It’s almost time to start decking the halls, and our team of editors are already counting down the days until the upcoming holiday season. As some of our families continue to grow (a few team members are expecting little ones in 2022), we’ve been talking more about our families, family meals and traditions that surround them.
We’re also taking inspiration from the fan-favourite show, Top Chef Family Style, and knowing that some of the best memories happen around a good meal (even if there is a little competition to liven things up!), we rounded up some of our favourite food-related holiday traditions we look forward to each year.
See More: This Baked Brie With Nuts and Dried Fruit is the Perfect Holiday Appetizer (or Easy Dinner Idea!)
A Festive Birthday Bash
My birthday happens to be on Christmas, so every year for my birthday/Christmas lunch, my grandma makes a massive dish of yi mein “long life” birthday noodles.
The extra-long noodles symbolize the long life of the birthday being celebrated—it’s a classic Chinese tradition and one of my absolute favourite meals. My grandma serves her noodles with thinly sliced braised beef, marinated soya eggs and tender, crunchy Napa cabbage.
It’s a nice way to break up all of the other heavy holiday dishes, and it’s a sweet tradition that makes my Christmas birthday feel even more special.
— Lara, editor, Food Network Canada
Related: The Best Leftover Turkey Recipe You’ll Ever Need (We Promise!)
My Family’s Amaretto Apple Cake
Marrying into an Italian family is not only filled with loads of vibrant conversations punctuated by hand gesturing (no, I am not being stereotypical, it’s a way of life!) at the dinner table, but also incredibly festive eats even if it’s only a casual dinner. Now, when it comes to actual celebrations, minimalism is tossed out the door alongside self-control. Everyone, get ready to eat a lot and wear stretchy pants.
In that spirit, one of my favourite family traditions during the holidays is my mother-in-law’s Torta Antica di Mele e Amaretti AKA Amaretto Apple Cake. Instead of more dense desserts like a rich cake or even tiramisu (which we wouldn’t complain about having at every meal but, well, you know) she makes this coffee cake-consistency apple tart that is light, airy and not too sweet. It’s the perfect way to cap off a huge holiday meal and pairs really nice with an espresso.
— Victoria, digital producer, Food Network Canada
Related: Holiday Brunch With Potato Latke Eggs Benedict Is Our New Favourite Meal
Cozy Family Time
My Chinese-Canadian family isn’t the most traditional and we have never subscribed to a religion – but we love celebrating commercial Christmas!
Having relied on pop culture to understand festive traditions, we’ve created a format of fun we enjoy every December that includes delicious eats (often in the form of prime rib with all the sides including Chinese sticky rice), small gift exchanges, oddly competitive games and re-watching our fav rom coms. We have our first baby in a longtime so suspect traditions will be updated and magic will return as we deck those halls for our new tiny human.
— Chloe, digital strategist
Read More: 10 Next-Level Recipes To Make Inspired By Top Chef Family Style
Gingerbread House Contest
My family is competitive, to say the least, so a few years ago we came up with a gingerbread house decorating contest for the annual Christmas gathering. We split into teams and get gingerbread house kits to have the same treats to work with. It’s meant to be a fair game, but gummies have mysteriously gone missing from other decorating stations. It’s a fun time, all of the cousins scrambling to stick on the last few jube jubes. We tally up everyone’s votes at the end to determine the winning team and the prize is even more candy (and bragging rights).
— Nataly, editor, HGTV Canada
See More: Anna Olson’s Triple Gingerbread Bundt Cake Will Give You All The Feels
An Italian Seafood Feast
For many Italian families, Christmas Eve is the big night for celebration. Growing up, and even now, it’s my favourite meal of the year and it often involves salty, fishy pasta packed with sardines (or anchovies) — and that’s just the appetizer! Afterward, my aunt puts out two large platters of shellfish (think: shrimp, crab legs, lobster tails, mussels and clams) and we all dig in with napkins tucked into the tops of our sweaters. To help us digest afterward, we indulge in a light salad with an olive oil dressing and snack on a bowl of clementines and other assorted fruit.
— Laura, editor, Slice
Related: The Definitive Guide to Alternative Pastas
Indulging in Ice Cream
My family’s holidays are super casual, but we have a small tradition that I have always loved. Since we were kids, my mom let my sister and I each choose our very own pint of “fancy ice cream” (read: Häagen-Dazs or Ben and Jerry’s) for our special New Year’s Eve dessert. Growing up, selecting a flavour was a serious decision, even though I always picked chocolate chip cookie dough. We would indulge in our pint of fancy ice cream in between holiday movies and rounds of Scrabble, and it truly felt like the biggest luxury.
– Angela, assistant editor, Food Network Canada and HGTV Canada
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