Christmas is a time of year when different families around the world will get together and observe traditions that are the same for them year after year and yet vastly different from those that other families share around the block. There are very few universal Christmas traditions any more and there is nothing wrong with that. In America however, there are some items that many people consider traditional holiday cooking and there is little that will be done to dissuade these opinions. The truth is that many of these traditional holiday foods are largely traditional in specific regions rather than the United States having one nations wide traditional Christmas dinner.
Turkey or ham? For some families the answer is both while others answer quite quickly that it is neither. One of the best all-American Christmas cooking ideas I've ever seen was lasagna. It was a Christmas Eve tradition but a delicious tradition just the same. There are no right or wrong traditions only those traditions that work well for you and your family. If you feel the need to change a long-standing tradition for a large extended family by all means discuss it with everyone involved. Otherwise it is your tradition and you should feel free to make it your own.
At the same time, there is something comforting and reminiscent of home to have those traditions to come home to year after year. I can't help but think of the movie Christmas with the Kranks. The entire movie was spent in an attempt to break with the traditional Christmas trappings and trimmings only to make a mad dash to return to them in the end. That is often the way things go when attempting to break with tradition. If you are considering this for the first time this Christmas be sure to hang on to some of your old traditions in case you find that it just doesn't feel like Christmas without them. You certainly don't want it to be too late and miss out on the spirit of Christmas in your home.
Other great traditional favorites for many Americans as far as Christmas cooking goes are: sweet potato casseroles, devilled eggs, dressing or stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie, apple pie, mince meat pie, and pecan pie. Of course there are regional favorites that are often highly dependent upon where you live such as key lime pie, lemon icebox pie, oyster dressing, deep fried turkey. If one of these is a Christmas tradition for you, no matter where you are in the world you will think of home or Christmas whenever you come across them. It's really amazing how that happens and quite nice too when family and friends seem far away to have something as simple as a dish of food make them seem that much closer.
That, of course, is the great, and almost perfect things about Christmas traditions. We pass them along to our children who one day will find that they are a little less alone because someone in an airport is eating a slice of key lime pie or having a dish or macaroni and cheese. If you don't have Christmas traditions it is time to develop a few just so that you can share something special and almost sacred with your friends and family.