December is a season of festivities and celebrations, many featuring baked goods to fill bellies and warm hearts on long winter nights. Across Edmonton, you can find plenty of treats to enjoy no matter which holidays you’re celebrating.
November 28–December 6: Hanukkah
The Jewish festival of light commemorates the Maccabees’ victory over the Syrian Greeks and the restoration of their temple in Jerusalem. Though the Maccabees had enough lamp oil for only one day, the oil miraculously lasted for eight—hence, eight days of festivities. One of the most popular Hanukkah foods to enjoy during this time is sufganiyot, a deep-fried doughnut filled with jam or custard and then dusted with sugar. You can find fresh sufganiyot at Bliss Baked Goods, where their famous dairy-free, nut-free version is available with fillings like chocolate mousse, strawberry mousse, and custard. These always sell out quickly, so order ahead!
December 6: St. Nicholas Day
The feast day of Saint Nicholas is observed around the world, celebrated on December 6 in Western Christian countries (and December 19 in Orthodox Christian countries) to commemorate the legends of Nicholas and his generosity—from which many people attribute the stories of Santa Claus as well. Ginger spice cookies, or speculaas, are the food most associated with this holiday, and you can find traditional Dutch variations at Dutch Delicious Bakery. In Ukraine and Poland, St. Nicholas leaves good children candies and cookies under their pillows or in their shoes, while naughty children get either lumps of coal or a stick. This tradition has carried on to many Ukrainian-Canadian and Polish-Canadian families in Edmonton, and you can stock up on pillow-worthy imported treats at European Market & Produce.
December 13: Santa Lucia Day
The feast day of Saint Lucia commemorates the Christian Saint Lucia, who brought food to Roman Christians in hiding. In Scandinavia, saffron buns are served as a delicious family breakfast. While ready-made saffron buns are difficult to find here in Edmonton, you can find plenty of recipes to prepare these easy-to-make buns yourself. Obviously, a crucial ingredient is saffron; you can find high-quality Spanish saffron at The Silk Road Spice Merchant.
December 25: Christmas
Christmas is celebrated across the globe and is associated with a wealth of traditions, including dozens of traditional treats. In Italy, Christmas is traditionally celebrated with a large sweet bread made with candied citrus and raisins called panettone; you can pick up an artisan-crafted panettone from Canova Pasticceria. Another classic holiday treat is gingerbread, its modern incarnation hailing from Western Europe. Find adorable gingerbread people and other delicious holiday cookies at Bon Ton Bakery, among many other local bakeries offering variations of these classics. Finally, another beloved Christmastime treat is Bûche de Noël, or yule log, a rolled-up, icing-filled cake, which you can find in all its tasty French glory at Duchess Bake Shop and Eleanor & Laurent.
December 26–January 1: Kwanzaa
Because Kwanzaa is primarily a community-focused celebration honoring African cultures and heritages, there are many ways to commemorate! Each of the seven days highlight one of the key principles, including unity, self-determination, creativity, and faith. This focus on community means that any feast or gathering that brings people together in collaboration fits the criteria. Take the opportunity to try different African cuisines, then complete with a staple dessert like pecan pie, spiced pound cake, or one of the heavenly cakes from Café Zansi, which infuses Southern African influence into classic European recipes.
December 31: Hogmanay
This Scottish New Year’s celebration ushers in the year with visits to friends and neighbours to exchange gifts, sing songs, and, of course, enjoy lots of delicious food. The holiday has a number of different historical influences, including Norse solstice festivals and the Gaelic winter festival of Samhain. An important component of the holiday is ‘first-footing’; it’s considered good luck for a tall, dark-haired man to be the first visitor to enter a home during the festivities. While visiting others may not always be possible this year, you can still enjoy a “first-calling” with online chats, and there’s still plenty of opportunities for a delicious New Year’s meal. At Celtic Kitchen, you can find authentic Scottish shortbread and steak pies to add a wee bit of Scottish flair to your table.
Hungry for more? Get the inside scoop on baked goods, seasonal treats and holiday dining (plus plenty of gifts for food lovers and home bakers) in our 2021 Wish Book!