The holidays are the friendliest, coziest, tastiest time of year full of traditions from around the world. You and your family may have adopted many of these traditions, but do you know how these traditions originated? Most Americans practice festive traditions, yet they are unaware of where they began.

Gingerbread Cookies

A European recipe, baking gingerbread cookies is said to have originated in 2400 BC in Greece. It evolved through the generations and cultures, and Queen Elizabeth had the bright idea to decorate them. The designs became so sophisticated and creative that they became iconic for special occasions, especially the winter holidays.

Candy Canes

The candy cane began as a straight white sugar stick that had no holiday connection. In the year 1670, a choirmaster at a cathedral in Germany had the idea of bending the candy canes to resemble a shepherd’s staff. His purpose for this was to hand out a festive treat to the children at a nativity scene held at the cathedral. This was such a loved idea that it became a tradition and spread throughout cultures.


Based on the British drink “posset,” eggnog is another tradition with European roots. Posset was a luxurious milk and egg drink with a touch of sherry. The ingredients at the time were expensive, making posset a treat for the wealthy. When America was settled, farmers made the drink with their own ingredients, adding rum to make it uniquely American. The Americanized posset adopted the name “eggnog.” The alcohol eventually became a less common addition, and we now have the eggnog you can buy at your local supermarket.

Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallows

At the turn of the 20th century, marshmallows were a luxury ingredient. They were handmade and expensive, making them a special occasion treat. The original company who made marshmallows (named Angelus Marshmallow) released a cookbook with a recipe for baking marshmallows on top of the mashed sweet potato. The recipe quickly became popular, and because marshmallows were often reserved for special occasions, it became a holiday tradition.