Essay My Favorite Holiday Traditions Around The World

Nine writers for the Dining section and many Times readers shared their favorite holiday recipes and remembrances. When you think back on holidays meals past, what stands out most? Does your family have traditional dishes that you look forward to each year? Or does one particular meal stand out in your memory?

The Dining section feature “The Gifts? I Forget. But the Meal!,” featuring favorite holiday meals by nine Times food writers, includes a reminiscence by Pete Wells, written in the form of a letter to Santa (and appended with a recipe for candied orange peel):

Hi, Santa,

First, I’m sorry I haven’t been in touch. I know it’s no excuse, but I have been extremely busy, starting around 1981. Anyway, I’m writing you today because there’s something I can’t get off my mind: the fruit.

Each Christmas morning my sister and I would hold our stockings upside down; out would pour colored pens and books of Lifesavers and (hello, mixed messages) a new toothbrush. Finally we’d get down into the toe, where there was something round and weighty. A dinosaur skull? A meteorite? The Hope diamond?

No, what tumbled out last was an apple or an orange. For Christmas? Were we living in a sod house on the banks of the Missouri? Did we needed vitamin C to avoid scurvy? Did you think we didn’t notice that the white glass bowl in the kitchen was filled with fruits that looked exactly like the ones in our stockings?

To be honest, I feel the same way now about the box of Florida oranges that arrived this morning. A relative mails us one each December without exception. They look cheerful in the fruit bowl on the kitchen counter, and we eat them all month long, slicing them into quarters and saving the peels in the refrigerator until I have enough to boil them in sugar syrup. The boys love these candied peels rolled in white sugar, even though they would normally complain about the tinge of bitterness in the pith that I can never quite purge, even after several blanchings.

So you understand, we’re up to our hips in citrus around here, and there’s no need to leave oranges for the boys this year. I mean, last year, they kind of got a kick out of finding fruit in their stocking. But really, you don’t need to. We’re good.

Students: Tell us your favorite holiday meal memory. Who prepared it? Why does it stand out for you? What does it represent for you and mean to you? Feel free to share a basic recipe along with your memories. (You can also submit the full recipe for inclusion in the Dining section’s “Holiday Favorites” feature.)

Students 13 and older are invited to comment below. Please use only your first name. For privacy policy reasons, we will not publish student comments that include a last name.

1. Location, Location, Location... Doesn't Matter

The one thing I've learned over my years of spring break trips is that where you go ultimately doesn't matter. Traveling with people you love is all you need, and the rest will fall into place. Commercial places like Myrtle Beach are going to be naturally more expensive, so visit a lesser known beach (or no beach at all) because it'll be cheaper and less crowded.

2. Family and Friends Discount

Family is great, friends are better, so why not exploit them for a place to stay? Once you figure out whom you want to travel with, check to see if any of your travel companions have connections to places you could stay over spring break. Using those connections are often cheaper and more reliable than using commercial means.

3. Food for Thought

Spring break is the time to get caught up on sleep, not do anything remotely productive, and eat like there is no tomorrow. However, sleep and not doing anything is free (most the time), but food is not. The quickest way to blow through your spring break budget is by going out to eat too much. While it can be tempting to hit up all the local dives, it's important not to get carried away when treating yourself. When you are packing prior to the trip, go through your own pantry and find any snacks that you already have. Upon your arrival, plan out your meals with whomever you traveled with, only eating out maybe two or three times over the course of your trip. Remember, sharing is caring. Whoever you traveled with, share things to make the trip cheaper and build poor college kid camaraderie.

4. Family and Friends Discount

Family is great, friends are better, so why not exploit them for a place to stay? Once you figure out whom you want to travel with, check to see if any of your travel companions have connections to places you could stay over spring break. Using those connections or often cheaper and more reliable than using commercial means.

5. Great Value, Great Life

This advice applies to most of life, but off-brand items at the grocery store are perfectly fine as compared to name brand items. Those beautifully bland labels are cheap and... well, that's basically it. So there is no reason that your cabinets at spring break aren't packed with off-brand foods. Those combined with cooking meals make for a much more cost-effective spring break.

6. Drinks To Make Your Head Hurt, Not Your Wallet

Since I am not of age, my good friend Charlie will be writing this section.

"First off, get off your craft beer high horse. It may have that pun you thought was funny for five seconds, but it costs ten times more than Rolling Rock. If you are partying on a budget, find some Milwaukee brews and get drunk.

Second, mixes are cheap, and they are made so that you don't have have to taste that three-dollar vodka you poured into it. Remember that you're just trying to forget about that midterm you definitely failed. Also, don't bring your bottles to the beach, that's how you get slapped with fines and ruin your day. Get those solo cups or that thermos that says "I <3 mom" and slap that full of Pina Colada or Tequila.

Hope this helps. I'm giving the computer back to Logan now. I tried not to curse, so if you want to hear this in your voice, just add an expletive every other word."

7. Guys Afternoon In (GAI)

You traveled with them, so spend some time with them. Even more than spending time with them, don't throw money down the toilet by going to various tourist traps like putt-putt, aquariums, or theme parks. Instead, hangout with your friends by playing games together, sitting outside and talking, or walking to nearby holes-in-the-wall. Those local, hidden hotspots will provide a much better time than any of those tourist traps that just want your money in exchange for a mediocre experience.

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