Healthy Living in the North

Joyful eating: Northern dietitians share holiday food traditions

Robyn's nuts and bolts.
Robyn’s nuts and bolts.

Northern Health recognizes that culture and traditions are components of healthy eating, and that food is an important part of holiday celebrations. In a recent post, dietitian Amelia Gallant describes how the act of sharing a meal with others is a “true holiday gift.” For her, it creates memories, reinforces a sense of family, and makes traditions.

My family came to Canada when I was just a baby. Growing up, we didn’t maintain many Belgian traditions, nor did we adopt many Canadian ones. Perhaps because of this, I have always been intrigued by other families’ holiday food traditions. Curious, I reached out to other dietitians in Northern BC, and asked them to share their traditions. Their responses were as unique and varied as the dietitians themselves.

Ginger beef and dancing
“My family has ginger beef, rice, and salad on Christmas Eve after going to church. After supper, we sing Christmas carols and dance while my uncle and cousin play the accordion. We started this tradition a few years ago and it’s a lot of fun!”
~ Courtenay Hopson, Prince George

Jigg's dinner with turkey.
Jigg’s dinner with turkey.

Open doors and kitchen parties
“For my family in Newfoundland, the holidays are about having an open door for family and friends. We gather to eat, dance, and party in kitchens, around a plate of cookies and cake or a feed of “Jiggs Dinner” with turkey. We can expect someone to show up uninvited and in costume, with a pillowcase on their head and “rubber boots on the wrong feet.” It’s a tradition of door-to-door visiting, merriment, and a who’s-who guessing game known as “Mummering”.”
~ Amelia Gallant, Fort St. John

Digging for good fortune
“For New Year’s Eve, I love helping my mom make her famous “banitsa,” a traditional Bulgarian dish with layers of filo pastry, eggs, and feta cheese. We add small pieces of dogwood branches, or handwritten fortunes wrapped in foil. Once it’s ready, my family gathers around the table and digs in. As each fortune is found, we read it out loud, and discuss it around the table, usually with a great deal of laughter!”
~Emilia Moulechkova, Terrace

Fondue and friends
“We have a fondue with friends. We usually do an oil fondue with vegetables and steak; they organize a cheese and bread fondue. We spend a few hours doing fondue and talking. It is delicious and very cozy! Afterwards, we exchange presents that we save to open on Christmas day.” 
~ Olivia Jebbink, Prince George

Flo's cinnamon buns.
Flo’s cinnamon buns.

Cinnamon buns to share
“I spend Christmas Eve making cinnamon buns, which we drop off to friends with baking instructions for the next morning. I appreciate knowing that my friends are enjoying cinnamon buns on Christmas morning, just as we are in our house. Every year I do a bit of a twist – last year it was tropical cinnamon buns, the year before it was Nutella-stuffed buns. I am still deciding for this year!”
~ Flo Sheppard, Terrace

A snack passed down through generations
“My family only prepares ‘nuts and bolts’ in December. My brother and I always measured the ingredients, while Dad prepared the secret sauce. This recipe has been passed down through many generations, each adding their own touch. This year, I finally made the ‘Turner Classic,’ after finding the original recipe in my great-great-grandmother’s recipe book!”
~ Robyn Turner, Vanderhoof

Honouring Mom and Dad
“To celebrate my Dad’s Ukranian heritage, we always eat a Ukranian meal on Christmas Eve, including perogies, cabbage rolls, and borsht. We also always have birthday cake after Christmas dinner (and sometimes for breakfast the next day, too!) as my Mom is a Christmas baby.”
~ Lindsay Van der Meer, Prince George

I love each of these stories. While they showcase a variety of foods, preparation methods, and people with whom to celebrate, they all highlight the joy in sharing food and traditions. Now that I have a young family of my own, I reflect on what traditions I’d like to build into our holiday celebrations – clearly, so much is possible!

This holiday season, with what kinds of food traditions will you celebrate?

Lise Luppens

About Lise Luppens

Lise is a registered dietitian with Northern Health's regional Population Health team, where her work focuses on nutrition in the early years. She is passionate about supporting children's innate eating capabilities and the development of lifelong eating competence. Her passion for food extends beyond her work, and her young family enjoys cooking, local foods, and lazy gardening. In her free time, you might also find her exploring beautiful northwest BC by foot, ski, kayak or kite.

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