December 13, 2021
Winter Holiday Traditions Made Easier When Planning Ahead for Allergies
The winter holiday season is full of fun festivities and beloved traditions, many of which present unique challenges to people with allergies or asthma. Fortunately, with a thoughtful mindset and proactive approach, you can enjoy a season full of merriment and good cheer.
Lots of holiday favorites can trigger or irritate allergies, from food to wood-burning fires and seasonal greenery. And while you may manage allergy symptoms well most of the year, reactions to indoor allergens like these can really spike during the holiday season. Why? Blame our tendency to snuggle in when the weather cools. You’re in a closed-up house, the heater is on, the windows shut — that’s why indoor allergies get worse in the winter.
More than 40 million Americans cope with year-round allergies; the causes can be nearly as varied as the people and their locations. But there are some common holiday allergy triggers, such as food, mold, and dust mites. This post will focus mainly on winter holidays and their traditional décor and foods, in addition to allergy-friendly recipes.
Deck All the Halls
All festive occasions are made more brilliant by special flowers, music, colorful decorations, bright table linens and especially candlelight. Winter celebrations such as Feast of Our Lady Guadalupe, Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa all include candlelight one way or another.
Indoor allergens are often invisible. Where possible, try battery operated flameless candles rather than traditional candles which produce smoke and can cause an asthma flare. When rotating holiday décor in your home, be sure to wipe down items to remove triggers like dust and mold. If live greenery is on your list of traditions, you may want to hose down plants and evergreens before bringing them inside to clean off allergy causing mold spores.
Food connects us to each other, to our past, and to our cultural heritage. The following traditional festivals and recipe ideas (and links) reflect traditional foods that are enjoyed during winter holidays. Many of our festive traditions are honored when gathered around the dining room table.
The following holidays are listed in order according to the Gregorian Calendar:
Feast of Our Lady Guadalupe December 12, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, is celebrated in Catholic parishes and neighborhoods throughout Mexico. Masses, dancing, and pageant parades are popular during the feast day. The biggest celebration takes place at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, a site said to be visited by 20 million pilgrims a year. Images of Our Lady of Guadalupe are found today in churches and other settings all over the globe but is most revered in Mexico. Learn more about this day of rejoicing here.
Mexican Cuisine is featured heavily at family gatherings and festivities. Many savory, authentic dishes will be served during this happy festival. Here are a few allergy happy recipes to try:
For a sweet treat during the feast day, why not these gluten free churros.
Hanukkah or the Festival of Lights, is celebrated between late November and early January. Over 2,000 years ago, Jewish people were forced to leave Jerusalem, their holy city. When they returned, they rebuilt their holy temple and the temple’s oil lamp, called a menorah. There was only enough oil for one day, but it burned for eight days, representing the miracle they celebrate today. Each night they light a candle to celebrate the eight-day victory.
There is an extensive list of wonderful holiday foods served on Hanukkah, but potato latkes are one of the most common. (“Multicultural Holiday Season & a Special Feast | Thrive …”) You are also sure to find brisket, beef short ribs, doughnuts, and noodle kugel listed among favorite traditional dishes.
December 25th marks the day Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus 2,000 years ago in a stable. Believed to be the Son of God visited by three wise men on the night of his birth, the holiday is marked by gift exchanges and family gatherings around food. There are variations around the world and linked holidays, such as Advent (a time of waiting) and the Three Kings Day, to celebrate their visit.
A roast ham or turkey is typically the main course of many family meal gatherings with common side dishes that include mashed potatoes, roasted carrots, cranberry sauce, and more. Homemade custard and selections of baked sweet treats are popular with everyone this time of year.
December 26-January 1st marks the festival time for Kwanzaa, meaning “first fruits” in Swahili, in honor of the harvest and African culture. An activist, Maulana Karenga founded the holiday in 1966 to encourage learning and celebration around African heritage. Some traditions include lighting seven candles for a seven-day festival, representing seven principles: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.
The traditional feast meal is held on the sixth day (Karamu) and because the holiday is relatively new, it features a rich mix of traditional and modern dishes. Groundnut stew is considered a hallmark of West Africa. To create a tree-nut free version, substitute with tahini paste or sunflower seed butter. We often see southern US influences as in this classic dessert, sweet potato pie, allergen-free of course.
Be of good cheer and happiness this holiday season and enjoy all the fun festivities of your beloved traditions. Be assured, through diligence and planning, to meet the joy with prepared awareness of your allergy needs. Be sure to contact your allergist or physician if you have other allergy concerns.
Happy Holidays from Greater Austin Allergy.