Canadians celebrate many December holidays, and sharing those traditions gives us all the warm fuzzies. That’s why the holiday potluck is always the most anticipated event of the season … except for the anxiety about what to bring.
Here are our favourite holiday potluck dishes that will bring a little Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali, Kwanzaa, Bodhi Day, Pancha Ganapati, and Yalda (winter solstice) to the party!
Tourtière for Christmas
What would Christmas be without this French Canadian classic? Double crust, pork and potato filling. Some say it originated with French settler communities as far back as the 1600s. There’s nothing quite as warming, homey, or quintessentially Canadian if you’re celebrating Christmas in the True North. Making a tray of mini pies could be just right for a holiday gathering!
Latkes for Hanukkah
Fried foods are traditional for the Jewish Festival of Lights on account of remembering the miracle of a special vial of oil. And the most recognizable food for the holiday is latkes. If you’re not familiar with latkes, you might confuse them with hash browns or potato pancakes. But there is a difference. The best latkes have lacey, crispy edges complemented by a hot, pillowy centre. Top these babies with sour cream or applesauce (or both) and you’ll be in the holiday spirit in no time!
Jalebi for Diwali
The Hindu Festival of Light celebrates the triumph of good over evil. And don’t we all want to celebrate that? One of our favourite treats is extra special on Diwali – jalebi! Delicious turmeric-coloured dough that’s dripped like strings into hot oil, producing crunchy pretzel shapes that are soaked in sweet saffron syrup. Totally decadent and definitely a triumph of all good things.
Sweet potato desserts for Kwanzaa
Kwanzaa, celebrated by African communities across North America, mixes African traditions and Western culture. Some of our favourite Kwanzaa dishes include peanut soup, okra, and beans. But what we can’t wait for every year are the delicious sweet potato–based desserts. Kwanzaa sweet potato doughnuts and tarts are perfect for a potluck!
Rice milk for Bodhi Day
There are likely as many delicious ways to prepare this seemingly simple dish as there are communities and countries in which Bodhi Day is celebrated! Bodhi Day is the celebration of Buddha’s enlightenment while he sat under the sacred Bodhi (fig) tree. When he awoke from his meditation, his request was for a meal of rice and milk. Would you create yours with sweetened milk? Perhaps use red rice? Or how about a milky rice pudding with figs to symbolize the Bodhi tree?
Colourful fruit and sweets for Pancha Ganapati
Pancha Ganapati, a modern festival that happens to coincide with Christmas, celebrates the five faces of Ganesh. And for each of the five days, an array of sweets, fruits, and incense are displayed in offering to Ganesh. Since a different colour is highlighted for each of the five days, the colours of celebratory foods take on extra meaning. Yellow, blue, red, green, and orange are the prominent colours, so why not try a mix of chocolate-covered starfruit, blueberries, strawberries, kiwi, and dried apricots?
Yalda – Winter Solstice
The ancient Persian celebration of the winter solstice and the subsequent lengthening of days is also celebrated in Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Pakistan, and Northern India. Families share stories, drink tea, and eat red summer fruits specially stored for the occasion. Watermelon, pomegranate, and persimmon are high on the list and are often made into sweet syrups to be added to water to create the traditional sharbat drink. We think sharbat made with sparkling water would be ideal for a holiday potluck!
No matter what holiday you celebrate this December, a holiday gathering that honours the cultures and traditions that make Canada great is always festive!