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December 12, 2013

Lori Brothers: Christmas traditions vary around the country

NEW CASTLE — Living well through the holidays is about finding the joy in the little things. It is about noticing the details that might bring happiness to friends and family. The little gestures, which can include gift giving, can also be found in many different actions that spring from an open heart inspired by the season. Remember to thread your heart into the hustle and bustle of the season.

For all of the shopping and cooking and visiting, it is the small things like putting your change in the “red pot,” sending a Christmas card to someone you know who needs uplifting or delighting in a Secret Santa exchange that really shapes your mood during this time of year.

For each of us there may be different personal preferences that put us in the holiday spirit. For some it is the smell of cinnamon while others love the aroma of pine. Holiday lights, the peace dove and mistletoe are all beloved symbols. And for those who don’t always like the snow, we still hope for a white Christmas.

Warmth is a symbol of the heart. That is one of the advantages of living in this region of the country for the holidays. From Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve, the wintry elements of the season add to our innate sense of valuing warmth in all of its forms, including warming our hearts in loving connection to each other.

Sitting by the fireplace isn’t quite the same in warmer climates.  A cup of steamy hot cocoa is a treasure in this neck of the woods after playing in the snow. The gifts of slippers, blankets, sweater, and boots are all more appreciated by Northerners than by Southerners.  However, that’s what brings the diversity of traditions to our culture.

Living well includes the joy of eating family favorites.  Many American families have the traditional stuffed turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, and pumpkin pie for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. Others go for a Christmas roast beef dinner.  In Whoville they prefer roast beast.

In my family, Christmas Eve is the traditional feast consisting of meatless Slovak/Polish delights including fish, perogies, vegetable-mushroom soup, sauerkraut and bread. The Italian Christmas Eve has gained much notoriety. “The Feast of the Seven Fishes” consists of seven different seafood dishes.

Here is a list of the variety in the traditions and flavors that come in the taste of the Christmas feast around the United States according to californiamall.com.

Virginians enjoy oyster and ham pie. Southern states have hominy grits soufflé and whiskey cake (with one cup of 100-proof whiskey.) Louisiana’s treat is Creole gumbo. It can include ham, veal, chicken, shrimp, oysters and crabmeat. New Mexico has the empanaditas — little beef pies with applesauce, pine nuts and raisins. Hawaii celebrates with turkey teriyaki marinated and cooked over an outdoor pit.

New England has lumberjack pie — a mashed potato crust filled with meats, onion and cinnamon. Pennsylvania Dutch serve sand Tarts, which are thin, crisp sugar cookies. North Carolina features Moravian love-feast buns — faintly sweet bread of flour and mashed potatoes.  Baltimore serves sauerkraut with their turkey and includes apples, onions and carrots.

One of the healthiest things you can do during the holidays is to demonstrate how much you appreciate all of the people and traditions that make up the special holiday fabric of our lives. Demonstration is active, so laugh a lot, hug the ones you love a lot, share a lot and ask for help when you need it. All of these actions help you to anchor in the heart, remain grounded, find balance and stay centered.

Be sure to make time.  Setting the stage for the perfection of the rituals and traditions won’t promote health if you don’t make the time to enjoy them. Enjoyment promises the joy of the season. That must be why “joy” is embedded in the word, and that makes en“joy”ment my recommendation for a holiday prescription to well-being.

Low Fat Plum Crisp

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