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This Holiday Season

Family Traditions



As the holiday season approaches, there’s no better time to honor tradition, yet find ways to make the tradition resonate with you and your family.

By Vicki Martinez


Over the centuries, the kitchen has been a gathering place for young and old. It’s the heart of homes around the world, where stories are recounted or learned for the first time. It’s where childhood memories are made, where special meals are prepared for family and friends, and where many family traditions are born.

The first step to reimagining a tradition is to know what the tradition is.

Tradition: “A custom or belief that is passed down through the generations or that is done time after time or year after year.”

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Learn the Old
Family Recipe

Whether you were born here in the U.S. or recently arrived from your country of origin, honoring a family recipe means knowing how to prepare it correctly. If you don’t already know, take time to learn:

  1. How to spread masa to the right thickness for the perfect tamale
  1. The precise oil temperature to achieve crisp, yet moist latkes
  1. The types and amounts of spices for the ideal combination of flavor and heat in joll of rice
  1. How much water is needed to achieve the necessary consistency for shaping tang yuan
  1. The exact amount of semolina flour to add for perfect pasta elasticity

There’s something beautiful about the old ways. But there’s nothing wrong with reimagining a tradition to make it more healthy, simpler to create or just more fun in the kitchen.

Remake: “To make again or anew, creating a new version from an older one.”


Traditions evolve over time. Whether using new devices or experimenting with different spices, changing a family tradition for the better helps it stand the test of time. No matter if you’re ready for a complete tradition overhaul or simply looking for a small tweak, here are a few suggestions:

  • Add your family’s favorites, keeping one or two dishes from the usual menu. Ditch the rest.
  • Experiment with substitutions to give old recipes a healthier spin.
  • If you’ve always been responsible for preparing the family meal, it’s okay to make it easier on yourself. Invite family and friends over the day before for a day of prep together. Enjoy some laughter and some wine so you can relax more the next day.

Of course, if cooking together has never been a part of your traditional celebration, why not start now?

Here’s a recipe to get you started: A pinch of old and a smidge of new; a dash of tradition and a sprinkle of reinvention; mix thoroughly; enjoy!