Gingerbread cookies and roast turkeys may be universal symbols of the American holiday season, but they don’t adequately represent the fact that each region of the United States has its own holiday food traditions. As the holidays approach, our unique food customs reflect the cultural traditions that have made this country the melting pot it is. Originating from immigrant communities or a region’s seasonal specialties, holiday food customs across the United States are as varied as our country’s vast geography, and just as eclectic as our diverse, multiethnic heritage.
For Ohioans, a holiday party would be incomplete without a platter of buckeye candies beneath the tinsel and lights, while in New Mexico, the spiced sugary cookies bizcochitos are a staple at most Christmas celebrations. Often, a holiday food tradition develops from the region's immigrant heritage, like the German holiday food festival in Chicago or the Cuban pig roast on Christmas Eve prepared by many Floridians, Cuban and non-Cuban alike. Just as often, these food customs bleed across regional borders and influence cultural communities across the country.
It would be impossible to cover the countless American food traditions in a single article, but we've gathered some of our favorites to help get you in the holiday spirit. However you celebrate, we hope this list will inspire your own traditions into the new year. And it never hurts to put a new spin on an old custom, so use this list to enrich your current feasts, maybe by roasting your turkey in the Hawaiian kalua style or adding the Midwest’s lefse bread to your holiday buffet.