What To Eat During The Winter Solstice To Help You Stay Warm On This Cold, Dark Day
Even if you’re the type of person who prefers the chill of December air, I’m sure you can agree that the loss of sunlight to daylight savings has been kind of a bummer. Luckily, nighttime is about to get shorter by the increment after Thursday, Dec. 21, the shortest day of the year — which, at least in my opinion, is definitely something to be celebrated. Arguably, the most important part of the day is going to be figuring out what to eat during the winter solstice. Depending on the culture of your home, there are various ways of celebrating the winter holiday, but it’s important to design a menu that will differentiate these customs from, say, Christmas dinner or the assortment of finger foods you lay out on New Year’s Eve.
Similar to how you get together with friends and family for a bonfire or barbecue to celebrate the summer solstice in June, the winter solstice is a holiday of its own, and should be treated as such. Unfortunately, the shortest day of 2017 lands on a Thursday, so unless your friends and family are all in for a thirsty one, it's probably best that you stick to a traditional, wholesome meal loaded with feel-good, soulful foods.
Fair warning, friends: Christmas week is full of turkey dinners, stuffing, and the like. It's basically Thanksgiving on a smaller scale, so rather than copping out on creativity and basing the foods to eat during the winter solstice on every other holiday you celebrate, try something new! The winter solstice is celebrated around the world, and there are countless traditions to pull inspiration from to make the holiday stand out from the rest. Here are a few foods to treat yourself to on Dec. 21.
1. Mulled Wine
Dec. 21 is the shortest day of the year, but it's also the beginning of winter (which is my favorite holiday, personally) — you win some, you lose some, right?
Celebrate the trade-off with a mug of mulled red wine with all the fixings, and cheers to the fact that at least you'll have a little more sunlight to keep you warm through the chilly season.
The earliest memory I have of the winter solstice is watching an episode of Little Bear, in which my gang of cartoonish, furry friends hung lanterns, strings of popcorn, and cookies from the tree branches so that the snow angels would have light to guide them and delicious treats to snack on.
Since then, I've always treated myself to some kind of Christmasy goodies to celebrate the shortest day of the year and the transition from fall to winter. After all, what kind of celebration would it be without a little dessert?
3. Swedish Saffron Buns
Holidays are all about traditions, which doesn't necessarily mean you have to follow yours to a T. This year, experiment with new rituals by indulging in something extra tasty from across the pond. According to Wine Enthusiast Magazine, the saffron bun, otherwise known as a Lussekatter in Swedish, is a decadent baked good associated with the Sweden's own winter solstice called St. Lucia's Day.
4. Winter Salad
Come on, now. You knew I'd be sneaking in a plate of greens somewhere on this list.
In the summer, salads are light and airy, with pieces of iceberg lettuce and juicy fruits sprinkled throughout. Winter salads are heartier, with heavier veggies like Brussels sprouts and butternut squash added to the dish for an assortment of good-for-you soul food that's super healthy, warming, and, above all, filling.
I may be tapped into the health and wellness side of things, but I have to be honest with you guys: I had no idea what a persimmon was until this season, and ever since I found out, I've come to the conclusion that you need this seasonal fruit in your life ASAP.
Persimmons are as delicious as they are gorgeous sitting on your dining room table. In season from October through February, it's a delectable treat that you can eat solo or stuffed with seasoned meat.
6. Mashed Potatoes
My taste buds live for my mother's mashed potatoes. A dinner party just isn't complete without a serving bowl filled to the brim with whipped, cloudy, starchy goodness. If you love a spud, you know exactly what I'm talking about.
Personally, I could skip dinner altogether and dive headfirst into a serving, or five, of mashed potatoes. It's food for the soul that's good in all seasons, so you best be addin' some to your party menu for the winter solstice.
7. Rice Pudding
Another tradition coming at you from the other side of the world, I bet you never would have guessed rice pudding would be a must-serve dessert at your winter solstice gathering.
According to blogger Finnish Food Girl, rice pudding is a Scandinavian holiday dish doled out through Christmastime and the winter solstice. I advise you to take full advantage of this delicious custom — whether you're Scandinavian or not — because rice pudding is tasty, kind of healthy because rice, and easy to make in large batches so you guarantee yourself seconds.
Turkey and ham are what I would assume to be the most common meats served around this time of year, but if you're celebrating the winter solstice like they do in Northern China, then chances are you're filling your plate with slices of mutton (lamb) this year. Typically served hot, the Chinese dig into this dish as a way to bring warmth to the body amidst the cold of winter.
I don't know about you guys, but pomegranate is hands-down one of my favorite winter fruits. And I must have pretty good taste, because pomegranates also happen to be served as an Iranian tradition on the night of the Northern hemisphere's winter solstice celebrations, as a symbol of protection against harmful insect bites. (I also recommend adding them to your hot cereal in the morning — so yummy).
10. Dried Nuts
Personally, I always associate a bowl of dried nuts with bar food, but apparently a mixture of dried fruit and nut mix referred to as "Ajil" is a traditional Persian snack set out on the table for family members to pick at during winter solstice parties.
Don't bother spending big money on a pre-packaged mix; this is one bowl you can customize yourself, so enjoy the break for your budget and have fun with it!