x 13" pan. For easy cutting, you can also line the pan with parchment if desired.

Remove the dough from the bowl. It will be very thick and still slightly sticky, very similar to bread dough at this point.

Gently roll and pat the dough to a rectangle slightly smaller than 9" x 13". Lift the dough and place it in the pan, gently patting all the way to the edges. Be careful not to press down hard, or the edges will be tough.

Bake the bars at 350°F for 20 to 25 minutes. A cake tester inserted into the center will come out clean.

Remove the pan from the oven, and immediately make the glaze. Better yet, make the glaze while the bars are baking you want to glaze them while they're hot.

Combine the confectioners' sugar with the liquid of your choice. I used brandy and boiled cider, but apple juice or cider would work just as well.

Brush the glaze over the warm bars. Let the first layer sink in a bit before applying another. Be sure to use all of the glaze it's key to the bars' texture and taste.

Allow the bars to cool completely before cutting into small squares, about 2" x 2". The glaze will firm up and become a shatter of sugar with every bite.

It's hard to resist these bars with their sweet, spicy, gingery goodness scenting the whole house. IF you have any leftovers, store them at room temperature for several days they'll improve with age.

We hope you've enjoyed our first foray into Holiday Baking Traditions. Please share your comments, ideas, stories, and recipes below, in comments. Happy baking!

Celebratory Foods

Holiday foods in this region most frequently consist of:
• Tamales - a savory dish made with corn-based masa dough, which is typically stuffed with shredded pork. The little package is wrapped in a corn husk and steamed until it’s cooked and is usually topped with red chile sauce when served.
• Posole - resembles a soup made with hominy a specific type of large corn kernel without its hull. This dish has various recipes, but is most often made with pork or chicken and red or green chile.
• Red and green chile stew - this depends on preference refer to our official state question for more details. 
•਋iscochitos - a cookie made with lard and flavored with cinnamon and anise
• Pastelitos - little pies with sweet fillings of reconstituted dried fruits and spices

New Mexicans pass holiday recipes such as theseਏrom generation to generation as a way to keep their holiday traditions alive. 

West Indian Christmas Recipes

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Ponche De Crème

This creamy alcoholic drink originates from Trinidad and Tobago and is very similar to eggnog. It is made with sweetened condensed milk and has plenty of Caribbean dark rum in it. Flavoured with a splash of Angostura bitters and spiced with gratings of locally grown nutmeg and lime, it simply brims with holiday cheer. Served chilled or with crushed ice.

A truly traditional West Indian Christmas recipe, black cake is intensely aromatic (and alcoholic!) Dried mixed fruits are infused with the rich flavours of rum, cherry brandy, and locally sourced spices such as cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg. Many people will start soaking the fruit months in advance for a real full-bodied Caribbean flavour. Also known by the name Caribbean Rum Fruit Cake.

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Christmas Ham

In the Caribbean, Christmas is not Christmas without a big ham. Glazes are made with a variety of mouth watering ingredients including pineapple, ginger, honey, cinnamon, cloves, marmalade, and sugar. All of which can be sourced locally. Roll on Christmas!

This is the national dish of Grenada and takes pride of place in many celebrations year-round. It is a hearty and filling recipe that consists of salted meat/pork, chicken, dumplings, breadfruit, callaloo, dasheen leaves and assorted vegetables (called provisions). Everything is stewed down in one pot with coconut milk, herbs and spices. Traditionally, it made on the beach over an open fire with family and friends in a ‘cookout’. Many restaurants have oildown on the menu and you really should try it!

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These moorish delicacies originate from Latin American countries including Trinidad, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic. They are now widely found throughout the Caribbean around Christmas time, although the recipe differs from region to region. Trinidadian pasteles are small cornmeal pies stuffed with meat, fish or vegetables. They are flavoured with herbs, raisins, olives, and capers. Simply wrap them up and steam them in a banana leaf – delicious!

