The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area is a melting pot of settlers from around the world. Traditional holiday customs from this diverse group of ethnicities has been handed down over generations. Several traditions have been adopted and integrated between cultures. The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area would like to share just a few “holiday traditions” or “seasonal traditions” from each group known to have made settlement in the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area. These include: Native Tribes, Spanish, German, Dutch, Swedes, Japanese and Amish.

Native Tribes
The tribes that came through the San Luis Valley were transient and did not set up permanent residence. Many tribes believed traditions had a “season” upon which to be administered. Tribes passed down their culture and heritage from generation to generation through storytelling and oral traditions. The season for storytelling in the Ute Tribe, is during the winter months, when they went into their lodge.

The Pueblo Tribe also came to the San Luis Valley seasonally. Their permanent pueblo was established in modern day Taos, in the Southern end of the San Luis Valley and is part of the Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area. When the Spanish arrived in the 16th century, they began converting the Pueblo peoples to Catholicism. The missionaries’ attempts resulted in a merging of traditional feast days with Christian saints’ days. As a result, holiday celebrations on the Pueblos reflect the blend of Spanish culture and the Roman Catholic influence with indigenous Native American Indian religious ceremony. The fusion of the two spiritual traditions can be observed in the festivities, which include the Matachines Dance. (See Matachina Dance under Hispanic Holiday Traditions)

Winter Solstice
The moment the Sun reaches its southernmost point in the sky marks the December solstice, the official beginning of winter in the Northern Hemisphere (where it is called the winter solstice) and a time of great celebration in many northern cultures. The word solstice comes from the Latin solstitium — sol meaning “sun” and -stitium “stoppage.” The winter solstice marks the shortest day and longest night of the year. From now on, the days begin to grow longer and the nights shorter. In native and ancient cultures, the winter solstice was an auspicious moment.To many tribes it is a time where they offer gratitude, honor family and ancestors, and follow a ritual observance of beliefs.

There are culinary traditions from the Mayans and Aztecs that have crossed over to become traditional foods eaten and made around the Christmas season in the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area.

Posole, translated as “hominy” is a traditional stew that has a long ritual history among the Aztecs. Since Maize was a sacred plant for the Aztecs, posole was made to be consumed on special occasions to celebrate the creation of man. Meso-Americans believed the god Quetzalcoati made man from masa (corn-meal dough). As a result, corn took on a religious significance. The kernels were soaked in a mixture of ground limestone (farther north, they used ashes to cure the corn) and water, soaked for several days then dried. Processing the corn in this way allowed the corn to be preserved for several years while keeping fresh taste and free from vermin, and allowed the release of a multitude of important nutrients to become accessible for digestion. In the “General History of Things from New Spain” Fray Bernardino de Sahagun mentioned during the festivities to honor the god Xipe, the Emperor was served a massive dish of pozolli-crowned with the thigh of a sacrificed prisoner. That’s right. Curiously, chili was left out of that recipe. After the conquest of the Aztec Empire cannibalism was banned and pork became the new meat added to the dish. Posole didn’t arrive in the Rio Grande Valley and the San Luis Valley until was brought by the Spanish in the 1600s. These cultures took the posole recipe and adapted it to make their own, endowing it with a life-affirming significance.

Posole Recipe
1 pound dried posole
1 quart water, or more
2 pounds pork, steak or roast, cut into ½ inch cubes
1 Tbsp salt or more to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch of Mexican oregano
1 Tbsp cumin, or to taste
½ Caribe chili, or to taste
Simmer the posole in unseasoned water until it becomes soft and the kernels have burst open; it usually requires 1 ½ to 2 hours.
Brown the pork in a cold, well-seasoned frying pan, adding no fat or oil. Sautes until very browned then add the polole. Deglaze the frying pan with 1 cup water, stirring to loosen the brown bits sticking to the pan. Also add these to the posole.
Add remaining ingredients, adding one-half the cumin and cook the stew for 1 or more hours, to blend the flavors. Just before serving, add the remaining cumin.

