12/18/2012 08:23 am ET Updated Feb 17, 2013

"What IS Wassailing, Anyway?": The Etymological Origins of Popular Holiday Foods

At this time of year we go about joyfully wishing one another "Happy Holidays." The word "holiday" is the combination of two Old English words: "holy" and "day." We are really wishing happy "holy days" for one another--referring primarily to Christmas and Hanukkah.

Similarly, a lot of the foods we associate with the holidays play a significant role in celebrating these two holy days. Let's take a look at just a few traditional and popular Christmas foods, such as wassail, Yule log, and mince pie, and Hanukkah regulars, including latke, sufganiyot, pretzels, and gelt. Each family has its own favorites, many that have been family traditions for generations. It would be great fun to read your comments about the holiday foods that mean the most to you and why.

Please share the memories you have about the ways your families celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah, including your favorite foods. Whenever we celebrate these holidays, let us always keep in mind that they are, in fact, holy days.

Etymology of Holiday Words