When I hear the word “Christmas“, the very first image that pops into my head is a large table absolutely packed with delicious platters of food.
Of course, I also think of gorgeously decorated trees, beautifully wrapped presents, colourful lights, red and green hanging door wreaths… oh, and of course *ahem* going to church to celebrate the birth of Christ.
But the absolute first thought, the one at the very front of my mind, is a food one. Whilst this may not be the same for every single other person who celebrates Christmas, I’m sure it is for lots and lots.
It should be noted, however, that the platters of food sitting on top of that table vary quite drastically from family to family. From country to country. From climate to climate.
In my family, no matter whether it’s just the 8 of us celebrating (i.e only the immediate adult family members) or an extended crowd of 40 or more, we ALWAYS must have the same 3 core things: honey glazed ham, roast pork and roast turkey stuffed with pine nuts and cranberries.
Of course we do smaller portions (kind of) if there are fewer people, but without question, we ALWAYS have those 3 meats on the table. We never have seafood and we never have roasted vegetables as an accompaniment.
As far as side dishes go, it is our custom to not repeat the same thing each year but rather to be “inventive and modern” drawing inspiration from the year in question’s popular chefs and trending produce. It might be Jamie Oliver’s latest green salad with a twist or perhaps something Magige Beer has pulled out on the most recent season of Masterchef – whatever the case, the “sides” are where we display our creativity and non-traditional Christmas flair.
And for dessert? We’re back to tradition and thus it’s always the same 2 things; Yaya’s 10 layer Trifle and Aunty Helen’s insanely delicious Christmas pudding, served with custard and brandy butter. Yummmmmmm!
I’ll never forget early December 2005. As we were working out who was going to make what for the 25th, Mum suggested that, “maybe we don’t need the Turkey this year?” Everyone in the room turned white and started shaking. I think my sister may have even fainted. Mum never mentioned that idea again. And the year my Aunt suggested “Seafood instead of meat?” the silence in our always deafeningly loud Greek / Lebanese household answered that question for her.
And so back we reverted to the comfort of our ham/pork/turkey/trifle/pudding and creative sides winning combo!
In addition to the types of food that are on ‘that table’, the time of day when people have their main Christmas meal also varies. For my family, it’s always been lunch. There’s something about lunch that just works for us. The internal buzz from the anticipation for the hours before, the practice of skipping / eating a tiny breakfast, the saving up of all of our Santa stocking chocolates until we arrive at the lunch thrower’s house, it’s all part of the fun!
We always start our lunch with your classic ’80s party hors d’oeuvres – lots of cheese, nuts and dips. Then the table is loaded with enough food to feed 30,000 humans, and each person goes on to eat until they feel unwell (why!? I mean EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR we all make the same mistake!).
After lunch everyone, young and old, lies down – if not for a sleep, just to rest before dessert is served. At about 5pm the savoury foods on the table have been replaced by sweet ones and the guzzling continues. As delicious as the desserts are, there’s something very “once a year” about them; the thought of eating them at any other time of the year just doesn’t feel right to me. But that’s a whole other post!
Even though it’s lunch for us, I know that it’s not for many other families. I know a family who do breakfast instead. For them it’s all about the pancakes. “Christmas Pancakes?!” you ask. Yup! Pancakes! They make up batches and batches of pancake batter and then have bowls of Christmas pancake “mix-ins” such as cranberries, sultanas, and coconut and they go for it. Whisking and pan-frying until they can flip no more! It goes down a treat with the kids!
Another family I know do Christmas Eve dinner, and to them Christmas Day is just leftovers and recovery (for us, that’s Boxing Day). One of my very oldest friend’s family does Christmas Night dinner. So nothing on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day but they save it all up for the night of Christmas (by which point I am comatose on a couch somewhere, possibly with custard and pudding crumbs still gathered around my chin. Gross.)
The final Christmas food tradition in my family is the passing around – at about 6pm on Christmas evening – of a large (and I mean over 1 foot tall) glass vase filled with all of our favourite fun-sized chocolates.
I have always been a believer that everyone has 3 separate stomachs. One for mains, one for dessert and one specifically for chocolate. It’s amazing how chocolate can always, ALWAYS, somehow be squeezed in even when you think that you can no longer BREATHE due to fullness.
Wishing everybody a very safe and Merry Christmas, a happy holiday period and a fantastic and fabulously food-filled 2013!
Phoodie worked for several years as a designer before having the courage to throw caution to the wind and run, very, very fast to the Le Cordon Bleu cookery school in London. She is a cookbook, restaurant, and all round food obsessed blogger and Mum of 2. She can be found posting recipes here, Tweeting here, or on Facebook here
What will you be eating for Christmas? Do you have the same thing every year or do you shake it up? If you don’t celebrate Christmas do you find that you are surrounded by Christmas foods everywhere you turn? Do you get sucked in?