This traditional West Indian recipe is a common side dish found year-round on the menu. It is the national dish of Trinidad and Tobago. Big green leaves (similar to spinach) are stewed down with okra, dasheen or water spinach. Other ingredients that may be added include coconut milk, crab, conch, lobster, meats, chili peppers, chopped onions, and garlic.

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There are some West Indian Christmas recipes that absolutely everyone loves. Sorrel is one of them. This festive drink can be alcoholic or non alcoholic and is derived from the sorrel flower which is in bloom around Christmas time. The flower is steeped in boiling water with ginger and pimento berries and left to soak overnight. Then just add rum, lemon juice and sugar to taste.

Nutmeg Ice Cream

Grenada is known as the Isle of Spice and nutmeg is one of the main stars. Most recipes in this trip-island state have nutmeg in and there is none so delectable as nutmeg ice cream. Treat yourself with a dollop on your black cake!

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Breadfruit (Cheese) Pie

Breadfruit forms part of the national dish of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and is found in all of the Windward Islands. Breadfruit pie is a baked concoction of breadfruit, cheese, milk, flour, butter and breadcrumbs, and has the same consistency as baked mashed potato. Creamy and delicious, it is a filling side dish to accompany your other traditional West Indian Christmas recipes.

So you can’t come to the Caribbean and not drink rum punch… especially at Christmas time. This traditional Caribbean cocktail normally includes the local rum, pineapple and orange juice, grenadine, Angostura bitters and nutmeg.

40 Surprising Royal Family Holiday Traditions You Didn't Know About

The holidays are upon us and that means lots of time with family and indulging in nostalgia-inducing holiday traditions. The royals are just like any other family in this way&mdashthey have their own set of traditions, many of which get carried out behind closed (palace, castle, and estate) doors.

Here are 40 royal family holiday traditions that you probably didn't know about&mdashincluding a few that might surprise you.

Every year, the Queen throws her annual holiday party, which is typically attended by as many as 50 members of the extended royal family, including the the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis, Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla, Princess Eugenie and Princess Beatrice, and Zara and Mike Tindall. Both Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton attended this party before their respective royal weddings, and it was a good chance for them to get to know the family before they said "I do."

The royals never miss a year of Christmas cards and their recipient lists are extensive (more on that in a few slides). Every year, the Queen and Prince Philip send about 750 hand-signed holiday cards. Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles also send an annual card, as do Prince William and Kate Middleton and, now, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

"There's no stenciling or faxing or anything like that,"&mdashjust a cute pic, it seems!&mdash"and the card count runs into hundreds," royal expert Dickie Arbiter explains, according to Yahoo.

If you're lucky enough to make it onto the Queen's Christmas card list, know that you'll be in possession of an authentic Queen Elizabeth autograph. The Queen (and, reportedly, Prince Philip as well) personally signs every single Christmas card.

"The Queen signs every Christmas card she sends, as does Prince Philip," Arbiter explains. "All the staff get a card, then friends get a card. There are people you've got send cards to and people you want to send cards to, but every card is signed by both of them."

According to the royal family's website, "family, friends, and Members of The Royal Household will likely be the recipients of The Royal Christmas Card, but British and Commonwealth Prime Ministers, Governor-General and High Commissions may also be sent one. The Duke of Edinburgh has a further 200 cards sent out at Christmas to different regiments and organizations close to him."

Life as a working royal doesn't slow down for the holidays. The senior members of the royal family are expected to support their favorite charities and causes by throwing Christmas parties.

According to the royal family's website, the Queen donates money to several charities in Windsor each Christmas, as well as giving Christmas trees each year to Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's Cathedral, St. Giles' Cathedral, and the Canongate Kirk in Edinburgh. "Churches and schools in the Sandringham area will also receive a tree from Her Majesty," the website says.

The royals congregate at Sandringham House in Norfolk in the country for their Christmas celebration. The royal family has owned the estate since 1862 and it's long been their go-to Christmas destination. The Queen gifted Will and Kate a place of their own on the estate, Anmer Hall. After their wedding, Harry and Meghan were also given their own place in Sandringham&mdashYork Cottage.

