Holiday traditions run deep in families. We love to celebrate the way our grandparents and parents celebrated, which means preparing food that we associate with a particular holiday. With so many different traditions in Toronto, it’s easy to add something new to festive time together with family and friends. All you have to do is ask an older relative to bring (or suggest) a favourite dish from their childhood, or invite office colleagues to bring something that says “Christmas” or “Holiday Season” to them.
When Toronto business owner Nima Noori came to Canada from Iran, he looked for ways to make the office “Christmas party” more fun for everyone. He invited his 15 staff, who represented 9 different cultures, to add their own individual flavour by bringing a traditional holiday dish to the company’s annual potluck lunch.
“The mix of Trinidadian pastelles, Mexican bacalao, Indian butter chicken, Vietnamese pho and Portuguese custard tarts was delicious,” says Noori, “but even more important was the sharing of each other’s cultures. It sparks a whole lot of conversation.”
Take in the mix of traditions around you!
Look around you when you’re shopping this season and marvel at the variety of items on display. Throughout December, for example, every grocery store has a display of bright boxes, large and small, filled with Panettone, a sweet Italian bread/cake meant to share with the entire family. Packed with candied peel & sultanas, Panettone is a perfect accompaniment to coffee the morning after a big meal.
You’ll also notice that many restaurants feature a specific menu, inviting anyone to enjoy. IKEA, for example, promotes Swedish Christmas buffets in their stores, and at the Old Mill in Toronto, you can enjoy a traditional Ukrainian Christmas Celebration.
Endless Traditions and Variety
Ask a co-worker or a neighbour and you’ll find out what holiday food treat is special to them, how to make it and when to serve.
Beetroot soup (borscht) is usually served on Christmas Eve in Polish households, which is the day most Polish people have their main feast.
Yiaprakia is a dish from northern Greece that can be found in every corner of the country during the holiday season. Yiaprakia are cabbage leaves stuffed with minced pork, herbs and rice.
Fruitcake is a big tradition in Jamaica. The dried fruit soaks in a red wine and rum mix many months before Christmas Day. Other Jamaican favourites include curry goat, stewed oxtail and rum punch.
There also are regional differences across the country. Maritimers love a buttery red cherry cake; we all enjoy those decadent Nanaimo bars from British Columbia, and many thanks to les Québécois for tourtière and Yule Log cake!
Enjoy these holiday food memories. Add your own!
“Give me a new potato any day and it takes me back to Christmas. Both my father and my grandfather would grow new potatoes and the digging of the spuds for Christmas day was an important undertaking. I can still picture the green bucket they went into.” – Australian Canadian