Many New Yorkers from different cultural backgrounds will soon celebrate Christmas Eve and Christmas with big, multi-course feasts. One of the most elaborate is The Feast of the Seven Fishes, an Italian-American Christmas Eve celebration. It may include seven or more specific fish dishes, such as whiting in lemon, clams in spaghetti, or baccalà (dried, salted cod). If you ever want to try to create your own feast, there are several pesci recipes in Canal House Cooking: Pronto! for you to try.
Filipinos celebrate Christmas from December 16 until the first Sunday of January and the Feast of the Three Kings. After Christmas Eve midnight mass, preparation begins for Noche Buena, when family, friends, and neighbors drop by for an open house celebration. Food is often served in buffet style. Among the typical foods prepared are lechon (roasted pig), queso de bola, ham, spaghetti, and fruit salad. Filipino Family Cookbook : A Treasury of Heirloom Recipes and Heartfelt Stories is a great resource if you’d like to learn more.
For many Latinos in the United States, the holiday season is synonymous with tamales. Mexican Americans often opt for corn-husk-wrapped tamales, while those from Central America typically wrap theirs in banana leaves. And while most Mexican and Central American tamales contain corn-based masa, Puerto Rican pasteles don’t use any, instead using a combination of ground yautía (yuca) and green plátanos (plantains). Tamales, Comadres, and the Meaning of Civilization is filled with family recipes and stories. It also celebrates tamaladas, large family gatherings to prepare the Christmas tamales.
There are many special desserts traditionally made at Christmas, such as German Stollen, Spanish Turrón, French Bûche de Noël, and Italian Panettone and Struffoli. The United States is best known for its varied Christmas cookies that reflect America’s immigrant heritages. City Tech Professor Michael Krondl is a culinary historian and the author of Sweet Invention: A History of Dessert. You can listen to his interview on The Takeaway about the history of Christmas cookies. For your own holiday cookie baking, take a look at The Great Minnesota Cookie Book : Award-Winning Recipes from the Star Tribune’s Holiday Cookie Contest.
This post is an excerpt from this blog originally published in December 2021. It was co-authored by Monica Berger.