Let’s be honest: Holidays don’t look the same for every family—and, of course, even plans with our own families change from year to year. But it’s safe to say that some of the most joyfully shared experiences revolve around food. Whether your family cooks, bakes, or just feasts together this time of year, lasting memories are truly made in the heart of the home: the kitchen.
This season, mbg asked nine families from all different backgrounds about the special ways they celebrate the season with their favorite foods—proof that cooking for joy is truly a common thread when loved ones gather together. Take a peek below, then head on over to Simply Organic for more joyful food inspo. Gingerbread-cookie-making mood ahead!
“My grandmother was from Poland, and we grew up with pierogis and kielbasa at Christmas. She taught us how to make the pierogi dough, the potato filling, and how to fill them just right so they wouldn’t break open when they boiled. This past holiday was our first without her, so my brother and I got together to make the pierogis and share them with our families. It is definitely going to be a tradition with us and something I’ll pass along to my young kids!” –Tamara, Pennsylvania
“In North Carolina, my family always bakes a boatload of cookies during the holidays. But my favorite—and I think the most special ones—are the pizzelles. They’re Italian waffle cookies. My grandmother has a pizzelle maker that’s been in the family for generations, and it was passed down to my mom.She uses a basic recipe from this old Italian cookbook that was my grandmother’s. Since the recipe is so simple—sugar, flour, eggs, and a TON of butter—we flavor them with extracts like vanilla, almond, and licorice. We also make less traditional flavors like lemon, orange, and mint. So yummy! There are so many joyful memories centered around making those cookies and giving them as gifts.” –Amanda, New York
“For Thanksgiving, we have a huge potluck with extended relatives, and each family is in charge of something different, like the sides, turkey, or dessert. Usually my mom and I get the sides. We spend all day cooking together, and then everyone gets together for the potluck in the evening.” –Lily, California
“Whenever we can gather our families together over Thanksgiving or the holidays, we’ll always hang out in the kitchen first and catch up on everyone’s lives. We make and pass around hot toddies for the adults—each mug with its own lemon slice and cinnamon stick—and homemade apple cider for the kids. And there’s always a spread of seasonal fruits like dates, figs, persimmons, cranberries, and citrus slices.” –Karla, New York
“One truth that’s apparent year after year: A messy kitchen is a happy kitchen…until your mom makes you and your sisters and make a dishwashing train!” –Nafisa, Oregon
“The holidays are a time when we cook and bake lots of food using the herbs from our garden. The hope is that it will leave deep imprints on our young twin boys’ hearts and minds for years to come—what actually happens is it all gets shoveled into their little mouths and big stomachs without a thank you! But we do it every year with pleasure knowing there is a direct line from my heart to their stomachsin the form of warm carbs and juicy proteins.” –Debbie, New Jersey
“A few years back, my older sister started hosting holiday gatherings at her place. Our mom would make her famous baked fish, and we’d all participate in a hotpot cookout. One year, I started a gingerbread house tradition with my nephews, and they’ve continued it even though I live overseas now and sometimes can’t make it home. We’ll make the gingerbread houses from scratch together—even my little nephews love the spiciness from the ground ginger and cinnamon—and we’ll have some friendly competition decorating with the icing. We live all around the world, so the holidays are one of the only times we’re all together. It’s a really special time when we do.” –Phuong, Indonesia
“My family celebrates the holidays with the Feast of the Seven Fishes, and we make pasta with shrimp, a seafood stew, and so on—there are 10 of us, so it’s a lot of cooking. It’s a bigger deal than the Christmas Day meal, and my mom—who never drinks—treats herself to a little champagne while she’s cooking. She and my brother-in-law do most of the cooking. The rest of us help, but they’re running the show.” –Renata, New York
“We’re a Christian family, so on Christmas Eve, all our kids gather around the kitchen island and participate in making a birthday cake for Jesus. When the cake is done and decorated, we turn the lights off, light up the candles, and sing the Happy Birthday song! We love this tradition because it’s a simple way for the kids to celebrate their faith, while enjoying a cake made from their tiny hands.” –Bekah, West Virginia
We want to hear how you and your family gather and celebrate together for the holidays! Share your #cookforjoy story on social media and tag us!