Texas Living

A Traditional Texas Christmas Table

By Peter Simek 12.4.18

There is no single dish that defines a Texas Christmas. Some Texans may eat ham, but they are just as likely to fry a turkey, grill a rib eye, or feast on tamales. Texas’ freewheeling melting-pot approach to the holiday allows old traditions to be honored and new ones to be created.

If you’re a newcomer to the state, try these quintessential dishes to earn your Texas holiday street cred. If these are old hat, you may move right along to the cookie decorating

Christmas turkey

The Texas Gobbler

The turkey didn’t become a mainstay of the American diet until around the time of the Civil War, during which time the populous bird was used to fortify the troops. The humble turkey has become a central part of many Texans’ Christmas tables, which may often resemble Thanksgiving tables, with green bean casserole, macaroni and cheese, and cranberry sauce.

If you really want to go all out, try frying your turkey instead of roasting it. The tradition of deep-frying turkey started in bayou country in the southeastern corner of the state, where pots used for crawfish boils were filled with peanut oil and turkeys were carefully lowered into the hot bath.

Old World Bread

Many Texas Christmas traditions were shaped by the European settlers, notably Germans and Czechs, who brought now-mainstay holiday traditions with them — like the Christmas tree. In those early days, Christmas dinner would consist of roast pork, which evolved into barbecue over time. But the real highlights for many are German stollen and Czech vanocka, old-world breads that make sweet additions to your holiday.

The Fruitcake Capital of … the World?

Fruitcakes are popular all over the world, particularly in England. But even the English sometimes source their fruitcakes from Texas. Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana has been selling its DeLuxe Fruitcakes since 1896, and they have counted as their customers Princess Grace of Monaco and Princess Caroline of Hanover.

The owner of Collin Street Bakery once told Texas Monthly about a customer who flew from London to DFW Airport, took a cab to the bus station, and then bused to Corsicana just to make sure he got his Christmas fruitcake delivered on time. The secret to their success? Lots of fruit. The DeLuxe Fruitcake is 80 percent fruit and nuts and 27 percent pecans by weight. Pretty impressive.

The Beloved Tamale  

Perhaps the most deep-rooted Texas Christmas tradition, the tamale dates back to pre-Christian times when they were sometimes used as offerings to the gods. Today, they have retained their connection to ritual and celebration and are enjoyed widely by families who gather together to make the delicious packets of masa and meat or beans or cheese, wrapped in a corn husk or banana leaf. Tamales can be given as gifts and served on Christmas Eve.

However you celebrate the holidays, make sure you deck the halls safely and protect your home and your holiday guests.

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