Hispanic Holiday Traditions

The tradition of luminarias in the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area dates back more than 300 years. The tradition began when the Spanish villages along the Rio Grande displayed unique and easy to make Christmas lanterns, called luminarias, to guide the spirit of Christ along their paths.
Luminarias today are often made of a brown paper bag, which has been folded at the top and filled with a few cups of sand and a votive candle illuminating the bag from within.
These lanterns have not always been made out of paper bags, the early versions were actually small bonfires of crisscrossed piñon branches which were built in three-foot high squares. Instead of making lanterns that would hang in a tree or from a roof, which would become damaged by the wind, small bags were made and placed on the ground, rooftops and along pathways. Luminarias are said to originate from Spaniard merchants who were impressed with the paper lanterns from the Chinese culture and decided to make their own version when they migrated to New Spain.
The name of the decoration is the subject of a long-running item of contention. Some insisting the correct term is farolito which translates as “little lantern”. While others are sure the correct name is luminaria which means “festival light”. Historically luminaria referred not to a paper lantern, but to a small festival or vigil bonfire; however, this distinction is not commonly made outside of northern New Mexico. Farolitos may be referred to as “luminarias” by some, but on Christmas Eve, when the farolitos(illuminated paper bags)are lit in streets of Santa Fe, luminarias (Posada vigil fires) are burning in the small mountain villages of Northern New Mexico. Luminaria bonfires made of square, stacked piñon and juniper wood can often can be seen in towns and pueblos across northern New Mexico. In the mountain villages and by the roadways they are built by local residents to welcome visitors and to commemorate holiday activities. No matter what you call them they are beautiful to see this time of year.

Las Posadas
Las Posadas takes place on each of the nine nights leading up to Christmas, from December 16 to 24th. The word posada means “inn” or “shelter” in Spanish, and in this tradition, the Bible story of Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem and their search for a place to stay is re-enacted. The celebration begins with a procession in which the participants hold candles and sing Christmas carols. Sometimes there will be individuals who play the parts of Mary and Joseph who lead the way. The procession will make its way to a particular home (a different one each night), where a special song (La Cancion Para Pedir Posada) is sung. There are two parts to the traditional posada song. Those outside the house sing the part of Joseph asking for shelter and the family inside responds singing the part of the innkeeper saying that there is no room. The song switches back and forth a few times until finally the innkeeper agrees to let them in. The hosts open the door and everyone goes inside.The nine nights of posadas leading up to Christmas are said to represent the nine months that Jesus spent in Mary’s womb, or alternatively, to represent nine days journey that it took Mary and Joseph to get from Nazareth (where they lived) to Bethlehem (where Jesus was born).

The Matachines dance is one of the few traditional dances observed by both the Pueblo and Hispano-Mexicano peoples. The dance is a ritual performance that tells the drama of the Spanish military conquest over the Native Tribes and shows the final result where they convert to Christianity. The Matachines dancers were originally brought over from Spain, the music and dance depicts the coming together of the Christians and the Moores. Matachin in Spanish means “sword dancer in costume”. The Matachines dancers,(danzantes) are distinctively costumed. Their mitrelike headdresses, or cupiles, with ribbons streaming down the back and fringe in the front, are their signature symbol. The mask consists of the band of fringe (fleco) over the eyes and a folded kerchief over the lower face. Each danzante carries the palma in his left hand and the guaje in his right. Large colorful scarves hang like capes from the backs of their shoulders. They move in two parallel rows of five or six dancers each.The most basic or universal dramatic elements of the Rio Grande Matachines performance involve several dance sets by the characters El Monarca and La Malinche, an exchange of trident (palma) and rattle (guaje) between them, a variable combination of choreographic interweavings, crossovers, and reversals between the two columns of dancers, a movement involving El Toro-the bull-and his ultimate demise, and processional and recessional marchas at the beginning and end. The clowns, known as Los Abuelos (the grand-fathers), function as conductors and provide comic relief throughout the proceedings.The music for the Matachines dance is typically performed by a fiddler and a guitarist.