Queen Elizabeth travels to her Sandringham Estate ahead of Christmas on a pre-scheduled public train to King's Lynn, but the royal rents out an entire carriage on the train for herself, Prince Philip and their immediate staff. The Queen travels out to Sandringham about a week before Christmas to get ready to host the family's annual celebration.

Not only is there tradition dictating what day the rest of the royals should arrive at Sandringham, but there's tradition to the order in which they show up too. Apparently, everyone who's invited to the super exclusive festivities is given a specific arrival slot, dictated by their status within the family. The earlier you arrive, the less important you are. The most junior members show up first and senior members, like Prince Charles, Will, Kate, Harry and Meghan would be among the last to arrive.

Every Christmas at Sandringham, Prince Harry and Prince William play in a soccer game with staff at the estate. According to PopSugar, both princes "wear the socks of their favorite teams (Aston Villa for William and Arsenal for Harry)."

According to the Queen's former personal chef, Darren McGrady, "the Royal Family has a large Christmas tree and a large silver artificial tree in the dining room, which is about 30 years old."

According to Women & Home magazine , the royal family's Sandringham House Christmas tree really towers&mdashit's a 20-feet-tall spruce tree.

When the royal family assembles at Sandringham House on Christmas Eve afternoon, the younger members of the fam work together to finish decorating the trees&mdashbut not in a gaudy way. "The Queen is not lavish, so the décor is minimal," McGrady told Good Housekeeping.

One decoration that always makes it onto the royal Christmas tree: Queen Victoria's glass angels.

&ldquoOf course, Queen Victoria&rsquos glass angels take pride of place and are very important to the royal family because of course they&rsquore inherited and traditional," royal author Claudia Joseph says.

Like many family patriarchs, Prince Philip has the honor of placing the gold star atop the royal family's Christmas tree every year.

"Prince Philip will always put the gold star on the top of the tree, and probably will continue to do so for the rest of his life," Joseph explains. "He's quite a stalwart and won&rsquot let other people take control."

Even though Philip handles star duty every year, Joseph adds that kids have a special role to play in royal holiday decor too. "When any young children come they put their own decorations on," she says.

In the documentary Inside Sandringham: Holidaying With The Queen, royal commentator Arbiter explains just how the royals decorate for the holidays&mdashand it's surprisingly relatable.

"[The Sandringham estate] is decorated in much the same way as people throughout the United Kingdom decorate their tree," he says. "You&rsquove got the baubles, the tinsel, the colored lights."

According to The Sun, the Queen approves royal decorations at all official royal residences for the holidays.

According to the documentary Inside Sandringham: Holidaying with the Queen, the Queen has a special (and very unique test) that any staff member who works with the family at Sandringham during the holidays must pass. In the doc, royal recruitment expert, Tracey Waterman, explains how she hand picks the best of the best for the Christmas staff.

&ldquoThe difference between housekeeper in a five-star hotel and in a royal Palace would be attention to detail," Waterman says. "One of the tests I like to do, to see if a candidate has potential eye for detail, is to place a dead fly, either in the fireplace or on the carpet. Once the dead fly is placed, I then bring the candidate into the room. I lead them into the room, quite slowly, just giving them a chance to glance at the room, have a little look at what we&rsquove got inside the room."

Waterman says she will guide the candidate to the area where she's hidden the dead fly to make sure they have a real chance to spot it. If they do, the next test is how they handle the situation.

&ldquoAt this point I&rsquod expect them to see the dead fly, and hopefully pick it up, " she says. "It&rsquos a great test, maybe out of 10 people half the candidates will notice the fly. One out of ten will actually bend down and pick it up, that&rsquos the special housekeeper!"

Christmas Recipes for a French Christmas

Chilled oysters are a Parisian favorite at Christmas time. This appetizer can be as simple as serving oysters on the half shell over ice with lemon wedges on the side.

Or you can get fancy with a classic French sauce like mignonette - made with red wine vinegar, chopped shallots and black pepper. Here is how to make it:

Gingerbread houses are very popular and last a long time after they are made. It will take a good two days or more to make, so clear space and keep the pets away. Make the gingerbread dough one day and assemble and decorate the house the next day. It's a great project for the whole family especially on a snowy day when outdoor activities are canceled.

