Category: Living

Imperial, California (BPT) - Everyone has special holiday traditions, from heirloom decorations to secret recipes passed down from generation to generation. Whether your holiday celebration means an intimate family gathering or an elaborate house-filled party, why not add something new to your festive mix? Many authentic holiday traditions are just a grocery-store-trip away - and you may discover a new family favorite from a faraway land.

Adding some international flair to your holidays can be easy, enjoyable and educational - an opportunity to feed minds young and old during the school break. The whole family can get in on the experience: young children can learn holiday phrases from the countries whose foods you are featuring - and teach other guests. Older children can head to the library to get international holiday music, adding another dimension to the new experience. Those preparing the goodies should also be prepared to share some history about what they are serving.

Money-saving expert Cindy Livesey, founder of, uses smart shopping strategies to add festive flair to her family’s celebrations. Here are her tips on bringing the world to your holiday table without breaking the bank.

1. Start simple – with cookies! Why not try Christmas cookies from the country that started the tradition of the Christmas tree? Gingerbread lovers will adore Pfeffernusse – these German spice cookies are so popular in Germany, they have their own holiday on Dec. 23. Rather than purchasing all the fine ingredients, pick up a pack these small, round cookies from Bahlsen, Germany’s leading cookie brand. And since they’re gone after the holidays, “Grab any Bahlsen holiday cookies you see remaining in the cookie aisle right after New Year’s Eve,” suggests Livesey. “They may just be on sale ... and you won’t have to wait a year to enjoy them again.”

2. Start saving before the holidays. It pays to be prepared for the indulgent holiday season. Keep an eye on sales and specials leading up to your celebration and stock up on international ingredients. In anticipation of her family’s traditional Italian Christmas Eve Feast of the Seven Fishes, Livesey buys seafood when it’s on sale. “I scored frozen stuffed clams a few months ago for free – so that part of my holiday shopping is already done!”  she says. Combining seasonal coupons with sales can help stretch holiday budgets.

3. Drink up some new flavors. Make your international menu more interesting by trying a new spice or type of produce. To capture some festive Mexican flair, add a little cayenne pepper to hot chocolate – you probably have both of those in your pantry right now. A nice fruit punch (with or without rum) adds unexpected tropical fun, channeling a Caribbean Christmas. “Keep frozen mango and other fruits in your freezer so you can add them to punch even when they’re not in season,” advises Livesey.

4. Assign each family member a part of the menu. The cost burden of a big family dinner can easily be lifted by sharing the cooking responsibilities. Choose an international region and assign different dishes to different family members – and decoration-making to young ones. When it’s time to eat, the meal will be complete because the family is together – and there will be plenty to talk about as each person proudly explains his or her contribution. “Some of the best gifts really are free, and sharing something new as a family is one of those gifts,” says Livesey.

It’s easy to experience the holidays from around the world without emptying your wallet. Spice up the traditional and try something new with an international affair. You might discover a completely new tradition that will have your family celebrating together for years to come.