Learn about the flavors and traditions of the world through food this holiday season

Holidays are a time to come together at the table and celebrate traditions with family and food. While the holiday celebrations may be different this year, food is still the common thread that brings us all to the table, whether it’s in-person or virtually. 

This season gives families an opportunity to get in the kitchen and prepare family recipes, try new recipes, and indulge in all the celebration foods. At Common Threads, we know that food is rooted in culture and tradition. We encourage children and families to learn about the world around them through our recipes, while also embracing their own family traditions.

Throughout December, a time period encompassing many holidays, we explore the celebratory, symbolic, and traditional foods enjoyed as part each holiday and share our favorite seasonal recipes so you can explore culture and world cuisine with your family! Download our Holiday Recipe Cookbook featuring recipes for entrees, sides, desserts, and beverages. Happy celebrating! 


Click HERE to download our Holiday Cookbook

Hanukkah (December 10-18th, 2020)

Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday, also known as the Festival of Lights, honoring the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem following the Maccabean Revolt.  Traditional foods to celebrate Hanukkah include: Latkes, apple cake, brisket, challah bread, and Sufganiyot (jelly donuts). Hanukkah foods are very symbolic, acknowledging the events marked by the holiday with an emphasis on foods prepared in oils, an ode to the oil that provided light for eight nights. 

During Hanukkah celebrations, families get together to play a game called dreidel, using a four sided spinning top. Common Threads’ Co-Founder & CEO, Linda Novick O’Keefe, shares her family’s love for playing dreidel with chocolate gold coins (gelt) and enjoying her favorite Latkes recipe made with homemade applesauce and Greek yogurt with dill or chives. This recipe was adapted from Gail Simmons’ Mom’s Potato Pancakes (Latkes) recipe, using Greek yogurt instead of sour cream and whole wheat flour instead of all purpose.

“Hanukkah is always a highlight in my home,” Novick O’Keefe said. “It’s a nice time to speak about Jewish traditions and the symbolism of the holiday, and we have a great time enjoying our favorite Hanukkah foods and playing games together.”

Christmas (Dec. 25, 2020)

Christmas commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ and is celebrated in various ways in countries around the world with family, religious, and festive social gatherings. The holiday includes symbolic decorations of Christmas trees and homes, feasting on Christmas Eve and Christmas day, gift exchanges and Christmas cookies. Families come together to celebrate with food traditions and family recipes passed down from generation to generation. Many of the traditions and flavors of Christmas vary depending on the country. Explore traditional Christmas foods in the United States, Mexico, and Italy.

United States (Christmas)

Italian (Natale) – Celebrated by Italian Americans on Christmas Eve, known as the Feast of Seven Fishes, a grand meal featuring seven dishes, most of which include fish prepared in various ways (baked, grilled, roasted, and in soups and pastas). The origins of the Feast of Seven Fishes are connected to abstaining from meat on Catholic holidays and the number seven is symbolic in Catholic history.

Mexico (Navidad) – 

    • Red Pozole: This soup is traditionally made with pork. Our vegetarian adaptation is made from a flavorful chili pepper red sauce. Other types of Pozole are green, made with tomatillos or other green ingredients and white, made without red or green sauce.
    • Arroz con Pollo sautéed chicken and butternut squash paired with brown rice made with onion, tomato sauce, garlic, and other seasonings 
    • Agua Fresca De Piña y Fresasparkling water mixed with pineapples, strawberries, lime juice, and honey and garnished with mint

Mexican Hot Chocolate: a sweet and spicy hot chocolate made with milk, cinnamon, vanilla, cocoa powder, cayenne, and nutmeg

Kwanzaa (Dec. 26, 2020 – Jan. 1, 2021)

Kwanzaa is a seven day celebration of African heritage, community and food. The holiday specifically honors the bountiful harvests of fruits and vegetables.  Each of the seven days represents a different principle fostering a sense of community and encouraging collaboration. Symbolic foods include sweet potatoes, bananas, okra and corn. Aside from the emphasis on fruits and vegetables, Kwanzaa menu options have various geographical and cultural influences including African, Creole and Cajun. Explore our Common Bytes recipes for to create a menu for Kwanzaa feast also known as Karamu, consumed on the sixth night of Kwanzaa

    • Shrimp & Okra Saute: sauteed and seasoned shrimp, okra, tomato, and onion served over brown rice
    • Egusi Soup: a flavorful soup made with sirloin beef, vegetables, and seasonings and topped with pumpkin seeds
    • Collard greens: a mix of cooked lentils, collard greens, and onions and seasoned to taste
    • Sweet Plantain Chips: plantain slices baked in cinnamon and sugar make for a sweet, crunchy chip
    • Sweet Potato Bars: homemade pie crust topped with a blend of sweet potato, yogurt, brown sugar, cinnamon and more; topped with pecans and a drizzle of maple syrup

New Years Jan. 1, 2021/Feb. 12, 2021 (Chinese New Year or Lunar New Year) 

The transition to a new year represents a time of renewal, reflection, and resolutions. New Year’s celebrations occur around the world, marked by food, drinks, countdowns, fireworks, and festive parties (when it is safe to do so). New Year’s food traditions across cultures are rooted in symbolism with associations with luck, prosperity, and wellness featuring tamales, greens, lentils, pomegranate, noodles, black eyed peas, and pork.  For example, see our recipes below featuring symbolic ingredients to bring you health and happiness in the new year!

    • Sweet Pepper Glazed Pork Chops: Tender pork chops, symbolic of a wealth, with a sweet pepper glaze consisting of garlic, shallots, and pimientos
    • Rice and Lentils (Kushari): rice and symbolic lentils, signifying wealth and prosperity mixed with sautéed onions and flavored with cinnamon, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes
    • Lebanese Fattoush Salad: A Mediterranean salad including lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, radishes, and toasted bread drizzled with a dressing made from pomegranates, a symbol of good luck.
    • Haitian Jou Mou: Traditional Jou Mou is made with beef marinated in Haitian Epis and pureed Kabocha squash with hearty vegetables like potatoes and carrots with aromatics onions, leeks, and garlic. This traditional soup is consumed in celebration on Jan. 1, honoring Haiti’s revolution and independence. 
    • Stir fry: a mix of vegetables, chicken and soba noodles, symbolic of longevity  sautéed in a flavorful sauce. Try our Cauliflower Stir Fry for a vegetarian option as many abstain from eating meat in celebration of Chinese New Year.
    • Vegetable Dumplings: minced carrot, ginger, red bell pepper, onion and garlic folded into dumplings, which symbolize family and prosperity and served with homemade sweet and sour ginger dipping sauce.


Common Threads is a national nonprofit that provides children and families cooking and nutrition education to encourage healthy habits that contribute to wellness. We equip under-resourced communities with information to make affordable, nutritious and appealing food choices wherever they live, work, learn and play. We know that food is rooted in culture and tradition, so we promote diversity in our lessons and recipes, encouraging our participants to celebrate the world around them. To learn more, visit www.commonthreads.org or on social media by searching for #CookingForLife.