Mis Oremos and Mis Crismas
Mis Oremos seems to be a mixture of Las Posadas with Matachines. Traditionally it begins with the lighting of one luminaria (bonfire) on Dec 16th. On the 17th two luminarias are lit. On the 18th three, so that on the 24th there will be 9 luminarias in each village. On the evening of the 24th, Christmas Eve, a few of the older teenagers don masks and costumes as not to be recognized. They are called abuelos (grandfathers). They make the younger kids sing, march in formation, etcetera-all to the beat of a chicote (a horse whip) around the bonfires. Finally the whole group goes to the homes of their neighbors in the villages to ask for Oremos. In front of the homes the farolitos (candles in bags) are lit. At each door the children, guided by the abuelos, recite this poem.“Oremos, oremos Angelitos semos. Del cielo venemos a pedir oremos. Si no nos dan oremos Puertas y ventanas quebraremos.”English Translation:“We pray, we pray. We are little angels. From heaven we come to ask for oremos. If you do not give us oremos,Doors and windows will be broken.”
Traditionally, on Christmas day, a similar event of going house to house followed, called Mis Crismas, where kids go door to door getting treats from neighbors.
These festivities are held around Christmas time and relate to Christian tradition, but parts are reminiscent of Judaism. The luminarias are lit, increasing by one fire a day, similar to the lighting of the candles on Hanukkah. It is possible this was a way that Jewish people, who were avoiding persecution in Europe, could have secretly celebrated Judaism in this area. They would have avoided questioning, since they tied it into Christmas tradition. Occasionally the lighting of the luminarias corresponds exactly to the nights of Hanukkah.

These crisp cultural cookies are flavored with cinnamon and anise, and are a yearly tradition for many Hispanic families in the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area. These cookies are the result of centuries of influence brought by local and indigenous customs. These biscuits originated in Spain, where they were called mantecados, and date back to the 16th century, a time when the region of Andalusia experienced a surplus of grains and pork products. The roots of this cookie took on greater significance during Mexico’s Battle of Puebla in 1862, when Mexicans overthrew the French-backed Emperor Maximilian (Celebrated today as Cinco de Mayo). It is said that Mexican women wanted a commemorative cookie and used tin cans to cut the cookies to symbolize stamping out the French. The cookie symbolizes freedom and victory and has also become strongly associated with the Christmas season. They are often offered to the posadistas—the people who participate in Las Posadas, a nine-day celebration where a nightly procession re-enacts Joseph and Mary’s search for lodging in Bethlehem. Traditionally, the procession is always refused “lodging”, though the hosts often provide refreshments and biscochitos. Luminaria bonfires were lit to provide light and warmth for the posadistas.
Biscochitos Recipe:
Makes approximately 5 dozen thin cookies
The traditional shapes are stars, circles and crescents
1 cup lard
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup brandy or rum
1 teaspoon anise seeds
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
In a stand mixer, cream together lard and sugar on medium speed until fluffy. With mixer running on low, add egg, vanilla extract, brandy, and anise seeds and mix until homogeneous. Add flour, salt, and baking powder and mix just until dough forms into cohesive ball.
Form dough into two cylinders about 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter. Chill for 2 hours or wrap tightly in plastic wrap and store in refrigerator for up to 3 days. For longer storage, freeze logs tightly wrapped for several months. Defrost in refrigerator for 1 day before using.
3.Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Combine sugar and cinnamon in small bowl and set aside. Cut cylinders into 1/4 inch disks and on ungreased cookie sheets leaving 1/2-inch gap between cookies. Bake until golden brown, about 12 minutes.
4.Dip rim of each cookie into cinnamon sugar mixture. Let cool on racks and store at room temperature in airtight container for up to 5 days.
Green Chili
1 lb Pork or Beef (Optional)
3 tbsp lard or bacon grease
1/4 cup garlic (chopped finely)
1/2 cup onion (chopped finely)
2 tbsp Flour
1 cup Water
1 cup Diced Green Chile (roasted, peeled, and seeded)
1/2 Tbsp Salt* to taste
Green Chile
In oil in a heavy saucepan, saute’ garlic and onion.
Blend in flour with wooden spoon.
Add water, salt, and green chile.
Bring to a boil, then drop temperature and simmer, stirring frequently, for 30-50 minutes.
Serve with everything. (you may also refrigerate for 24 hrs for flavors to develop better)

Swedish Christmas Traditions

Saint Lucia Day
In Sweden, Christmas begins with the annual Saint Lucia Day on December 13. The date commemorates Saint Lucy. The saint was a 3rd century martyr who brought food and aid to Christians hiding in the catacombs using a candle-lit wreath to light her way. Her feast once coincided with the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, it is why her feast day has become known as the Christmas festival of light.Usually, the eldest girl in the family portrays St Lucia. She puts on a white robe in the morning and is allowed to wear a crown full of candles. Personifying St. Lucia, she serves her parents buns, cookies, coffee, or mulled wine

End of the Christmas Season
Christmastime does not end in December for Sweden, but continues on until January 6th, the date of the Epiphany. It is also called trettondedag jul, or “13th-day yule,” as January 6 is the 13th day after Christmas Eve.
Rounding out the end of the Christmas season is Hilarymas, also called Knut’s Day or Tjugondag jul on January 13. Christmas trees are taken down on this day, which is the “20th-day yule,” the 20th day after Christmas Eve. Candies and cookies that decorated the tree are eaten. The feast held during this event is called Knut’s party. Knut, spelled Canute in Danish, was the patron saint of Denmark who was assassinated and canonized for his efforts to secure Denmark from usurpers.

