Wisconsin November 22, 2017
11 Weird And Wacky Holiday Traditions You’ll Only Get If You’re From Wisconsin
It’s no surprise that we’ve got a list of weird and unusual holiday traditions – those words pretty much sum up life in Wisconsin. We’ve got a large mishmash of immigrant backgrounds that settled here and brought their traditions, which have been passed through generations. We don’t let cold weather or snow hold us back and we love a good party, no matter the reason.
Here are some of the things we do here in Wisconsin to celebrate the holidays that you might not find anywhere else:
1. Eating herring for prosperity in the new year.
There are other new year's traditions, but this Scandinavian one seems to be the most popular. It helps that we have Ma Baensch's right in Milwaukee.
2. Hiding a pickle ornament on your tree.
This is a tradition with a very confusing history, but many German families have the parents hang the pickle ornament last and then the kids have to find it. The one who does gets an extra present and gets to open their presents first.
3. Celebrating St. Nick's Day.
There doesn't seem to be a clear idea as to why St. Nick's Day is a separate holiday, but here in the midwest we put out our stockings to be filled on the night of December 5th. Families that do so seem to have lots of different traditions surrounding it - my stocking always had an apple, an orange and a bag of peanuts in the bottom, plus one small gift.
4, Spending Thanksgiving hunting.
Gun hunting season is just one week here in Wisconsin and many people can't be bothered to stop their hunt for a silly holiday. I've heard it said that preparing for deer hunting season takes way more planning and coordination than a Thanksgiving dinner.
5. Cutting your own Christmas tree.
It probably helps that we have a long logging industry history and some pretty great tree farms here in Wisconsin. But there's something extra festive about going out to find your perfect tree.
6. The WE Energies Cookie Book.
Of course it used to be the Wisconsin Electric Cookie Book and before that, the Wisconsin Gas Cookie Book - you get the idea. Dating back to 1933, this free recipe book is distributed by the local utility company and still is today - there were spots across the state where they had distribution events. Now, you can just download the book - as well as previous versions. I remember waiting to get ours and then planning a whole day in the kitchen with my mom baking.
7. Cannibal sandwiches.
Some call them tiger meat. Some just say steak tartare. No one seems to know why we choose to ingest raw meat, but these raw beef sandwiches with onion on top are known to be a Wisconsin delicacy. Every year around this time the Health Department will put out warnings about eating them, but plenty of people still do.
8. Doing the Polar Bear Plunge.
Lots of places have these, of course, but they seem particularly popular here in Wisconsin. I suppose it's something about proving your worthiness by freezing your tootsies off. Either way, Lake Michigan will be full of crazy folks on New Year's Day.
The rest of the world makes fun of fruit stuffed cakes and breads, but we love a good stollen. There are tons of variations, of course, but this dry bread seems to pair well with morning coffee and be a staple of the holiday table around here. My husband's family makes one they call "crunt" but I've never been able to find any recipes or info about that style online.
10. Bicycling santas.
In Milwaukee it's the Santa Rampage, in Green Bay it's the Cycling Santas, in Ozaukee County you'll find a Fat (Tire) Santa Ride. The state is pretty bike crazy, and we do love an excuse to head out and drink beer, which is pretty much the prime objective of the Santa Rampage, but either way, the sight of hundreds of biking Santas is definitely something you get used to in Wisconsin.
11. Brandy slush.
This is the only alcohol I have memories of my grandma drinking - she wouldn't tipple all year long, but at Christmas, there she'd be with her ancient Tupperware full of frozen brandy slush.
What other unique and fun traditions do you see being celebrated in Wisconsin? Let us know in the comments!
Want to learn more about the New Year’s herring tradition?
Click here to read last year’s post on it.