We all look forward to the delightful snacks we're going to be consuming around the holidays; that's why we hit the gym an extra five times a week in December. After all, there's nothing like feeling festive in your meal plan as well as in your heart, and the holidays bring out the best that food has to offer. That means snagging those classic snack cakes that remind you of your adolescence as soon as they hit the shelves and anticipating your family's famous turkey dinner on Christmas Eve. This also might mean eating a box and a half of homemade Christmas cookies. But hey... you're in a judgment-free zone right now.
Regardless of what it is you look forward to each year, there's a difference between those who just enjoy the occasional holiday snack and those who live for it. Hardcore holiday foodies will recognize most, if not all, of this list, while those who dabble will only recognize some items. The bottom line is that according to holiday food folklore, you haven't actually lived until you've tried every single thing on this list. Some will always be woefully disappointing, while others may change your life, but the point is that you'll have experienced a true Christmas tradition by snacking on each one.
Despite what you grew up with, this list is the true test of holiday food tradition. We've covered everything from processed foods to the best of scratch dishes, and now, it's your turn to find out if you're a holiday expert or just a holiday regular.
20 The Classic Sugar Cookie
If you haven't had a sugar cookie before, then chances are, you're probably too inexperienced to read this article... Just kidding! But in all honesty, if you haven't, then you simply must. A good sugar cookie should embody everything there is to love about the holidays from its slightly soft interior to its crisp, slightly browned exterior. Bonus points for finding one that's artfully decorated and runner-up points for colorful sprinkles. These are the cookies that most everyone stacks under their tree for Santa and are also what Tollhouse has created an empire from. They're much better (and more rewarding) when made from scratch, but either way, they're a delicious treat that should never be passed up.
19 A Cute Gingerbread Man
If there was ever a holiday cookie dough, gingerbread would be it. This spicy and sweet cookie has been around for decades and in many cultures because it's one of the few cookies that are celebrated around the world. The beauty is in its versatility—it can be baked into a soft, chewy cookie to eat or baked to a crisp in order to provide structural stability to a gingerbread house. The most fun lies within the decoration, though; royal icing is the best friend of this warmly-spiced treat, and a cookie without it is almost a crime. Mega bonus points if you've actually built a gingerbread house. And if you haven't, here's your sign to try one this year.
18 Christmas Tree Cakes From Hostess
Don't deny it; we know that you've indulged in (several or more) of these tasty snacks before dinnertime—likely as a kid and likely in the school cafeteria as your friends tried to convince you to trade your Hostess cake for one of their inferior lunchtime snacks. As an adult, a Hostess Christmas Tree Cake is nostalgia and joy all rolled into one slightly creamy, cakey, icing-covered treat. It's festive and satisfying, although I swear they keep getting smaller and smaller. The reaction can't be helped—as soon as you spot this Christmas-themed box in the grocery store, you're powerless to avoid bringing it to the register.
17 Teeth-Breaking Peppermint Bark
The rule of thumb is this: there should be much more bark to actual peppermint when it comes to candy cane-coated chocolate. If you notice a dizzying layer of white and red dotted across the top of your chocolate square, it's best to avoid it. However, we've all ignored this rule at least once for the sake of a sugar rush, and we've all been left with that annoying head-ringing that only happens when you bite down on something hard. Once you've gotten that obnoxious feeling out of the way, you should really try some good peppermint bark that's made correctly—Ghirardelli makes the best melt-in-your-mouth chocolate, and chances are, you'll eat the entire bag on your own.
16 Roasted Chestnuts
Regular chestnuts are a thing, but they're even better if they're roasted. It's hit or miss when it comes to roasted chestnut fans, and I like to think that they're for the hardcore roasted nut lovers of the world. It's a classic Christmas dish (as is evident in "The Christmas Song," and yes, Nat King Cole sang it best) and should be tried at least once. They're a bit tough to find unless you're a local to New York City, in which case, you'll likely find them with any street vendor. You could try roasting them on your own, too; there's no harm in that as an oven works just as well. If you've made it this far, chances are, you could be a true holiday foodie.