After the festive Christmas Eve dinner, someone dresses up as Tomte. Tomte is a Christmas gnome, who according to Swedish myth, lives on a farm or in the forest. Tomte looks a little like Santa Claus and hands out gifts to the family while saying funny rhymes.
A popular Christmas tradition in Sweden is to serve, a special rice porridge with one almond in it. Traditionally, the person who finds the almond gets to make a wish or is believed to get married the coming year. They also feast on Stollen Bread and Mulled Wine(you can find these recipes in the German Traditions in this article.).
1 cup rice
1 1/4 cups water
1 tbsp butter
pinch of salt
1 small cinnamon stick
3 cups 2% milk
2 eggs
1/3 – 1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 – 1/2 cup half and half cream
1 almond

Measure rice into a sieve and rinse under cold water to remove all starch until water runs clear. Add rice, water, butter, pinch of salt and one small cinnamon stick to a medium-sized pot and put on high. Once the rice mixture boils, turn to simmer and finish cooking until all the water is absorbed. This takes about 10 minutes.
In a medium-sized bowl, measure out milk and eggs and whisk together. Whisk in sugar, vanilla and salt to blend.
Once rice is cooked, pour the milk mixture into the pot. Bring back to a simmer then cook for an additional 40 minute or so, until the rice pudding is thickened. Add 1/4 – 1/2 cup half and half cream, this makes the pudding whiter in colour which is so much prettier!
Remove from heat and stir in 1 almond.

German Holiday Traditions

German Market
In almost every German city, people celebrate the holiday season with at least one (or a dozen) trips to a traditional Christmas market(Weihnachtsmärkte). These seasonal events, which date back to the 15th century. Their original purpose was to provided food and practical supplies for the cold winter season. Soon the markets became a beloved holiday tradition and a great way to get into the Christmas spirit. The city of Dresden is proud to have the oldest Christmas market in Germany, which goes back to 1434.

Christmas Tree
Since the Middle Ages, Germans brought into their homes evergreen boughs, yew, juniper, mistletoe, holly, or any plant that maintained its green color through the hard winter months. Even in parts of Northern Germany, where forests were sparse, a similar tradition took hold. The people in Northern Germany used Christmas pyramids (Weihnachtspyramiden). The pyramid form was created using sticks that were then decorated with fir branches.
The first known official Christmas tree(Tannenbaum) was set up in 1419 in Freiburg by the town bakers. They decorated the tree with fruits, nuts, and baked goods, which the children were allowed to remove and eat on New Year’s Day. By 1800, the custom of bringing a tree into the home was firmly established as a holiday tradition in many German-speaking regions and spread throughout Europe, and eventually, around the world. The German Tannenbaum is usually put up and decorated on Christmas Eve, though some families opt to erect their tree during the Advent season. Germans also usually continue to use real lit candles instead of electric lights on the tree.

The Advent Wreath
The Advent wreath (Adventskranz) is adorned with four candles, one of which is lit on each of the four Sundays preceding Christmas. The first Advent wreath, which appeared in the mid-19th century, had 4 larger candles and 19 smaller ones. The Advent wreath was invented by Johann Hinrich Wichern, a German pastor, who founded an orphanage in Hamburg in 1833. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, the children would ask him daily if Christmas had arrived. To make the wait easier, Wichern came up with the first Advent wreath to mark the Christmas countdown. He created his first Advent wreath out of an old wagon wheel and candles. A variation of the tradition of a ring of light existed among the Germanic tribes centuries before the celebration of modern Advent. It is believed that in this tradition fewer candles were lit with each progressive lighting to represent the shortening of the days until the solstice, at which time the Julfest celebrated the return of light. (The English word yule is a cognate with the Germanic Jul).

