Bird

Christmas goose. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times / November 12, 2005)

Christmas dinner is a meal with plenty of tradition, but it's not as hidebound as Thanksgiving. It's more a matter of choice than obligation. We tend to serve the same dishes year after year, but it's because we want to — because we love them and feel like celebrating when they're on the table.

As a result, Christmas dinners vary widely from one family to the next. Perhaps you look forward all year to roast goose, or maybe you can't wait to slow-roast a prime rib. One person's meal wouldn't be complete without a pecan pie; another's favorite dessert is pavlova. To cop a cliche: It's all good.

Here's a sampling of the Christmas traditions of our Times Food staff.

Betty Hallock: The best panforte in the world

Jonathan Gold: Tidings of comfort and latkes

S. Irene Virbila: Christmas dinner: Get your goose

Russ Parsons: Posole, the taste of Christmas in New Mexico

Noelle Carter: Christmas dinner: Sharing a pecan pie across generations