Research Outline

Popular Foods in Past Decades


To identify the popular holiday foods/dishes/snacks in American states during the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.

Early Findings

The Holiday Hostess Tree

  • During the 1960s, particularly in 1961, Oscar Mayer advertised the Holiday Hostess Tree which then became popular in American homes for the Christmas holidays.
  • In the Holiday Hostess Tree, parsley was stapled to styrofoam cones, and then cocktail picks are used to decorate the tree with various kinds of meat. Over the years, the tree evolved "to include other snacks like shrimp."

Aspics or Jell-o Molds

  • Jell-O Molds were a "hit in the Christmas dinner table" in the 1960s.
  • Aspics are jelly made with meat stock.

Cheese Fondue

  • According to Taste of Home, cheese fondue is a classic 1970s Christmas recipe. This might be because it's a "cozy and warming dish, and it's a fun, communal way for family and friends to eat together."


  • Ambrosia also became a staple of the Christmas dinner table in the 1970s. Ambrosia is a "fruit salad coated in sour cream and coconut." Even though it's full of citrus, "there is something about the marshmallows and coconut that makes ambrosia fit into the world of holiday sweets, and the dish is a nice bright foil to Christmas dinner's heavier dishes."

Cheese Balls

  • It is said that the 1970s is an era of cheese. In the early 1970s, "magazines and cookbooks were full of recipes for cheese balls for entertaining, especially around the holidays. Nothing says Christmas like a giant sphere of dairy."

Cocktail Meatballs

  • The recipes for cocktail meatballs started circulating in 1978. Meatballs have become a popular holiday dish in the 1970s.

No-bake Cookies

  • No-bake cookies became popular in 1979 during the Christmas holidays.
  • No-bake cookies' "early renditions called mostly for just lots of coconut and chocolate along with some butter or margarine and powdered sugar."

Christmas Salmon

  • Salmon became popular "for holiday dining at the beginning of the 1980s."
  • Food Timeline said that "Better Homes and Gardens advised adding salmon-stuffed pasta shells to festive buffet spread in 1980, and various salmon dishes were staples listed in Good Housekeeping and Bon Appetit, as well, through 1983."

Holiday Party Loaf

  • Holiday party loaf started to become a trend in the 1970s and "went mainstream when Betty Crocker published a recipe in 1981."
  • In the early 1980s, holiday "hosts and hostesses would build multi-layer sandwiches and then frost the entire monstrosity with cream cheese." This became the holiday party loaf.

Jelly Fruit Slices

  • Jelly fruit slices became popular in the 1980s. They are a "popular Passover treat since they're kosher, but they were also a beloved stocking stuffer for Christmas, especially in the early '80s."

Christmas Fudge

  • Christmas fudge which is now a "classic holiday indulgence seems to have really gotten a surge in 1994."
  • In the '90s, "brands like Nestle and Baker's Chocolate filled magazines with their own suggestions for how to make velvety, sugary, creamy, chocolatey fudge."