As Christmas nears, I thought I would share a personal story of past celebrations. The holidays, regardless of what religion or upbringing you’ve had, is a time when families gather and traditions are enjoyed. In my family, having been brought up as a preacher’s kid in the Methodist religion, Christmas was always a special time of year. Ever since I can remember, the holiday was always brought to life on Christmas Eve when my oldest brother Jed, played “Oh Holy Night” on his violin, the beautiful melody magically bathed in candlelight. It remains so to this day. At the end of the Christmas Eve service, each person in the congregation would receive a candle, lit from the Christ candle, and we would all go outside and form a circle to sing “Silent Night”, a capella in the darkness, with just the flicker of candlelight. After this soothing and soul warming refrain, my brothers and sisters and I would burst out in song with “We wish you a Merry Christmas” as people left to go home; yet another fond and cherished memory.
Christmas is a time when food plays an important part of celebration. My sister-in-law, Diane, makes my husband’s Christmas each year, with a batch of her famous candy cane cookies. (She makes a whole variety of delicious cookies but the candy canes hold a special place in my husband’s heart.) I have even become famous each year, with a Longacre family recipe for sour cream coffee cake. Christmas morning simply is not Christmas without it. We always have a feast to go along with the Christmas tradition, the main dishes vary, usually turkey or ham, but are always accompanied by fruit salad, a favorite of my fathers, mashed potatoes and gravy, loved by all and an array of side vegetable dishes and hot rolls. Dessert is always pie, made legendary by my late Grandmother Agnes, who had an amazing knack for her skills in the kitchen and to whom I credit my love of food. Sometimes she would sneak a whole pie in a shirt box so my husband Dan could have his very own. (She used to tell me I need to fatten him up. She would be comforted to know that ever since I started Internationalcuisine.com, this is no longer a problem.) Thankfully, my sister Dawn has perfected my grandmother’s famous pie making, like no one else in the family and we enjoy delicious pies in my grandmother’s honor.
Coming from such a large family, which continues to grow, my perspective of Christmas has changed. It no longer is about an expected gift, as it was for an anxious child waiting for Santa. It is about that chance to reconnect with each other, spend quality time, while remembering what the true celebration is about. We used to draw names for gifts but as families grew and were torn between sharing time with their expanded families and ours, we now make it a white elephant Christmas. In this tradition, each person brings a gift, valued at around $20.00 and we go around the table to open a wrapped gift or steal someone else’s already opened gift, until the exchange is over and everyone ends up with something special or unexpected. Last year we all pitched in some money to play a new game called “Pie Face”, a game Ellen DeGeneres made famous. Not that I am a big believer in wagering but I must admit, it seemed to make the game a bit more fun knowing you might end up with a few extra bucks. Basically, this game entails a spin and a number. You put your face in a hole and you cautiously turn a switch the number of times indicated by the spin. If you are unlucky, a whip cream pie is launched into your face by the pie launcher. If you are lucky, you get to try again until there is only one player remaining. Last year my dad won the pot and was thrilled with his bounty. The rest of us ended up with whip cream on our faces but a fond memory and who knows, maybe a new tradition.
However you celebrate the holidays, I want to learn about your family’s rituals. I would be especially thrilled if you would share one of your cherished, traditional, holiday recipes or special memories with us at Internationalcuisine.com.
I wish you and your families a very Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, or whatever celebration you hold dear this holiday season. And, let there be peace on earth.
I leave you with the amazing, Longacre, sour cream coffee cake recipe. It just may become a new tradition in your home.