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Christmas in July Series - Developing Your Own Holiday Food Traditions

Every holiday season, many of us look forward to eating special treats made using long-held and cherished family recipes. Many families have holiday food traditions they hold dear. There are those who cannot imagine a holiday without Grandma’s date pinwheel cookies or Great Uncle Peter’s cornbread stuffing. Year after year, we enjoy these treats and use them to stay connected with our families and personal histories.

More than mere sustenance, the traditional foods we enjoy year after year are a source of family pride and lead to conversations about family members and fond memories of holidays past. Family food traditions can be one of the most important parts of the holiday season for many people.

There was once, however, a time in each family history before those recipes existed. Grandma had to make those date pinwheel cookies for the first time. When she did, she may have placed them right next to sugar cookies made with her Grandma’s secret recipe, having no idea they would become such an integral part of the holiday. Great Uncle Peter’s cornbread stuffing only came about because Great Aunt Beth was sick years ago and he had to come up with some way to stuff a bird himself on Christmas morning. His reliance on a simple recipe card with a few personal touches started a family tradition, too. Grandma and Great Uncle Peter didn’t intent to create a longstanding tradition that generation after generation would enjoy. They simply hoped that they could add a little bit to the holiday meal by doing something different.

The holiday food traditions to which we now look forward were the byproducts of experimentation. The creators of the original dishes may have never intended to make them again. They just happened to feel like doing something different or adding something new to the holiday table.

Holiday food traditions are special to many of us, and it is wonderful to experience those comforting recipes each holiday. It’s a great idea, however, to remember how those traditions began. By realizing the source of those traditions, we can be spurred to create our own.

This holiday season consider doing something new. Think about adding a different plate to the dinner or treat table. Make a side dish not generally found on your holiday table or produce a cookie with which you are not familiar. Try a few new ideas and see what happens. Some of the new notions may not be universally well received. Others may be enjoyed, but not to the extent of your family’s holiday classics. One, however, might receive such rave reviews that you decide to try it again next year.

Over time, that simple decision to experiment may turn into part of your family’s traditional holiday table. The new cookie recipe you find in a holiday recipe collection this year may eventually become a staple item that your great-grandchildren cannot imagine missing.

Traditions are important and enjoyable. They form part of the essence of one’s family. Wouldn’t it be nice to add your generation’s mark to the food traditions you all hold so dear? Inventing new holiday traditions has no precise formula. One cannot intentionally “design” a new holiday food tradition. They tend to grow over time. However, new traditions do require a willingness to prepare an inventive new dish. This holiday season consider your potential role as a creator of a meaningful holiday tradition and add something new to the holiday feast.

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