Christmas traditions are varied ’round these parts. We’re a staff of Jews, Muslims, and Christians alike, so we all have different ways of celebrating the holiday. Some of us spend Christmas feasting on roast lamb and prime rib while others of us dig into enormous platters of Chinese food. We’re a sentimental bunch, so we decided to spend the last weeks of 2019 reminiscing about our favorite Christmas meals and traditions. These are the dishes we eat every year, surrounded by family and friends, as we get ready to ring in a new year.
A Christmas Feast at Congee Village
I have always used Christmas and Christmas Eve as an excuse to eat a whole lot of Chinese food. In college, I’d go to Congee Village with friends and order everything imaginable. But the past few years, I’ve actually been invited to a true Christmas feast with my sister and her husband’s family, and I barely miss the scallion pancakes. Their family goes completely classic on Christmas, with a big ham, mashed potatoes, barely anything green, and lots of dessert. This year, I will make Stella’s cinnamon buns as a morning treat for everyone. And now that I think about it, maybe I’ll contribute something Chinese to the feast. Time to start researching recipes. —Ariel Kanter, marketing director
A Danish Goose and Rice Pudding Feast
The Danish half of my Danish/Jewish family runs Christmas, and it’s a huge deal. On Christmas Eve, we always have a roast goose or duck, red cabbage, and tiny potatoes browned with a little bit of sugar (and duck/goose fat!). For dessert, there is always risalamande—a very specifically Danish dessert despite the French-sounding name. It’s a rice pudding with slivered almonds, whipped cream folded in, and served with a warm Maraschino cherry sauce. The day after is where it gets really crazy though: Christmas lunch is a three-course affair with very specific beverage pairings. To start, there’s a fish course of (at least) pickled herring and often smoked salmon and tiny cold shrimp from Greenland. With the fish, you must drink aquavit—the Danes say you have to “let the fish swim.” The second course is meats served with beer—liver pâté, salami, rullepølse, and more—all served on dense Danish rye bread. Finally, there’s usually a cheese course, and by that time, the rules of what you’re drinking have stopped mattering. I personally tend to go with a little more aquavit, a bit more beer, and a long nap. —Daniel Kallick, full stack developer
An Anything-but-Turkey Feast
On Xmas Eve, smoked and pickled fish and latkes. It’s a mashup of my dad’s Swedish roots and New York Jewish appetizing tradition. On Xmas day, it changes annually, but usually some kind of roast bird/pork/beef that absolutely must not be turkey. I’ve done duck, goose, pork racks, and loin and porchetta—stuff like that. —Daniel Gritzer, managing culinary director
A Jewish Christmas Ham and Bûche de Noël Feast
Before I met my wife more than forty years ago (whoa!), I had never celebrated Christmas at all: no tree, no stockings, no gift exchanges. That’s just how we rolled in my suburban non-observant Jewish home. My dear departed mother-in-law, Hilda, introduced me to Christmas celebrations among German and French Jews in 1978. We used to go over to her apartment and exchange presents taken from under the tree and have ham! (definitely not kosher) and bûche de Noël that she would get from the now-closed Bonte French bakery. The presents were cool (how many pairs of gloves can one person use?), but the ham and the bûche de Noël were awesome. —Ed Levine, founder
An Italian-American-Jewish Christmas Feast
Because I’m Jewish, people assume I skip Christmas entirely or do the traditional thing and eat a feast of Chinese food. But it isn’t so! I grew up with a very close friend whose parents are Italian-American, and because of them, Christmas became one of my very favorite holidays. My friend lived across the bridge from me, in San Francisco, so three days before the holiday, I’d pack a bag of clothes, and move into her house. I needed to move in, you see, because for three days straight we’d cook. There was always a beautiful leg of lamb, an enormous roast filet mignon, and so many other offerings that by the day after Christmas, I could barely move. —Elazar Sontag, assistant editor
A Hotpot and Steamed Fish Feast
My family will use any excuse to eat hotpot. We’re not that big on Christmas, but we’re big on hotpot. Typically our holidays include all the regular hotpot fixings, but we also have a couple of main dishes (as if the hotpot weren’t enough). Usually, there’s a whole steamed fish for good fortune, along with some duck, and my absolute favorite, sautéed ong choy. —Grace Chen, office manager & associate podcast producer
A Cinnamon Bun and Mimosa Feast
Christmas brunch has been a solid tradition in the Russo household for decades. Growing up, I quickly switched from excited to wake up and open presents to looking forward to sitting down at a table with warm cinnamon buns, mimosas in flutes with a powdered sugar rim, and an egg and sausage casserole. It’s my favorite gift every year, except for the Playstation I got in ’96. —Joel Russo, video producer
