By: Meggan Rush
The holiday season is a magical time for people from different cultural backgrounds to celebrate the joy of giving, the warmth of family and the spirit of togetherness. This festive season is marked by various celebrations around the world, each with its unique traditions and customs. Here are just a few:
Christmas: A Time for Joy and Giving
Date: December 25
Description: Christmas is celebrated across the globe to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. Traditions include decorating Christmas trees, exchanging gifts, attending midnight Mass and enjoying family feasts. From Santa Claus and his reindeer to festive carols, Christmas is a time of joy, kindness and generosity.
“In our house we celebrate the holidays with a birthday party for Jesus. My three girls plan it all, leading up to the baking what cake they will make. Sometimes it's homemade, sometimes it's a box and they have even been as elaborate as a tie-dye cake. If the cousins are with us, they join in too. And we all sing Happy Birthday! – Alyssa McClelland, Dairy Council of California Director of Partnerships and Programs
Hanukkah: The Festival of Lights
Date: Varies (typically in December)
Description: Hanukkah, also spelled Chanukah, is a Jewish festival lasting eight nights. It commemorates the miracle of the oil that burned for eight days in the temple. Families light the menorah, exchange gifts, play the dreidel game and enjoy traditional foods like latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly-filled doughnuts).
“During the holidays, I like to surround myself with my children. They're all older now, and having them all together is a rarity, so the holidays allow us to be together, and enjoy each other's company.” – Fausat Rahman-Davies, Lead Child Nutrition Agent for Rialto Unified School District and Let’s Eat Healthy Initiative Nutrition Champion
“The holidays are always celebrated with loved ones with good traditional foods. Champurrado with tamales are a must for my family, usually paired with Pozole. Games are always involved during the holidays, with either a friendly soccer game between cousins or a Loteria/board game. A personal tradition is that I always go on a hike or play basketball the morning of any holiday, a family hike is a great opportunity for movement and family bonding during the holidays!” – Cesar Sauza, Alta Med Clinical Nutrition Manager and Let’s Eat Healthy Initiative Nutrition Champion
Las Posadas: A Mexican Christmas Tradition
Date: December 16–24
Description: Las Posadas is a Mexican Christmas tradition that reenacts Mary and Joseph's search for a place to stay in Bethlehem. Participants go from house to house, singing and asking for shelter, until they are finally welcomed. Festivities include traditional foods and the breaking of a piñata filled with treats.
“My mother's mole recipe has been passed down for generations, and it's truly a labor of love. Although she makes it a few times a year, it's always a special treat when she uses it with tamales during Christmas. Her mole recipe is not a well-kept secret anymore, as we posted a video of all the ingredients on TikTok. It does have over 25 ingredients (give or take), and the end result is absolutely worth it! The aroma of the mole simmering on the stove fills the house with warmth and anticipation for the holiday feast. It's a dish that brings our family together and reminds us of our rich cultural heritage.” – Sandra Torres, Dairy Council of California Program Manager for Special Projects
Yule: Embracing the Winter Solstice
Date: Varies (around December 21)
Description: Yule is a pagan festival celebrating the winter solstice, marking the longest night and the return of longer days. Many Yule traditions, such as the Yule log and decorating with evergreen plants, have been incorporated into modern Christmas celebrations. It's a time to embrace the cycles of nature and the promise of renewal.
“Growing up my family always had homemade pierogis for Christmas Eve dinner with homemade Polish sausage made by my great-grandparents while they were still alive and then made by my grandma once they passed away. My grandma passed the pierogi recipe to my mother and my mother to me by teaching me how to make them. The recipe is a guide but the learning happened by making them with my mom. I have continued this traditional Christmas Eve dinner with my family and they all LOVE it and look forward to it every year! – Heather Berkoben, Dairy Council of CA Community Nutrition Adviser
Kwanzaa: Honoring African Heritage and Unity
Date: December 26 through January 1
Description: Kwanzaa is a celebration of African American heritage and culture. Created in 1966, it spans seven nights, with each night dedicated to one of the seven principles: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith. Families come together to light the kinara (candleholder), exchange gifts and share in festive meals.
“Our district celebrates winter holidays with a decoration contest. There is a different theme each year. Our office has won first place six years in a row! It's a great opportunity to demonstrate teamwork in a fun way.” – Vivien Watts, Executive Director of Food and Nutrition Services at Alhambra Unified School District and Let’s Eat Healthy Initiative Nutrition Champion
While these celebrations may differ in their origins and practices, a common thread runs through them all: the spirit of love, joy and unity while passing down traditions centered around special meals. The holiday season is a time to appreciate the beauty
of diversity and to find common ground in the values that connect us all. So, whether lighting candles for Hanukkah, singing carols for Christmas or honoring ancestral traditions for Kwanzaa, let's come together to celebrate the richness of our shared
From the Dairy Council of CA family to your family, happy holidays to all.
Communications Manager Meggan brings professional expertise in leading successful communications for media, public relations and marketing programs.
At Dairy Council of California, we understand the importance of culturally diverse foodways and the role dairy plays in these cultures.
Balancing healthy foods with tradition are an integral part of holiday celebrations that is important for health now and in the future.