Holiday Dining Traditions: Health, Wealth and Good Luck

Countries all over the world have different festivals celebrating local folklore and customs.  For each one of those countries the locals have their own Holiday dining traditions and you can pretty much tell what’s for dinner on that certain special day.  Those menus are derived by tradition but mostly by what’s available and the means with which to prepare them for that region.  From among some of the more famous International Cuisines such as French, Italian, Chinese, and Mexican, to mention just a few of the tastes permeating the Americas, Costa Rica does not make the list.

The one possible culinary exception to which Costa Rica can point as homegrown is Gallo Pinto; it’s what’s for breakfast throughout the country, and I like it whether for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  But even with this dish, the Nicaraguans will give an argument to anybody that will listen that they created it and then passed it on to Costa Rica.  I have polled many of my Ticos friends and without exception they cannot point to one meal that is traditional to have on this or that special holiday, although pork cooked in a sauce including Coca Cola is a favorite as is Arroz con Pollo.

Not so at the Crazu family house in Costa Rica.  For our first 10 years up in the big city (well actually the suburbs in Escazu) when we served Thanksgiving for up to 30 people, mostly Ticos, they knew what would be the exact menu: roasted Turkey (hard to find then and even now not 100% available), two different kinds of filling, sweet potatoes in sweet syrup, backed corn, Bob’s mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and Miss Lee’s homemade rolls and especially the fought over Pumpkin Pie.

Our “Eve”dinners, Christmas and New Years are not so much traditional as they are habitual.  Normally for Christmas Eve we have some derivation of surf and turf, and for New Year’s Eve we make a half dozen or so of our favorite appetizers.  Christmas day is usually baked ham, when and if we can find a good one; they definitely are not always available!

As I sit here now and think about this, celebrating the new year is probably the only holiday on earth celebrated by everybody on earth, although granted some celebrate the new year on different days, some in late January some late as March.  Also without exception, I think, the meal for New Years day has another purpose other than to just fill our stomachs: to wish for good luck, health and wealth in the new upcoming year.

Being a good ole boy from southern Pennsylvania in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch (read: German) country, in my 64 years of celebrating New Years Day, I can only think of one time, when on an all expenses paid trip by my Uncle Sam to wonderful southeast Asia, when I did not have pork and sauerkraut for New Years day dinner.  I love that stuff, sauerkraut, but my lovely wife and son not so much; she was born in Boston and he in Baltimore.  Why pork and sauerkraut, tradition is the only answer I can give you; we eat it for good luck.

Another tradition, one that you might also have in your house, is that the youngest/smallest gets to lick the beater for the icing on the cake or cookie batter, or that which was used to mash the mashed potatoes, and so on.  Although our youngest is going to be 32 this month, Miss Sassy, our youngest and smallest spaniel and obviously most spoiled, has stepped up to the plate, as it were, and continues with this age old tradition.  Pura vida

p.s./p.d. the above photo is an optical illusion created just to mess with my lovely wife; it worked and we got yelled at…again.


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