Memories of Christmas Past
When I was a little girl, my favorite memories are from Christmas dinners. Both my parents had lots of siblings, so the extended family dinner was large, loud and long. No matter which side of the family we were going to see, it was guaranteed to be fun.
It doesn’t seem like Christmas without a Christmas dinner and the extended family. Everything from the long drive (or short drive!) to Grandma’s house, to the “kids’ table” and seeing my cousins.. to the inevitable knitted mittens from an aunt just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. I’m sure there were bickers and not-so-nice comments between siblings and cousins, but all of that is shrouded in the glow of Christmas past.
I remember my grandpa always wanting a family picture at Christmas. We would all squeeze in close around one end of the table, while Grandpa was at the other. He would line up the shot on his film camera — before the age of digital. He’d set a timer, then race around the table to lean in for the picture. Inevitably it would seem like it would take ages, and we’d all have fake smiles on by the time the picture actually happened. But it was still family. And we’d laugh about it.
I recently spent Thanksgiving with my family. (In Canada, our Thanksgiving day is in October). Both my brother and I, with our families, were at my parents for Thanksgiving dinner. And for the first time, we had our own version of the family picture. We all snuggled close on my mother’s couch, with the 21st century version of a timed shot — the selfie stick. And inevitably, by the time we all got in the shot, we all had fake smiles on our faces. But still, it was family. And we’ll laugh about it.
Appreciate the cook!
Traditionally, we do a turkey dinner for Thanksgiving. This year, my children discovered cranberry jelly. All of sudden, there were no more complaints about turkey meat. Instead, there were requests for seconds, so they could have more cranberry jelly. /My 7 year old suggested that it would make a great breakfast jelly too.
There’s just something about spending the holidays with family. It always seems to mean a big meal together. Whether you cook a turkey, or a ham, or some variation, the family dinner is one of the things that make holidays fun. I’ve only ever hosted a family dinner twice, during my marriage. And while it’s fun, it is a lot of work. So appreciate those that do the cooking!
Traditional dinner menu
Let’s talk main courses. The center of a holiday family dinner is the meat entree (or the vegetarian version!). There’s a lot that goes into this most important part of the meal. How do you prepare your main dish?
For me, as I said, its a turkey. Purchased weeks in advance, I thaw it the day before in the fridge. Once thawed, it gets washed, and then stuffed. I make my own dressing using bread and spices, among other things. I find it’s just as easy to stuff a turkey with homemade dressing as it is to use a box kit on the stove. It requires no more work.
Along with the meat, comes the gravy. I never have gotten the hang of making gravy though. My kids aren’t huge fans of it, so I guess I don’t have to worry about making gravy.
Then there’s the side dishes. Potatoes, vegetables, salads, and condiments — it’s a regular smorgasbord. No holiday dinner is complete without a marshmallow salad, right? I like to do broccoli, peas and corn, and a fresh-cut tray of veggies and dip. We don’t do sweet potato here, though I know it’s a popular dish. My kids love grape or cherry tomatoes, though, so I often use them in a green lettuce salad. There’s plenty to choose from!
But the best part of a holiday meal is the treat after. And most people would agree — holiday dinners end with pie. Apple pie, cherry pie, and of course pumpkin pie! are just a few of the many different kinds that are traditionally served with holiday dinners. What’s pie without ice cream, or whipped topping? Or maybe even both! Another tradition from family dinners is to over-indulge, after all.
Speaking of Christmas treats, I love Christmas cookies. Every year, I try to bake at least a half-dozen different kinds. We do the traditional – chocolate chip, peanut butter, oatmeal, and sugar cookies. I also have a recipe for thin mints (based on the Girl Guides’ famous cookies), and we love shortbread cookies. I also do some non-cookie recipes, like my family recipe for buttertarts. (If you don’t know what buttertarts are, they are a Canadian treat, that is fantastic.)
The foods just pile up at Christmastime. How can you resist all the yummy memories?