Here’s how we’re celebrating the holidays around the world!
Happy Holidays, #giantfoodies! ‘Tis the season for celebrations galore with family and friends! Coming together to share a special meal is central to holidays around the world. It not only creates meaningful connections while “breaking bread,” but also the passing of traditions (like recipes) from one generation to the next.
You’ve heard of Christmas and Hanukkah. Here are two more holidays being celebrated around the world at this time—perhaps you’d like to take a recipe and add to the festivities in your home!
Kwanzaa is celebrated from December 26 to January 1, with each of the seven days dedicated to a specific principle known as the Nguzo Saba. Did you know that this holiday has only been in existence for a little over five decades? It was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, chairman of Africana Studies at California State University Long Beach. He created the holiday to celebrate people of African heritage and build unity and collectivism in Black communities. It's a perfect example of starting a new tradition to honor! Kwanzaa is not associated with a religion—the name is derived from the Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza, which means "first fruits of the harvest." Of course, with a name like that, food is a key part of festivities! The big feast called Karamu is celebrated on New Year’s Eve.
The food served during Kwanzaa is as eclectic as the African continent, with American soul food dishes appearing as well. Depending on a family’s traditions, the menu ranges from soul food staples like black-eyed peas, yams, collard greens, and okra to Nigerian jollof rice and West African peanut stew. And yes, Giant carries all the ingredients needed to make seven days of Kwanzaa favorites, and our Savory Recipe Center has plenty of ideas.
Here's a slow cooker Hoppin' John recipe that is A) quick to throw together and B) perfect for these cold winter months.
Next is the Feast of the Seven Fishes, an Italian-American tradition celebrated on Christmas Eve. Families gather around a feast of seven different seafood dishes (or one or two types of fish prepared seven different ways). Sounds like heaven to me! The ancient tradition of eating fish on Christmas Eve dates back to the Roman Catholic custom of abstaining from meat and dairy products on certain holy days. The number seven is an ancient number and is found throughout Catholic beliefs. In the early 1900s, Italian-Americans rekindled this tradition to make them feel close to their homes and celebrate the sea. My good friend Fred shared that his mother prepares seven different types of seafood dishes from scratch, and they range from antipasto and salad to pasta and main courses. I might have to make time to visit.
Don't have time to make pasta from scratch like Fred's mama D'Agata? You and I both! So here are a couple of very simple favorites of mine: mussels marinara and salmon and veggies over linguini. Did you know mussels are a great source of zinc, a mineral that can boost the immune system? It’s perfect for this time of year!
I'm also looking forward to trying some of the easy seafood recipes in this month's Savory, like Tilapia Livornese, a flavorful dish from Livorno on the Western coast of Tuscany.
As a nutritionist, I particularly appreciate this tradition since the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends at least two servings of seafood every week to benefit heart and brain health. Look for those with the most omega-3s, such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, herring, trout, and tuna.
I know how easy it is to stick to what we’re used to since we’re such creatures of habit! But during this holiday season, break out and surprise your family and friends with something different—maybe from a different tradition than your own. For more inspiration, check out our podcast "Holiday Traditions from our Family Table" to see how some members of our Giant family celebrate!
Until next time, eat well and try something new!
Min is a registered dietitian and in-store nutritionist for Giant Food who is all about adventures through traveling and exploring off the beaten path. She has a passion for cuisines of the world and their beneficial ingredients. In her series “International Foodie,” she takes you on culinary journeys through distant lands and shows how you can create some of those special experiences right here at home.