Cookies, cocktails, or cozy bowls of chili: There's no one way to celebrate the holidays. Today in How We Holiday, our community shares some of their favorite ideas.
In my family, Christmas dinner is the more formal night; even if it’s just my parents, my brother, my husband, and my grandma, we’ll have some sort of roast. But Christmas Eve is casual: People are furiously wrapping their last-minute presents—there’s still work to be done. So every year, we have a soup party. It started with my grandpa making oyster stew, which is really just oysters and milk with a little butter and a lot of black pepper and celery salt. My brother and I always thought was kind of disgusting, so my mom started making an extra vat of chicken chili—which, with tortilla chips and cheese in it, is both kid-friendly and friendly for the random people we would sometimes invite, like a coworker or friend. One year, someone was a vegetarian, so my mom threw on a minestrone—and suddenly, it was a soup party. —Kristen Miglore
What I do to bring people together for a meal—and it can be universal, not just for the holidays—is to have everyone wash their hands together. Imagine a communal table, where people turn around in pairs of two and extend their hands over a bucket—and as I pour hot water over their hands, I say “Miyega,” which means both “welcome” and “thank you” in my tribal language. Or, you could just go around the table and say something you’re grateful for; or if you have placement cards at people’s seats, you could write something on the back that you’re grateful for about that person. It’s these little things that establish intimacy at the table right away.—Gladys Nyoth
Gladys Nyoth is an African indigenous chef dedicated to bridging the gap between the western world and Africa through immersive dinners combining cuisines and performing arts.
Wrapping gifts is my favorite thing about the holidays, and I put a lot of time and effort into it. I love to make homemade, hand-painted gift wrap; usually I’ll use butcher paper or white paper, and I’ll customize it for each person. All of the presents under the tree end up feeling unique.
On Christmas morning last year, and my family opened stockings, then went to a church service and made kits for the homeless. They were really simple—socks, toothbrushes, snacks, water, those kinds of things—but I thought it was a special thing to do. We weren’t just thinking about ourselves, about getting home and opening our own gifts. I'm hoping that's something we can continue in our family. —Julie Pointer Adams
Julie Pointer Adams is an artist, writer, and floral designer living in Santa Barbara, California who recently authored and photographed Wabi-Sabi Welcome: Learning to Embrace the Imperfect and Entertain with Thoughtfulness and Ease.
For the past few years I’ve been exploring the winter solstice celebration. There are ancient Persian traditions for the two equinoxes and the two solstices, and for the winter solstice, there’s Shab-e Yalda. It’s the longest night of the year, so the celebration is about light overcoming darkness. People stay up really late, always past midnight and until dawn if you can, and you eat pomegranates and sweets and a nut-and-dried-fruit mix called ajil and read Hafiz poetry. I didn’t grow up doing this—this is totally me rediscovering my Persian heritage—but I’ve been playing around with that for the last few winters in order to bring this beautiful tradition into my life. —Louisa Shafia
Addison Friend, age 11: I like a lot of things about the holidays. I like being with my family, especially my cousins and aunts and uncles and my grandpa. And getting presents. That’s fun, too.
Walker Friend, age 11: We make cookies that are star-shaped and tree-shaped. We get a tree and put lights and stuff on that. We have snowflakes on the windows. And we have an elf on the shelf.
A: When it’s Christmas morning, we do this walk that’s called Hay Foot Straw Foot. So we line up youngest to oldest, all the way up to Grandpa, and you put your right arm on the person in front of you and you sing a song while marching into the living room.
W: Grandad has a big tree at his house and we decorate it on Christmas Eve. We listen to music—not a CD thing, but something like that.
A: It’s like a tape.
[Editor’s note: It’s a cassette tape.]
Addison Friend and Walker Friend are Amanda Hesser's twins, who have been fed almost exclusively Food52 recipes since age 3.
Interviews conducted and edited by Brette Warshaw.