A Mother’s Lentil Soup Feast
My mom likes to make lentil soup for lunch on Christmas Day, a low-key and almost austere vegetarian meal to tide you over for the feast ahead. I don’t even like lentil soup that much, but the sentimental connection is profound. Thanks for the soup, Mom. —John Mattia, video editor
A Big Duck Feast
Christmas is an excuse for my fam to cook a nice meal together because we have the day off and no other way to spend it, since everything is closed and it’s cold out. Duck is always in the rotation simply because it’s our favorite protein. I made Daniel’s Duck a l’Orange last year, and the year before my Dad made Peking duck with all the fixings. Seafood is also a requirement for any special occasion dinner with us, but we’re not picky about the type. We just snag whatever looks fresh at the market the day before. We invite Grandma (but no extended relatives), drink some bubbly, and kick back. Christmas might be my chillest fancy meal of the year. —Maggie Lee, UX designer
A Kinda-Puerto Rican Paella Feast
I celebrate Christmas with my in-laws and our Christmas Eve menu always includes a giant vat of aromatic pilaf-style paella with chorizo, mussels, clams, and squid. It’s a tradition passed down from my husband’s grandmother, who grew up in Puerto Rico. My mother-in-law also makes her famous, truly unrivaled Caesar salad, which I cannot seem to replicate at home but would very much like to eat every day for the rest of my life. Come Christmas Day, we’ve been known to make a goose, but this year we’re actually planning a fresh pasta extravaganza. Not bad for a bunch of Jews (and one Catholic). —Niki Achitoff-Gray, editor in chief
A Christmas Ham Family Feast
My mom’s former employer had a holiday tradition of gifting their entire staff with a ham around the holidays, so we’ve been a Christmas ham family for as long as I can remember. She’s retired now, but we’ve largely stuck with the tradition. This year I’m thinking about branching out a bit, maybe Sasha’s koji prime rib? —Paul Cline, president
A Beer-Filled Christmas Feast
I’ve written about what my family eats on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning before, but on Christmas, I typically visit my father’s family and, aside from picking at tenderloin, scalloped potatoes, and Caesar salad, I mostly drink Bud. —Sho Spaeth, staff editor and writer
A Parisian Christmas Feast—With Plenty of Potatoes
My Christmas eating traditions have changed over the past couple of years since I began tagging along with my wife and her parents on their annual voyage du Noël (not a real term) to Paris, where they eat dinner at the home of their close family friends on Christmas Eve. It was at this Xmas Eve dinner last year where I had the French-Style Brown Butter Potatoes that blew me away, and I developed a recipe upon returning to the States. We’re going back again this year, so, hopefully, our hosts will make the real deal again, and I can see how my version stacks up! —Sasha Marx, senior culinary editor
A Very Sweet Christmas Feast
While I largely sit out Thanksgiving, Christmas is when my family expects me to step into the ring, from the overnight cinnamon rolls that kick off our morning to the gingerbread we nibble all day, and the meringue mushrooms on our Yule log at night. But I’m not the only one working overtime; behind the scenes, my sister-in-law concocts our favorite holiday cocktail (nicknamed “fruit salad,” so we can talk about it freely amongst the staunch teetotaler in our family), and my Dad always makes Kenji’s prime rib and Yorkshire pudding (a practice predating my employment here), and we usually huddle together in the kitchen stealing scraps of both before they make it to the table. —Stella Parks, pastry wizard
A Traditional Polish Christmas Feast
Our Polish Christmas Eve is called Wigilia, where we start the evening with a tradition we call oplatek. Everyone is handed a thin sheet of a wafer to walk around the room with: the idea is that I take a piece of your wafer, and you take a piece of mine, and we exchange good wishes and prosperity for the year to come. Then we have a soup made from Polish Borowik dried mushrooms, tons of pierogi, and in most recent years, a spread of seafood and pasta takeout from our favorite Italian restaurant. —Vicky Wasik, visual director
A Small and Cozy Christmas Feast
Although I’m Muslim, I grew up with a Catholic grandmother. We’ve never done anything super big for Christmas, but we always get together for a dinner of roast lamb served with a hefty side of mashed potatoes. Another tradition that’s come about in recent years is spending Christmas night drinking hot chocolate and watching Christmas movies with my brother. All in all, Christmas is usually a cozy day in for the Maggio family. —Yasmine Maggio, social media intern
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