The Advent Calendar
Originally, families would mark the 24 days of December preceding Christmas with a chalk line on the wall. The first hand-crafted Advent calendars were produced in the mid-19th century; the first printed calendar appeared in Munich in 1903. Eventually the custom was exported all over the world.
The Advent calendar (Adventskalender) is a German invention that was originally designed to involve children in the festivities leading up to Christmas. Advent calendars are usually made of cardboard and have 24 small flaps, one of which is opened on each day leading up to Christmas. A Christmas scene or motif is found behind the window to help tell the story of Christmas. Modern Advent calendars may contain chocolate or candy behind each window, or even small toys. The Advent calendar is a more recent invention of modern capitalism.

Gingerbread Houses
Gingerbread makers established their own trade guild in Nuremberg in 1643, and this famous Christmas treat made its first holiday appearance in 1893. Gingerbread houses became part of German Christmas traditions after one was featured in the famous Grimm Brothers’ story of Hansel and Gretel. German families create gingerbread houses, complete with frosting and gumdrops, every December.

Mulled Wine
A great treat for cold winter days is mulled wine, a traditional Christmas drink from Germany. This hot, spiced wine, is called Glühwein in German (literally “glowing wine”); you can get it
at every German Christmas market.

large orange
cardamom pods
whole clove
allspice berries
whole black peppercorns
cinnamon stick (plus 4 for garnish, optional)
3 cups
fruity red wine
½ cup
¼ cup

1. With a fine grater, zest, then juice the orange.
2. With the flat side of a knife, press firmly on the cardamom pods to bruise them. In a large pot (not aluminum), combine zest, juice, cardamom, cloves, allspice, peppercorns, cinnamon, wine, sugar, and brandy. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until sugar dissolves, 1 to 2 minutes.
3. Reduce heat to low; simmer until flavors have melded, about 30 minutes. Pour through a fine-mesh sieve; garnish with cinnamon stick, if desired. Serve immediately.

German Stollen Bread
German Stollen, a loaf-shaped fruitcake made of yeast, water and flour, is traditionally eaten around Christmas time in Germany. The treat, which was first baked in Dresden in the 14th century, is filled with nuts, raisins, candied citrus, and spices, and its form is said to represent Baby Jesus in swaddling clothes.The Stollen Festival presents the world’s biggest stollen at 3,429 kilograms, 3.65 meters long, 1.75 meters wide and over a meter high. It is carried through the crowds by a team of horses and surrounded by the pastry chefs who completed the feat. You can purchase a piece of this giant stollen, with the profits going to charity.

1 package regular or quick active dry yeast
¾ cup warm water
½ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 egg, separated
½ cup butter or margarine
3 ½ cup flour
½ cup blanched almonds
¼ cup chopped candied citron
¼ cup chopped candied cherries(optional)
¼ cup raisins

1 tbsp. melted butter
1 tbsp. grated lemon peel
1 tbsp. water
1 ⅓ cup powdered sugar
2 Tbsp milk
1. In large bowl, dissolve yeast in 3/4 cup warm water. Beat in granulated sugar, the salt, eggs, egg yolk, 1/2 cup butter and 1 3/4 cups of the flour with electric mixer on medium speed 10 minutes, scraping bowl constantly. Stir in remaining flour, the almonds, citron, cherries, raisins and lemon peel. Scrape batter from side of bowl. Cover and let rise in warm place 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until double. (Dough is ready if indentation remains when touched.) Cover and refrigerate egg white.
2. Stir down batter by beating about 25 strokes. Cover tightly and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.
3. Grease cookie sheet. Place dough on well-floured surface; turn to coat with flour. Divide in half; press each half into 10×7-inch oval. Spread with 1 tablespoon butter. Fold ovals lengthwise in half; press only folded edge firmly. Place on cookie sheet. Beat egg white and 1 tablespoon water; brush over folded ovals. Cover and let rise in warm place 45 to 60 minutes or until double.
4. Heat oven to 375°F. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.
5. In medium bowl, mix powdered sugar and milk until smooth. Spread glaze over warm stollen.

