More than any other time of year, our winter holidays are steeped in tradition. Maybe because the cold, dark winter makes us want to indulge in every comfort we can find, especially those that conjure happy memories of good times with family and friends. These eight traditional Christmas treats are guaranteed to make you feel warm and cozy, no matter the holiday celebration.
The “nog” in eggnog is thought to have originated from the word “noggin,” meaning a small wooden mug used to serve alcohol. The original Medieval eggnog wasn’t the boozy beverage we’re familiar with today, but since the 18th century, the heady combination of eggs, cream, sugar, and alcohol (with a wisp of freshly grated nutmeg on top) has been synonymous with the holidays.
Hot buttered rum
It’s cold out, so drinking something hot is a given. And it’s the holidays, so a little alcohol is a worthwhile indulgence. And, well, since you’re drinking alcohol anyway, you might as well up the decadence factor and add butter, sugar, and spices for a to-die-for hot buttered rum.
Whether or not you had a Scottish granny (but especially if you did), shortbread is a natural part of holiday get-togethers. And whether you choose to supplement yours with rice flour, semolina or just use plain old white flour, the simple flavours of butter and sugar baked together are sure to conjure up thoughts of the holiday season.
Put your teeth to the test with old-fashioned peanut brittle—an addictive treat that’s surprisingly simple to prepare with the help of a candy thermometer and well-buttered baking sheets. This is one time that corn syrup—both dark and light—is pretty much the best thing ever. You can mix up the flavours with both salted and unsalted peanuts.
Known as Viennese crescents or, if you want to be really authentic, vanillekipferl, these light and simple almond cookies dusted with powdered sugar are an Austrian specialty. They freeze well, so feel free to bake a batch and thaw when needed.
Whether you shape it into houses, people or, well, whatever shape your cookie cutters happen to be, gingerbread—fragrant with ginger, cinnamon, and cloves—will make your entire home smell like Christmas and provide an afternoon of fun as you decorate your cookies however you like.
Fudge makes eating butter a legitimate activity. Go with classic chocolate or vanilla, get your Canadian on with maple, or go truly nuts with coconut white chocolate mcadamia nut—there are so many creative variations that it’s really impossible to make just a single flavour. Consider this your permission to make multiple batches and try them all.
In season from early October to late December—and part of the most well-known line in the classic carol, “The Christmas Song”—chestnuts might be the perfect holiday treat. But chestnuts aren’t just a seasonal snack that will conjure Nat King Cole’s soft baritone voice—they’re also high in fibre, low in fat, and packed with vitamins, which is a lot more than we can say about some of the other goodies on this list. Find out how to roast your own here.