15 Mince Pie
This dish made its way overseas and has become a fairly popular dessert in the US. If you consider yourself a lover of international foods, though, this is a must-try—if you haven't already. This dish originally made its way over from England, where it's called a "mincemeat pie" although there's no actual meat inside. Rather, you'll find a deliciously sweet filling of dried fruits and spices. At one point, there would've been meat inside as well, but a modern-day mince pie contains nothing of the sort. There are many variations on how this pie is served, and it can be made in individual, hand-pie portions or as one hearty pie. Either way, it's a great sweet to add to your list if you haven't already.
14 Christmas Goose
To be quite honest, you'd be hard-pressed to find a goose unless you went to a game farm, making it something that many people haven't had for the holidays. At one point, it was a very popular holiday dish, but with the accessibility of other meats, goose slowly disappeared off the radar. It's hard enough finding a true pate made with goose, let alone an entire bird, so if you have tried this, congratulations—you've done something that many people haven't. Similar to duck in its gaminess, a goose is slightly larger but can be cooked in a similar way. It takes some know-how if you're going to do it yourself, but it's mighty impressive when you do. True holiday foodies: go ahead and reward yourselves with some sugar cookies and eggnog.
13 The Ever-So-Festive Ho Ho
A wonderful reminder that the holidays are coming is seeing every snack cake company attempting to outdo the next via Christmas treats. Hostess provided its fans with a one-of-a-kind cake in the form of a peppermint Ho Ho for the holidays one year, and the tradition stuck. This limited snack cake is everything you could love when it comes to chocolate and that fresh pop of peppermint, all (literally) rolled up into one snackable cake. The box includes ten cakes, and the suggested serving size is one, but we all know that's not true... It's more like two, possibly three on a snow day.
12 Some Kind Of Veggie Dish (Like Brussels Sprouts)
Poor Brussels sprouts... foodies either love them or hate them. However, true foodies know that their secretly delicious flavor can be unlocked with just a little bit of pan-frying. This is a delicious way to eat them, and you can go ahead and award yourself some extra bonus points if you've had them with some sort of vinaigrette, such as pomegranate or balsamic. They're great steamed as well, but you only get a normal point for steamed sprouts with butter and garlic... We'll reward you with half a point if you've had them roasted. All other veggies are great, but only if they're packed with flavor and not cooked to mushy-pea level.
11 (Very) Stale Gingerbread House Candies
Yikes! If you're unfortunate enough to have been unaware of the state of your gingerbread candy decorations before you dove in to eat one, let me be the first to warn you: prepare accordingly. While this isn't the greatest of festive "must eat" snacks, it's something everyone does at least once. It's almost satisfying to pluck a week-old peppermint off the doorway of your gingerbread house, and you should really do it if only for the feeling. While Twizzlers and gumdrops don't age very well, there's nothing like dunking a slightly-stale wall of gingerbread into your hot cocoa on Christmas night.
Everyone loves eggnog. Even those who claim they hate eggnog don't really hate eggnog because it's impossible... Go ahead and fight me on it. There are many different types of eggnog along with methods of making it, so I implore you to keep trying various recipes until you find one that you love. If you haven't tried this creamy delicious dessert (or breakfast, lunch, and midnight snack, if you're me) then do yourself a favor and go get some right now. It's easy enough to find in any grocery store now that we start Christmas celebrations as early as October, so there's no excuse for anyone who hasn't tried it yet... Zero points if you've missed out on this delight.
9 Chocolate Chip Panettone
Look no further—your perfect bread for holiday dessert has arrived. Panettone, also known as Italy's Christmas bread, is a tradition for many people whose families came from Italy as well as those who don't. It's been made overwhelming popular in North America and can be found in many grocery and specialty stores. It's a bulbous-looking bread loaf that's soft and airy in the middle with a denser, slightly browned exterior. It's sweet but not clawingly so. The interior is great for soaking up coffee and milk as well, as the large air holes that form while it bakes make the bread incredibly light. If you've had this at least once, then you know you're getting to true foodie status.
8 One-Too-Many Chocolate Truffles
There's no escaping the chocolate grip around the holiday season. It's found in nearly every culture in some form or another; therefore, the sooner you embrace it, the better. Truffles are a common occurrence on any dessert platter this time of year, and chances are, if you're reading this, then you're always the first one to reach your limit. If you're anything like me, variety is your downfall—there's an unspoken rule that apparently, if there's more than one truffle flavor on a platter, then you need to try them all. Don't blame me... I didn't make the holiday snacking rules. Bonus points if you've had an unusually flavored truffle, such as pumpkin pie or eggnog.