Dutch Holiday Traditions

Dutch children in Holland, or the Netherlands celebrate St. Nicholas Day on December 6th. Sinterklass is a kind bishop that wears a red robe and a tall pointed mitre on his head. In dutch tradition, Sinterclass lives in Spain and travels to Amsterdam’s harbor every winter with his white horse and a huge sack full of gifts. He travels with his servants called ‘Zwarte Pieten’. On the evening that Sinterklaas arrives, children leave a shoe out by the fireplace or sometimes a windowsill and sing Sinterklaas songs. They believe that if they leave some hay and carrots in their shoes, for Sinterklaas’s horse, they will be left some sweets or small presents. They’re told that, during the night, Sinterklaas rides on the roofs on his horse and that a ‘Zwarte Piet’ will then climb down the chimney (or through a window) and put the presents and/or candy in their shoes.

Horn Blowing
A long-time tradition among farmers in the rural east is the ‘mid-winter horn blowing’. This custom begins on Advent Sunday (the fourth Sunday before Christmas) and continues until Christmas Eve.Farmers use long horns made from the wood of elder trees, and everyday at dawn they blow the horn while standing over a well to announce the coming of Christ.

Dutch Apple Beignets(apple fritters)
1 teaspoon sugar (white)
4 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast (instant)
4 cups/400 grams flour (all-purpose)
1/4 cup/50 grams sugar (white)
2 large eggs
2 cups/475 milliliters milk (whole)
1 teaspoon salt
6 medium apples (peeled, cored, and sliced into thick rounds)
8 cups /2 liters oil (vegetable or sunflower)

1. In a small bowl, mix 1 teaspoon of white sugar into 1/2 cup of lukewarm water. Sprinkle the yeast on top and allow to stand for 10 minutes (if the yeast doesn’t bubble, discard and buy new yeast as it means the yeast is no longer active). Stir to combine and set aside.
2. Mix together the flour and 1/4 cup/50 grams white sugar in a large bowl and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs as well as the yeast mixture.
3. Warm up milk in the microwave (it should be lukewarm). Add half of the milk to the well in the flour and mix until all ingredients are combined. Add the rest of the milk and whisk until smooth.
4. Cover the bowl with a damp dish towel and allow to rise in a warm area for about 1 hour. Once the dough has doubled, stir in the salt. The dough should be very slack and have an almost thick batter consistency.
5. Heat the oil in a deep pan or in a deep-fat fryer to 350 F/180 C. To check whether the oil is at the right temperature, stand the handle of a wooden spoon in the oil. If little bubbles form around it, the oil is ready.
6. Using your fingers or tweezers, dip the apple slices into the dough mixture. Gently drop each apple round into the hot oil.
7. The fritters will sink to the bottom of the pan and then pop right back up. You should be able to fry at least 6 fritters at a time. Fry until golden brown on both sides, carefully flipping when required. Drain on a tray lined with paper towels.
8. Sieve confectioners’ sugar over the apple beignets along with a dusting of ground cinnamon, and serve warm.
Garnish: confectioners’ sugar and ground cinnamon

Japanese Holiday Traditions

The majority of the population in Japan are Buddhist or Shinto. When Japanese settled in the San Luis Valley, they brought Buddhism to the area. There is a popular Buddhist holiday, Bodhi Day, which is celebrated in December and goes on for 30 days. Bodhi day is December 8th, the day Buddha achieved enlightenment on his 35th birthday nearly 2,500 years ago (‘Bodhi’ means enlightenment, so ‘Buddha’ means enlightened one).
In many Mahayana Buddhist countries, they decorate their homes or ficus tree with multi-colored lights to signify the many pathways to enlightenment. Buddhists who put up a “Christmas Tree”, do so on the 8th of December and keep it up for 30 days. They use Bodhi day is to not only recreate some of the physical and symbolic things that helped the Buddha achieve enlightenment, but to plant and grow those seeds of enlightenment within themselves.
Some Western Buddhists do celebrate Christmas, because they have families that are Christian and do not take offense to cross celebrating the holiday. Buddhists believe that Jesus exemplified what they call a “Bodhisattva”. A Bodhisattva is one that forgoes their own benefit to help others and has compassion, kindness and love for all beings. Jesus helped others in ways that are still experienced today, by showing the world immense compassion, love, kindness, and beauty and how to incorporate those values into their lives. Buddhists see Jesus as a blessing to this Earth.
Buddha is not a “God” but rather a respected teacher. He stated he was just a man who had found the meaning of life and end to suffering(enlightenment). When Buddhists bow to a statue of Buddha it is out of respect for him as a teacher, not as idol worship. In Asian countries, students everywhere bow to their teachers out of respect and humility, and the Buddha is no different.
Many Buddhists will partake in eating a meal of Milk Rice in on Bodhi Day. The maiden Sujata offered this dish to the future Buddha when he was weak from not eating, while he sat under the tree seeking enlightenment.

