Jane Bruce

Holiday Food Customs Across the Country Slideshow

Jane Bruce

A holiday treat platter in Ohio would be incomplete without buckeyes, the peanut butter confections named after Ohio’s state tree that are dipped in chocolate to resemble the nut of the buckeye tree. Bakeries and candy stores throughout the state stock up on these treats during the holidays, but they’re just as often made at home in large batches using family recipes.

 

Buckeyes (Ohio)

Jane Bruce

A holiday treat platter in Ohio would be incomplete without buckeyes, the peanut butter confections named after Ohio’s state tree that are dipped in chocolate to resemble the nut of the buckeye tree. Bakeries and candy stores throughout the state stock up on these treats during the holidays, but they’re just as often made at home in large batches using family recipes.

 

Chile Ristras and Bizcochitos (New Mexico)

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Holiday food traditions run strong in New Mexico, including the beloved bizcochito cookies that are synonymous with Christmas. The anise-spiced round cookies dipped in powdered sugar have been named the state’s official cookie. But New Mexicans don’t just eat their holiday food, they decorate with it. Dried chiles are strung together to make chile ristras, or wreaths, for the holidays.

Lefse (Wisconsin)

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Wisconsin’s multiethnic cultural heritage, from German to Scandinavian to Mexican, creates a rich variety of food traditions. Lefse, a potato flatbread, is one food that can be found in Wisconsin during the holiday season. The Norwegian bread is typically eaten sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar or stuffed with lutefisk (dried salted whitefish).

Kalua Turkeys (Hawaii)

For Thanksgiving and Christmas, Hawaiians make their turkeys island style. Traditionally, kalua turkeys were wrapped in ti or banana leaves and slow roasted in an imu, an underground earth oven. For modern cooks, the turkeys are rubbed generously with coarse salt, wrapped tightly, and roasted for hours in the oven. When it’s finished, Hawaiians shred the turkey and serve it covered in its own juices, along with rice and pineapple. 

Christkindlmarket (Chicago)

Inspired by a traditional market in Nuremburg, Germany, Chicago holds its own Christkindlmarket, a festival of German food and Christmas festivities, every year in Daley Plaza. At the popular celebration, German beer and warm spiced wine flows as Chicagoans feast on potato pancakes, sausages, and stollen (a traditional German Christmas cake).

Dungeness Crab (Northern California/Northwest)

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Dungeness crab season kicks off in December, so it makes sense that many Northern Californians make crab, not turkey, the center of their holiday feasts. Whether dipped in butter or tartar sauce, cooked Asian style, or added to a cioppino (a California seafood stew), fresh Dungeness crab is a classic California celebration meal.

Noche Buena (Florida)

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Florida's large Cuban community, especially in cities like Miami and Tampa, means even many non-Cubans have adopted the tradition of Noche Buena (which means "good night" in Spanish) on Christmas Eve. The traditional feast consists of slow-roasted pork (either an entire pig or a smaller roast, depending on the size of the meal), rice and black beans, and yucca, along with plenty of Cuban bread. 

Hoppin’ John (Southern US)

Black-eyed peas are said to bring luck and prosperity, making them a Southern staple on New Year’s Day. Southerners put the legumes in Hoppin’ John, a dish whose origins date back to the Civil War that’s made of rice, smoked bacon, and black-eyed peas. Whether or not the dish brings luck, a hearty bowl of pork and beans is not a bad way to start off the new year.