7 Pillsbury Crescents Or Biscuits
It seems like no dinner table is complete without Pillsbury something or other, and biscuits or crescents are always the reliable bread options. Unless you're like my mother, who's a baker and refuses to use any recipe but her own, you've likely grown used to the steamy, buttery comforts of breaking one of these babies open. Once the smell of that flaky exterior and warm interior hits your nose, it's game over for your stomach—it's now forced to do your bidding and hold as many rolls as possible without exploding. If you haven't had a basket of these at your table for the holidays, well... I feel bad for you, son. Got 99 problems but a lack of biscuits definitely isn't one.
6 Christmas Turkey
...unless you're the Grinch, in which case, you'll be eating roast beast. For those of us who aren't green and furry, we're most familiar with Christmas turkey, the one protein that sits in the center of nearly every dinner table in the country. Some families will cook ham, but in all likelihood, turkey is the winner in your household. Thanksgiving is the only other time you'll see an entire bird in the oven, which makes the holidays a very special time. There's nothing like the scent of herb butter and dressing wafting out of the oven as dinnertime approaches. Even more so, there's nothing like pouring homemade gravy over the top of your favorite choice of meat.
5 Germany's Version Of Fruitcake, Stollen
Oh boy, is this a memory... Most households in Germany will have at least two of these, one in the refrigerator and one stored away in the freezer. Even if you didn't eat the whole thing, it would be around if only for tradition's sake. The good thing Stollen has going for it is that it's not as dense as a regular fruitcake and doesn't feel so much like lead in your stomach. It's normally covered in powdered sugar, and if I had to describe it, I'd say it's comparable to Ireland's soda bread but with dried fruit baked inside rather than just raisins or currants. Stollen can also be iced or filled with something other than dried fruits, but it's a fun thing to try at least once.
4 Unfortunately, An Actual Fruitcake
Just face it—there's no getting out of trying fruitcake at least once in your life. It's the great US joke, and we've all cracked the "doorstop" joke at least once at a family gathering. That's really all any fruitcake is good for, and while you might find one that looks good, don't let it fool you—it's just going to sit in your stomach for the next six years. It'll feel like that, anyway. If you haven't tried fruitcake of any sort, then you're either very lucky or slightly deprived because most of us can share at least one story of how we encountered this brick of a loaf.
3 Cinnamon Buns, The Messier The Better
Yup, I'm the weirdo who always requests cinnamon buns with orange icing, but most normal folks have them with good 'ol sugar icing. Pillsbury cinnamon buns are the absolute best as far as store-bought ones go, unless you're planning on crushing the competition and hitting up a bakery or—gasp—making them from scratch. No matter how you get them to your table on a holiday morning, they should be there, front and center. True foodies know this because it's that cinnamon and sugar smell wafting up the stairs that wakes them up early. If you're the breakfast-maker in your house, then it's you who wakes up early just for the sake of baking these buns.
2 Chocolate Orange
Now, this is a real treat and one that's somewhat healthy for you. Chocolate-covered oranges are a popular holiday addition to any dessert platter or snack time because they're easy to make and easy to find in stores. Orange is a classic holiday flavor, and chocolate, a classic holiday sweet. And when combined, it's like pure magic. This is a must for any holiday dinner table and can even be served during breakfast—dark chocolate with sweet orange slices makes this snack even better, balancing sweet and bitter in a one-bite treat. You're getting close to being the ultimate holiday foodie if you can cross this off the list.
1 Monkey Bread On Christmas Eve
No actual monkeys were harmed in the making of this—or any monkey bread. Imagine a cinnamon roll that's doubled in size and mouth-watering sugary filling... There, you have monkey bread. There are so many variations of this dish, and it's still making its way through the Pinterest archives, but it's a must-have for holiday foodies. The best part is pulling it apart as soon as it comes out of the oven—well, not as soon because you don't want to scorch your fingers—and smelling all of that sugar as it melts into a buttery, doughy cinnamon dough. It's love in a bundt pan, I swear.