Hungry Hungry Humanists: Our Favorite Holiday Foods

Humanists may not share in the religious aspect of most of the winter holidays, but we certainly enjoy many of the delicious foods and snacks associated with them. Below are just some of the American Humanist Association staff’s favorite things to nibble on during the holiday season.

Maggie Ardiente, AHA director of communications and development

I’m not a fan of certain holiday food, especially the sweets. Candy canes taste like toothpaste and can break your teeth. Gingerbread cookies are always stale and covered in overly sweet icing. But there’s one holiday dessert I can never resist: bûche de Noël, or “yule log,” a layered cake with cream shaped into a log. While I’m a decent cook, I’m a terrible baker, so for Christmas dinner last year I ordered a bûche de Noël from an excellent DC bakery, Bread Furst. It was a showstopper: chocolate cake with hazelnut cream adorned with mushroom-shaped meringues and fondant holly leaves. There is no doubt that this beautiful and delicious yule log will make an appearance on my Christmas dinner table again this year.

Jennifer Bardi, editor of the Humanist magazine and

There’s a Christmas Eve Italian-American tradition on my husband’s side called “The Feast of the Seven Fishes,” which sounds just like what it is: a big meal featuring seven different fish or other seafood. While the origin is religious (in southern Italy it’s known as “The Vigil” and marks the lead-up to the Christmas feast), that side of the family are mostly atheists who are crazy for seafood, especially the hard-to-come-by stuff like eel and smelt. Salted cod fish (called baccalà in Italian) is often on the menu, along with salmon, calamari, shrimp, and clams. If you enjoy the ocean’s bounty, try hosting a Seven Fishes night. Just be sure to eat it all up and send everyone home (you know what they say about fish and houseguests after three days…!).

Peter Bjork, AHA web content manager

Growing up, Christmas meant a visit to my Swedish grandparents’ house on Cape Cod. And no Swedish-American Christmas is complete without lingonberries, rotmos, and most important of all: Swedish meatballs.

God Jul och Gott Nytt År!

Matthew Bulger, AHA legislative director

Growing up in a non-observant Jewish household, we didn’t end up doing too much for the holidays. Still, I’d always end up getting fruit slices around Hanukkah, which are really just sugar formed in the shape of fruit with a small amount of fruit juice added in. It’s the best candy in the world!

Patrick Hudson, AHA intern

I grew up in England, so in school and at Christmas dinner (England’s version of Thanksgiving dinner) Christmas pudding was a staple. The full recipe can be found here, and the topping can be whatever you like, but traditionally it’s a brandy-based sauce. When warm and eaten at Christmas dinner it tastes just like the holidays (accompanied by some traditional English Christmas carols).

Jan Melchior, AHA graphic designer

At my family gathering, there will be about half and half vegetarians vs. carnivores. As the mother of a pot-bellied pig, I will be sure to sit as far from the ham as possible. We will be veering very far from the turkey dinner my mother used to prepare but my nephew faithfully continues her traditions of grasshopper pie, a minty, boozy, crumbly, marshmallow-infested green beast, and Ritz-cracker pie, considered a poor man’s pecan pie by some, and yes, it’s filled with Ritz crackers. My family serves it on the fancy china and considers it an heirloom.

Merrill Miller, AHA communications associate

My favorite holiday treats are Russian tea cakes, little cookies made with ground up walnuts and rolled in powdered sugar. They’re very sweet and buttery, and my mom used to make them every year during the holiday season. When I was a kid I liked them because they looked like snowballs, so they always seemed to fit with Pittsburgh’s wintry weather. As an adult I like them because they’re small and light, though that also makes them easy to snack on! (There’s a recipe for them online here.)