Monday, December 13, 2010

Family Christmas Food Traditions

My family didn’t have too many food Christmas traditions growing up.  My mom liked to experiment & rarely made the same thing each Christmas like some families.  I know a lot of families that basically have the same food at Christmas that they make at Thanksgiving.  Ours wasn’t quite like that.  But later on my family started a tradition of having lots of fun appetizers on Christmas Eve.  Shrimp, pizza rolls, dips, etc.  When I got married, my husband’s family took over the Christmas Eve family timeslot, but now my extended Smith clan has started coming over to my house the last few years on Christmas night and enjoying the appetizers.  I don't think that's happening this year with Christmas being on a weekend & all, but I'm sure we'll get back to it eventually.

A couple years ago, right before my mom passed away, we had hamballs for our family’s Christmas dinner.  I believe we had them last year as well.  And a few of us discussed having them again this year.  I think it’s becoming a tradition.  Not everyone would probably love the hamball thing, but our family has always enjoyed them. 

Growing up it seemed that my mom’s family get-togethers always consisted of lots of soup offerings.  I was definitely a picky eater when I was younger.  And the soups were hardly ever my faves.  Chili wasn’t something I really liked.  But I usually liked clam chowder and potato soup.  So every year, for quite a few years, I’d go for the oyster soup that was offered.  Because it looked fine, much like a potato soup.  And I always WANTED to like it because of that.  But then the spoonful of broth would hit my lips and I would remember all over again how disgusting it really was.  Oh, those soup dinners were hard!  Eventually the soup offerings changed, and sometimes my fears of the soups were alleviated with roast beef or something altogether different anyway.  Hallelujah.

My mom’s family is of Swedish decent.  So, in addition to the sketchy soup offerings, we also had Swedish meatballs or sausage.  And always, always my grandma’s ostkaka.  It’s a firm Swedish custard, similar in consistency to a ricotta cheesecake and sometimes served with a warm grape sauce.  But since I don’t do jelly & the grape sauce always seemed a LOT like jelly, I had mine plain.  Which was just fine.  It was sweet anyway.  My grandma hasn’t been able to make this time-consuming delicacy in many years (one of the ingredients is rare & isn't being imported to the US due to mad cow disease, I guess) and I don’t think there’s anyone left that knows the recipes.  Which is a tragedy.  I know not all of the family transplants (aka in-laws) came to love this dish, but us originals won’t forget it. 

My sister-in-law, Amy, joined our family many moons ago.  And one tradition she brought over from her side was having a birthday cake for Jesus after the big Christmas feast.  It’s something that she grew up with and holds a lot of meaning for her and now that there are several kids, I think it’s a great way to point back to the true meaning of Christmas, even with food.

What Christmas food traditions does your family have?  Soup?  Turkey?  Lutefisk?

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