My students and I enjoyed spending the month of December learning about how winter holidays are celebrated around the world. Closer to home, I find it heartwarming to see how friends and acquaintances celebrate holidays, which is something I love about social media. It brings us closer. So today I’d like to share a few snapshots of my own family’s Christmas traditions.
I’ll begin with the food. Our Christmas Eve tradition is very simple and dates back to when my children were younger and liked to set up the living room as a dinner-movie theater. They would arrange the chairs, plan the menu, and then of course I would make the food. Quite often, by the time the food was finally ready, it had become too late to actually watch an entire movie. However, that didn’t matter because the joy was in the preparations! So one year we decided to do a Christmas Eve dinner-movie theater, and it became tradition – one that was initiated by the children, which is probably why it is so meaningful to them. Though the menu varies somewhat from year to year, the mainstays are Spinach Balls and a vegetable platter that usually consists of cauliflower, broccoli, and grape tomatoes. This year, I tried out a few new recipes I found on Pinterest, and the Hot Corn Dip went over particularly well.
As far as the movies go, there are a number we’ve watched from year to year. Most years the lineup includes Scrooged and The Polar Express. This year we got a late start and only managed Scrooged.
My children’s father and I alternate spending Christmas Eve and Christmas day with them, and when the children were younger, it was anguishing to say goodbye to them Christmas morning when they left me to spend Christmas day with their dad. However, in time I came to prefer having them with me on Christmas Eve because of our dinner-movie theater tradition. Christmas day is spent celebrating with extended family, but Christmas Eve is our special time together with the kids when we have them. And when we don’t, we do it on Christmas night instead.
Here are links to some of our menu items:
- Spinach Balls with Honey-Mustard Dipping Sauce (I substitute nutritional yeast for half the Parmesan cheese, reduce the amount of butter/margarine, and usually use Ener-G Egg Replacer instead of eggs)
- Gingerbread Cookies (I substitute unsweetened applesauce for half the butter/margarine)
- Hot Corn Dip
- Scalloped Potato Gratin (I substitute almond milk for heavy cream)
- Onion Tart with Greens and Cashew Cream (I add 8 oz. of baby portobello mushrooms)
- Samoa Bark (Substitutions: dark chocolate chips, unsweetened coconut, and graham crackers instead of shortbread cookies)
I also intended to make Crispy Brussels Sprouts with Garlic Aioli but ran out of time.
Here is my recipe for Sun-dried Tomato Pesto, adapted from a recipe from Simple Vegetarian Pleasures by Jeanne Lemlin (a recipe book given to me by my deceased uncle, whom I think of whenever I make it):
- 1/2 cup loose sun-dried tomatoes (I use dehydrated tomatoes from our garden)
- 3 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 small garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
- Steam the tomatoes in a vegetable steamer until soft, for about 10 minutes. Remove and let cool.
- Combine all the ingredients in a food processor, and process until smooth.
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.