The Holidays Are Back

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It’s hard to believe, but it’s that time of year again, the holidays. But this year, how about shaking your traditions up a bit?

Let’s start with Thanksgiving. We all know what the typical Thanksgiving dinner looks like: a big old bird, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes – and all the rest of the fixins.’ And you know, it’s all quite delicious. But what if turkey isn’t your family’s favorite meal, what if you prefer ham or Cornish game hen, duck or salmon? Then cut loose this year and make that your centerpiece (vegetarians, please scroll down).

And you can change up the fixins’ too. 


*your garden variety salad with caprese macaroni salad.

*your regular mashed potatoes with cheddar scalloped potatoes.

*your baked potato with sweet potatoes with thyme and blue cheese.

*your regular cooked carrots with cinnamon butter baked carrots.

*your pumpkin soup with curried pumpkin soup.

*your regular old stuffing with wild rice stuffing or cauliflower stuffing.

*your cranberry sauce with a dried fruit chutney.

Another way to mix things up a bit is to invite someone new to your Thanksgiving dinner. We all have at least one friend or acquaintance who doesn’t have plans – and you’ll probably make their day – and yours.  

Main Course Thanksgiving suggestions for vegetarians:

Butternut Squash lasagna.

Roasted pumpkin lasagna.

Kale-stuffed portobello mushrooms.

Vidalia onions stuffed with brown rice, lentils and lots of spices.

Hearty vegetable pot pie or cheddar broccoli pot pies.

Crustless tofu quiche with mushrooms and herbs.

Zuchini tomato pasta.

Gourmet flatbread pizza -with your favorite toppings!

As for Christmas, let’s think internationally! Instead of, or in addition to, the typical American traditions of Christmas trees, holiday cookies, coal in your stocking (!) and opening presents December 25th, learn about what’s going on in other parts of the world, and maybe you’ll become inspired to add one or two new yuletide traditions this year.


On Christmas morning, Finish families traditionally have porridge with cinnamon, milk or butter, and one of the bowls has an almond hidden in it. Whoever finds the almond is the winner and usually receives a gift. Toward the end of the day, most families take a sauna together, a favorite Finnish pastime.


Iceland has a different take on the ‘12 days of Christmas’ – and coal! Instead, they celebrate 13 nights leading up to Christmas, primarily by children placing their shoes in front of a bedroom window overnight. In the morning, if the children have been good, their shoes will be filled with their favorite kind of candy. If they’ve been bad, rotten potatoes!

New Zealand

Christmas in New Zealand is all about barbeques or barbies, as they call them; remember, it’s summertime for Kiwis. And the New Zealand Christmas Tree is not a pine or spruce, it’s a Pohutukawa which blooms a beautiful red in December.


While Christmas isn’t a national holiday in Japan, those who do celebrate Christmas do so in a decidedly interesting way – they go to their local Kentucky Fried Chicken and chow down on some crispy tenders and coleslaw (this may be one tradition to opt out of. Just sayin’).


On Christmas Eve, December 24, Danish families place their Christmas trees in the middle of the living room and dance around them while crooning out Christmas carols.


In Martinique, la ribote is a popular tradition where families are very social during Advent, visiting their neighbors, with it all leading up to Christmas and New Year’s where they dine on traditional holiday food like yams, boudin and pork stew. They also sing Christmas carols, Creole-style.


The Irish leave a tall red candle in a front window overnight on Christmas Eve, a welcoming symbol of warmth and shelter. And throughout the year, a candle is lit permanently in the window of Aras an Uachtarain, the official residence of the President of Ireland, lighting the way for Irish emigrants and their descendants, welcoming them back to their homeland.


The centerpiece of Christmas dinner in Barbados is a baked ham decorated with pineapple and sorrel glazes, a rum cake, and Jug Jug, a dish inspired by the Scottish influence on the island combining pigeon peas, guinea corn flour, herbs and salt meat.


On Christmas Eve in Poland, many families share oplatek, an unleavened religious wafer. But they can’t officially break bread for Christmas Eve dinner until the first star appears in the night sky. Often, many families leave an extra setting for an unexpected visitor.

Portugal and Brazil

In both Brazil and Portugal, families celebrate Christmas dinner late – 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. is not unusual. But at midnight, whether or not they’ve finished their meal, they exchange gifts, unless they choose Midnight mass instead, which is typically followed by fireworks in the town square. 

However you decide to celebrate the holidays this year, do it safely and with good cheer!

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