We’re deep in the throes of holiday parties and time-honored seasonal traditions — though, as I was reminded when chatting with a friend recently, parties and traditions can induce a sense of dread in plenty of people who aren’t into endless potlucks and Yankee swaps and tree lightings. So while there are a slew of holiday events taking place over the next few weeks — cookie swaps, Feasts of the Seven Fishes, and, yes, even more holiday pop-up bars — there’s no harm in starting your own traditions (or ignoring them all together). In fact, I’d love to hear about some of the more unique, personal traditions and activities you enjoy this time of year in the comments below.
And if you are a fan of holiday festivities? Here’s a look at some of the upcoming fêtes happening around the city.
1. Feast of the Seven Fishes
For many Italian-Americans, Feast of the Seven Fishes is a tradition that involves not one, not two, but seven seafood courses trotted out on Christmas Eve. If you’re looking for an introduction into this gargantuan meal, there are a number of places in the Boston area ready to serve a fresh catch (and not just on Christmas Eve!). At Ledger in Salem, a who’s-who of chefs (Colin Lynch, Brian Rae, Kate Holowchik, and more) will come together on Dec. 16 for a meal that features uni flan, puttanesca with squid ink rigatoni, and cuttlefish polpette. Southeast Asian restaurant Tiger Mama will host the meal on Dec. 17 with Nantucket Bay scallops, Alaskan king crab, and Hokkien mee (prawn noodles). North End seafood spot Il Molo will serve its version from Dec. 20–Dec. 24, with dishes that include lobster fra diavolo, stuffed calamari, and branzino. And on Dec. 24, Davio’s will invite guests to enjoy a Christmas Eve meal at both its Seaport and Back Bay locations, serving a three-course menu that features shrimp, lobster, octopus, crab, codfish loin, and more — a veritable banquet of the ocean.
When examining bars that had a monumental impact on American drinking culture in the past couple of decades, Angel’s Share, which opened in New York City in 1994, is certainly one of them. So when Angel’s Share bartender Atsushi Nakayama shows up in Boston with the promise of mixing excellent drinks, you make time to enjoy them. Nakayama will join Don Papa rum brand ambassador and Angel’s Share alum Ben Rojo at The Hawthorne on Sunday for a night of curated rum cocktails starting at 9 p.m. That’s a lot of talent — and great booze — in one room. (500A Commonwealth Ave., Boston)
3. Cookie swaps
Bakers, take note: This is a prime weekend for not only baking dozens of holiday cookies, but trying treats from cookie fiends around the city. Two major cookie swaps are taking place in the next few days: On Saturday, Flour Bakery is hosting its 10th annual cookie swap at its Innovation and Design Building location in the Seaport. For $35, participants can sign up to bring two to three dozen cookies, with proceeds from the event going towards Catie’s Closet, a non-profit organization assisting students in grades K through 12 who live in poverty or are experiencing homelessness. Sign up for the swap here. (19 Drydock Ave., Boston)
Across the river in East Cambridge, Elmendorf Baking Supplies & Café will host a cookie swap on Sunday. There’s no sign-up fee necessary — anyone interested can simply show up at 5 p.m. with two to three dozen cookies, ugly sweaters encouraged. The cozy café will provide boxes to fill with baked goods as holiday music plays in the background. (594 Cambridge St., Cambridge)
4. Maccabee Bar
Last year, Boston bartender extraordinaire Naomi Levy debuted Maccabee Bar, a Hanukkah-themed alternative to all the Christmas-centric bars popping up around the city. Levy is bringing it back, this time shaking up drinks like the Hebrew Hammer at Backbar in Somerville’s Union Square. Starting on Dec. 16 and continuing through Dec. 29, the pop-up will offer special snacks — I’m most excited about the latkes — alongside cocktails that highlight Levy’s creativity: Look no further than the Have a Ball, made with cognac, cinnamon, and crème fraîche, and inspired by noodle kugel. (7 Sanborn Court, Somerville)
On my last trip to Providence, I stopped by Knead Doughnuts for the first time and tried a brown butter pecan brioche doughnut. I’ve been thinking about it, and how wildly perfect this doughnut is, ever since. So you can bet I’ll be at Knead’s pop-up at EHChocolatier in Cambridge on Sunday, when the doughnut shop will sell its baked goods (including the brown butter pecan, hooray!) from 10 a.m.–1 p.m. EHChocolatier will provide coffee and hot chocolate — you just have to come hungry. (145 Huron Ave., Cambridge)