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The Ghosts of Christmas Dinner

While Thanksgiving dinner is tradition rich in our family, Christmas meals tend to have more variance. We would never even dream of testing a new recipe at Thanksgiving. Only Aunt Betty’s Sweet Potato Soufflé, Elda Ann’s pecan pie and Libby’s pumpkin pie will do. As a side note, there is no great aunt Libby. It’s the recipe off the can - except my mom wrote it on a recipe card so it‘s “real deal” now. ☺️

We’ve never really gained much traction on what our Christmas “usual” is. We do the same things with the same people, but the food always seems to vary. So in case you’re in the same boat as we are, and perchance are looking for a new idea for this year’s celebration, I thought I would share our Christmas meals past, present and into the future. Because I always have ideas for the future! I've included lots of recipe links that we've tried and enjoyed to help you.

Christmas Past

Just like in the Christmas Carol, when I think about Christmas Past, I’m filled with mental images of myself as a child - corduroy bell bottoms and all. When I was younger, we were more traditional in our Christmas day meal. Christmas Eve was always spent at home with my parents and my brother. My grandparents and aunt would come join us for gifts. I remember watching out my bedroom window, which faced their house, waiting to see their car headlights heading down their lane, envisioning a Santa-like sleigh filled with my favorite people and the gifts they would bring. My grandma helped foster my love of cooking and would always get me new kitchen gadgets or cookbooks.

Christmas Day was spent with our extended family at my grandparents' house and we would have the full meal: ham, potato casserole, corn pudding, various Jello salads and then the anxious moments between dinner and gifts, waiting for the pecan pie and persimmon pudding. The adults all sat at the ”big” table with the nice dishes and red table cloth and unlit candles, while us kids were relegated to the living room in front of the console TV with gold-flower-rimmed Corelle. I think this suited us just fine because it was easier for us to slip away and play when we finished our “fancy” meal. Or sometimes we would go make sure the desserts were all "safe" in the kitchen. Christmas Day dinner was always the same, and that was not a bad thing.

Over the years, things changed. People got married, moved, passed away, and the dynamic continued to change. One Christmas Eve after we were married, I made seafood bisque and finished cooking it right as the power went out due to a snowstorm. It was supposed to be a swanky dinner, but we got to eat by candlelight for a whole different reason! We have also enjoyed Gumbo for a bowl of hearty warmth on Christmas Eve.

One year we had a foster placement for the holidays, so we hit the freezer junk food section and everyone got to pick a treat. We had pizza bites, BBQ chicken wings and more while we watched “A Christmas Story”. For the past several years we’ve stopped by to pick up Chinese food on the way home from Christmas Eve services. All easy options, and just as memorable as more fancy meals in my opinion.

Then we started the tradition with Jack of researching various countries and having dinners with their foods and traditions. We’ve totally enjoyed doing this and have celebrated a Hannakuh meal, a German-style dinner (Black Forest Cake shared by a customer) and an English Christmas with a leg of lamb, which we’ll never forget due to a very well-contained oven fire with my Yorkshire puddings. And we also ALWAYS do Christmas crackers (the popping kind with crowns and bad jokes) and we always bring out the best China and silver as we celebrate.

Christmas Present

Each year we share Christmas Eve brunch with my family. We try different things as part of our meal, but we usually provide the meat and eggs then we make pancakes, biscuits and gravy, or one year we made Eggs Benedict for the crew. Jack is already planning which pair of sleep pants he wants to wear to this year's brunch as he has recently become acquainted with flannel. I love how adaptable brunch is for a big group and there are so many fun ideas. Maybe this year we’ll do this breakfast charcuterie tray or this Dutch Baby for our gluten free guests.

We’re also celebrating Christmas French style. Jack already has a menu planned including a roasted chicken, haricot vert with cream sauce and chocolate mousse for dessert. He also is planning a cheese course. He knows his way around the cheese counter at Hy-Vee! Again, we will use China dishes we’ve inherited from family, real silver and even the “crystal goblins” (goblets). Jack will practice table setting and serving his grandparents like a gentleman, both good skills for a young man to have.

This year we decided to let Jack and my nieces help us start some new traditions with my husband’s family. Christmas 2021 will be a different holiday for a lot of reasons, so we thought we’d let the kids try their hand at making it the kind of day they want it to be. I’m anxious (nervous?) to see what they come up with!

Christmas Future

Christmas season always seems to come and go so quickly. I tend to over-dream and underproduce. I have mental images of quaint gatherings with friends using my punch bowl that I’ve never used, delivering baskets of homemade treats to all of my fabulous neighbors who have helped put up my pigs when we’re out of town, cozy nights cuddled up by the fireplace (that I don’t even have), sipping hot cocoa (which incidentally I don’t like) and watching ”White Christmas“. The reality is I barely get gifts bought and wrapped, if we’re lucky we get one batch of cookies made and Christmas seems to be done before I really think much about it. One year I even melted Jack’s gingerbread house since we had to hide it from his sister - in the oven. Mom of the year award for this girl!

But I do now have an attainable Christmas goal for next year, thanks to a customer suggestion. She’s always wanted to have a Red, White and Green Chili party! I told her I’m totally in for that! A traditional chili, a white bean chicken chili and a chili verde would be a great way to feed a group and celebrate the holidays together. I have two of the recipes covered, just need to perfect a Chili Verde, and find a lot of friends who like to eat! Next year. Christmas future. 🤞I think I can do this! I’ve got 11 months…. And maybe I’ll eventually figure out a use for my punch bowl! Who's up for a party?

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