America's Favorite Holiday Feasts Slideshow
December 19, 2011
1. Pennsylvania Dutch
According to the book, Pennsylvania Dutch Cooking, this culture has a commitment to and derives much pleasure from baking dozens and dozens of cookies during the Christmas season. Some favorites are molasses and honey-tinged pfeffernusse, almond cookies, anise cookies, sand tarts, Belsnickle Christmas cookies, and walnut kisses. Since canning and pickling is predominant in the warmer months, you’ll find fruits and vegetables from the summer crop brightening up the winter plate.
2. The South
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In 1876, Mary Ann Bryan Mason published the book, The Young Housewife's Counsellor and Friend: Containing Directions in Every Department of Housekeeping. Staying true to the title's promise, Mason detailed a Southern Christmas dinner at the turn of the 19th century. The menu, written as it is in her book, featured Green Turtle Soup, Broiled Pompano with Pommes Duchesse, Chateau Lafitte, Terrapin a la Maryland, Roman Punch, Celery Mayonnaise, Burning English Plum Pudding with Brandy Sauce, Crème de Menthe with Crushed Ice and more... Does your stomach hurt yet?
These days, Southerners opt for a more simple route by throwing an oyster roast with plenty of drinks, where the guests pull their own weight.
Due to its deep Scandinavian roots, Minnesota's traditional holiday meals might include lefse and lutefisk. Lefse is similar to a tortilla made with potatoes, while lutefisk has an acquired taste — it’s made from air-dried whitefish and soda lye.
Another long-standing tradition is to celebrate Saint Lucia Day on Dec. 13. On this day, a mother dresses up as Saint Lucia, wearing a wreath on her head and possibly a white gown, and delivers cinnamon rolls to her sleeping children. Imagine waking up to that.
The table at a Texas holiday meal can cover a lot of cultural ground — tamales and menudo from Mexico, fried turkey from southern Texas, and black-eyed peas (served on New Year’s) for good luck. Then there is one food that certainly no one associates with the Lone Star State: fruitcake. But Texas’s oldest and wildly popular bakery, Eilenberger’s, mails out roughly 6,000 cakes, made from a centuries-old recipe from Germany, per day between Thanksgiving and Christmas. That’s a lot of fruitcake.
Los Posados, a candle-lit procession of children and parents reenacting Mary and Joseph’s journey through Bethlehem, takes place from Dec. 16 to Christmas Eve. During that time, the boys and girls dress up in costumes as Joseph, Mary, the angels, shepherds, and the Three Wise Men. It culminates on the 24th with a traditional meal of baked shrimp with rosemary, dried cod fish, roast turkey, and mounds of sweet and sugary buñuelos.
This collection of islands might not have snow, but they do have surfing Santas, which is not a bad consolation. Holiday meals draw on the state’s melting-pot culture and serve sashimi, deep-fried spring rolls, baked pork and fish bundled in taro leaves, and barbeque short ribs. Better yet, you can dine seaside — that’s hard to beat.
To fortify themselves against the cold, these Midwesterners eat hearty fare during the holidays. Chief among those is the kringle, a round, thin buttery pastry filled with jelly and coated with a white frosting. Danish bakeries in Racine, such as Oh Danish, ship hundreds of thousands of them all over the country.
In North Pole, Alaska, Christmas is celebrated year-round. The town where Santa Claus lives has a street named after its most famous resident and has giant candy cane light poles. The state’s many islands offer access to both fish and game, and therefore you might find salmon (either smoked or fresh), piruk (fish pie), king crab, and reindeer sausage on the holiday menu.
In Miami, a Cuban holiday tradition is to roast a pig to celebrate Noche Buena. The whole hog is covered liberally in salt and often a mojo type of marinade. Since solid coral is hidden a few inches underneath the topsoil, a fire pit is built on the ground from cement blocks. This allows family and friends to gather around while the hog cooks. Often, the juicy meat and crispy skin are served alongside black beans, white rice, and yucca mixed in with garlic, onions, and sour orange.
6. New Orleans
Taken from the 19th century, when the Creoles celebrated “Reveillion” or “awakening” dinners, this break-the-fast meal occurs after families return home from midnight mass. The menu includes classics like chicken and oyster gumbo, game pies, soufflés, and brandy and coffee. With church crossed off the list, the parties have been known to last until dawn. Hey, those from N'awlins know how to party.