10 British Christmas Traditions Including Some Delicious Festive Food

Are you feeling festive yet? If not, why not make some time for AMC's "Best Christmas Ever," a slate of 835 hours of holiday classic films and family favorites airing all day, every day through December 25.

Another way to get into the Christmas spirit is with some festive British traditions. Some won't be possible this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, but all are certainly worth bookmarking for future holiday inspiration. Get a taste with our guide below!

1. Go to a Pantomime

A pantomime is a type of musical comedy show performed in U.K. theaters through the holiday season. They're aimed at a family crowd, but typically contain some salty double entendres for the adults in the house, plus slapstick humor, topical jokes, and moments of deliberately corny audience participation. In 2020 very few "pantos" – as they're called for short – will take place because of Covid-19, but in a regular year larger regional theaters can attract big-name guest stars such as John Barrowman, Dawn French, and even Pamela Anderson.

2. Sing Christmas Carols

A Christmas carol is simply a Christian festive song celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. You don't need to be particularly religious to enjoy them, though, and in many British villages groups of "carol singers" will go from street to street delivering ditties in exchange for small charitable donations. It's just one way in which Brits like to spread a little festive cheer!

3. Eat Christmas Dinner

In the U.K., a lavish Christmas dinner served on December 25 is the most important family mealtime of the year. This year, due to social distancing restrictions, many folks won't be able to enjoy it with their loved ones as they normally would. Brits typically tuck into roast turkey or a nut roast with vegetables, stuffing, and pigs in blankets, followed by a portion of Christmas pudding with custard. Families who enjoy a bit of flamboyance will douse the pudding with brandy then set it alight before serving.

4. Drink Baileys Irish cream

Invented in 1971, this Irish liqueur is made from cream, cocoa, and whiskey. It's available all year round in the U.K. and Ireland, but it's especially associated with the festive season because it feels so rich and indulgent. Bottoms up!

5. Pull Christmas Crackers

Since being invented by London baker Tom Smith in 1847, Christmas crackers have become a U.K. holiday staple. They're basically a fun festive table decoration which Brits enjoy after eating the main course of their Christmas dinner. One person grabs one side of the cracker a second grips the other then they both pull firmly. As the cracker tears apart, it makes a loud snapping sound and a small gift falls out – perhaps a key ring or a bottle opener. Often crackers also contain a party hat and a joke so terrible that only your dad will laugh.

6. Watch Classic Sitcoms

Nearly every top-tier British sitcom has at least one "Christmas special" episode, and the best ones get repeated on the main networks every year. The most popular sitcoms will see their new Christmas specials scheduled for Christmas Day – just as Gavin & Stacey did last year. Viewing figures have historically been huge: the 1996 Only Fools and Horses Christmas special attracted a massive 24.35 million viewers, making it the U.K.'s fifth most watched program of all time.

7. Watch the Queen

A Christmas Day message from Queen Elizabeth II has been shown in the U.K. every year since she became monarch in 1952 – initially as a radio broadcast, then on TV from 1957 onward. Simulcast on BBC One and ITV at 3pm GMT, it lasts for around 10 minutes and will have been recorded by the Queen up to a fortnight earlier. She generally strikes an optimistic note, though this year's message will undoubtedly feature some reflections on the ongoing challenges posed by the pandemic.

8. Nurse a Hangover

In a regular year, at least one family member tends to enjoy one too many festive tipples at the pub on Christmas Eve, then wakes up on Christmas Day feeling a touch delicate. Their punishment? Becoming the butt of the joke for the rest of the day.

9. Eat Mince Pies

These sweet pies are enjoyed as a teatime treat in the U.K. all through the holidays you'll see them on British supermarket shelves from November onward. Though they're filled with something called "mincemeat," they don't contain any actual meat (and haven't since Victorian times), only a sticky mix of dried fruits and spices. They're often eaten cold but if you want to warm them up and drizzle with custard, no one will object.