Milk Rice
1 ¼ cup brown rice or white rice
Dash of salt
3 cups water
1 cup coconut milk (may use cow’s milk instead)

Wash the rice. Pick through it to make sure there are no tiny stones or bits of debris, then run cool water over it to rinse it entirely. Place it in a medium-sized pot.

Add the water and salt. Pour it over the rice, then cover the pot.

Cook the rice over medium-low heat. Continue cooking the rice, covered, until it is soft and plump, and the water is completely absorbed. This should take about 15 minutes. Take care not to burn the rice.
You can also cook the rice in a rice cooker
Reduce the heat to low and add the milk. Pour the milk in slowly and use a spoon to stir it into the rice. Make sure the heat is reduced so that the mixture simmers; if you keep it too high, the texture won’t come out right.
Simmer the rice and milk for ten minutes. Check to make sure it isn’t cooking too quickly; if so, reduce the heat.

Remove the pot from heat. The dish will have the consistency of creamy porridge. Let it cool for about five minutes.
Transfer the rice to a shallow dish. A wide, flat baking dish has the right shape. Use a spoon to scoop all of the rice into the dish and spread it evenly. Use a nonstick dish if you have one available, since rice tends to stick to the bottom of the pan. If you don’t have a nonstick dish, oil the bottom of a glass or metal baking dish.
Flatten the rice. Use the back of a wooden spoon to press the rice flat into the dish. You could also use a spatula or a piece of oiled waxed paper.
Score the rice. Use a knife to score the rice diagonally in one direction, then score it again diagonally in the other direction. This creates the classic diamond shape that Sri Lankans use to serve milk rice.
Cut the rice. After the rice has cooled a stiffened a bit, use the knife to cut it into diamond shapes. Lift the rice from the pan using a spatula and place it on a plate for serving. You can make the dish taste more milky by drizzling the top with more coconut milk after scoring it. Milk rice is traditionally served with curry.

Amish Holiday Traditions

Amish celebrate Christmas, minus the frills and commercialism most mainstream americans have adopted. Their homes will not be covered in decorations or a tree. Faith, family and friends are central to this celebration and to the Amish lifestyle. Hospitality, preparing food, and spending quality time together is part of what enables the Amish culture to thrive and grow. Amish spend time around Christmas reading the Christmas Story from the Bible and can exchange simple gifts, christmas cards and holiday foods like fudge and cookies.

Amish Never Fail Fudge

1/3 C. butter
4 1/2 C. sugar
14 1/2 oz. can evaporated milk
1 C. marshmallow cream
2 t. vanilla
1 bar (13 oz.) sweet chocolate, grated
12 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
2 C. walnuts, chopped

Combine butter, sugar and milk and boil 5 1/2 minutes. Remove from heat and add remaining ingredients except nuts. Beat until well mixed and add nuts. Spoon into buttered pan. Cool until firm then cut. This will make 5 lbs.

Amish Sour-Cream Sugar Cookies


1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1½ cups sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
3½ to 4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¹⁄3 cup shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups powdered sugar
½ cup milk
Food coloring (optional)
Colored sprinkles, for decorating (optional)
Chocolate chips, for decorating (optional)

To make the frosting: Cream the shortening with the vanilla and 1 cup of the powdered sugar. Gradually add the milk and the rest of the powdered sugar, beating constantly. More powdered

sugar can be added to give you your desired thickness. Food coloring can also be added if you like. Spread the frosting on the cookies and decorate with colored sprinkles or chocolate chips. Let the frosting set before storing.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a baking sheet.
Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl.
Stir in the eggs, sour cream, and vanilla.
Combine the flour, baking powder, and baking soda in a medium bowl and stir with a whisk to blend.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until a soft, firm dough is formed.
Roll the dough out to a ½-inch thickness on a floured surface.
Use your favorite shaped cookie cutters to cut out the dough.

Place the shapes on the prepared pan.
Bake until golden brown around the edges, about 10 minutes.
Remove from the oven and let cool on the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.