ituals are the glue that hold us together. We like doing certain things at certain times of the year. We pass down traditions from Gramma to kidlet. And Christmas is the perfect time to have some food-based rituals.
I recently married a wonderful man who had no Christmas traditions. No special meals, baking, or tree decorating rituals. Last year, I introduced him to some of my Christmas routines.
Here are 7 of my food rituals that you can share with your family this year:
1. Have a tree trimming party. I always get my tree the same day each year (December 15th, because I get a live tree). My favourite dinner for the first night we set up the tree is fish chowder and blender drinks (like frozen
margaritas). Maybe you set up your artificial tree on December 1st, or right after American Thanksgiving… it doesn’t matter. You can celebrate by having the first eggnog of the year.
2. Bake cookies to give away as gifts. Choose something you enjoy, that you can easily accomplish (such as Recipe 1.3 for Spicy Orange Gingersnaps or Easy Bar Shortbread Cookies with green sprinkles). Wrap up a dozen cookies in a small cardboard box from the Dollar Store, and give them as gifts. You probably have four people near you who’d love to have something homemade … your landlord, Uncle Don, your child’s teacher, the lady who cleans the office, your elderly neighbour. You can make cookies for your spouse to take to work to share with co-workers. Don’t overdo it. Pick one or two types, and send a dozen. Too much effort smells like you’re trying too hard, and anyway it makes you exhausted which takes the fun out of everything.
3. Have some baking or special meals that you only eat during the holidays. As a child, we only had Cherry Surprises in December, never in the summer. When I first made this childhood favourite for my new husband, I had to explain that they were a once-yearly event. He didn’t really understand why. If they’re so good, why not eat them year-round? But let me tell you, this year, starting in November, he’s asking “are we having Cherry Surprises this year?” The answer surely is yes. Maybe you make ham on Boxing Day (like I do), or Sherri’s bread stuffing (I only make this once a year for Christmas Day dinner), or trifle for New Year’s Eve. Pick a couple of things and save them for time of year.
4. Try one new recipe each year and drop one thing you don’t like from your list. Food traditions aren’t supposed to be stressful, they’re supposed to bring comfort and happiness. If making four kinds of tarts the night before your office party is too much, then skip it this year. Make orange gingersnaps in November (they freeze well) and defrost them the night before. Simplify as much as necessary. Try a new recipe this year, maybe chicken liver pâté from scratch, but if it’s not absolutely fabulous then go back to buying it from the deli. Don’t add extra work for no reason. Make this your new rule: If it’s not fabulous, I’m not doing it. Try something new. Rid yourself of routines you’re tired of, or that aren’t working for you anymore.
5. Decorate cookies with children during the holiday season. If you don’t have kids of your own, you can borrow some. Make sugar cookies covered with different coloured sparkles, silver balls, chocolate jimmies, squirts of icing. Or decorate gingerbread men with Smarties and vanilla icing. You don’t have to make the cookies from scratch if that’s too much work — you can decorate whatever you buy from the grocery store. The point is to have a yearly tradition with your kids, grandkids, nieces, or neighbours.
6. Buy yourself a food treat each year and try something new. I like to buy myself weird little cans of juice (guava?) or imported mints, and then I put them in my own stocking to open Christmas morning. It’s an opportunity to explore. You can have a tiny food adventure for under $5. Or invite your friends to share the tradition with you. One year Karen sent me sour watermelon candies which I ate one after the other until they were gone-gone-gone. I also like the mints we bought in Paris last year. Next time I go to Europe, I’ll get two bags and hide them in the house for next Christmas. I’ll get some for you too, if you like 🙂
7. Plan a super easy breakfast for Christmas morning. Mash up some frozen strawberries and mix with orange juice. Add champagne if you don’t have to drive. Buy part-baked croissants and put them in the oven to have with your juice. Serve with homemade strawberry-rhubarb jam, a gift from Auntie Shelley. Christmas brunch on the west coast wouldn’t be complete without Japanese mandarin oranges. On the east coast, it’s clementines. In Montreal, we have fresh pineapple from somewhere down-under.
As always, I’d love to hear your feedback. If you have any favourite Christmas food rituals, drop me a line or post a comment to the blog 🙂
You can always reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks and bon appetit!
Shelley MacDonald Beaulieu, Owner & Head Chef