Many families have their own food traditions that are recreated every year. If yours doesn't, consider starting one! A tradition doesn't have to be complicated. When I was little, every Christmas Eve my family would have hot dogs roasted over a crackling fire, baked beans, potato chips, and Christmas cookies. This may sound unorthodox, but we all looked forward to it. My mother prepared wonderful, healthy meals from scratch every day, and never used prepared meats. We all considered this menu a special treat.
I still remember the gentle hissing and sputtering from the hot dogs slowly roasting and releasing their juices. The smell of the fire, the cracking and popping sounds, the heat on your face as you concentrated on roasting your hot dog by the light of the Christmas tree - these things mean Christmas to me. And the delectable Christmas cookies were savored sitting by the lit tree, as we eyed the presents stacked up so high around us. Spritz Cookies were one of the cookies made only at Christmastime.
It wasn't until I was grown that I realized this menu is especially easy, and with three little girls to prepare Christmas for, this simple menu was rewarding for her.
My Family's Christmas Eve Menu
- Crudites platter with Dill Dip
- BBQ Pinto Beans
- Potato chips
- Hot dogs with buns
- Condiments, including mustard, ketchup, and relish
- Christmas Eve Salad
- Christmas cookies
My husband's family always has Cheese Fondue for their Christmas Eve dinner. They spent many years in Europe, and this tradition reflects the Christmas dinners they enjoyed at Switzerland's ski resorts. The smooth, tangy cheese, the crunchy bread and sweet apples are a delicious combination. And the communal nature of eating fondue makes for a wonderfully cozy evening. Their Christmas Eve Menu is one I serve for New Year's Eve.
No matter how Americanized your family is, you probably have special recipes that reflect your heritage and ancestry. My Grandmother Matha's fabulous Parker House Rolls are a must each holiday season. Made from scratch, they are tender and fluffy. Now my nieces and nephew look forward to their appearance.
My Grandmother Clara made the most wonderful lefse. Lefse is a Norwegian potato pancake that we always served spread thinly with sweet butter and sprinkled with sugar. When properly made, it is melting, tender, nutty and slightly sweet. Now my littlest sister is in charge of making lefse each Christmas from extra cooked potatoes made especially for this dish. I remember my great-aunt bringing Rosettes to my college dorm room my freshman year. Her cookies were the most tender and melting I have ever tasted. You do need a Rosette Iron and a bit of practice to make these deep fried treats.
If your family doesn't have Christmas traditions, create your own! Borrow my traditions, browse through holiday books, think about serving one of my Alternative Christmas Menus and research your ethnic past for inspiration. You can build your own wonderful memories that your children and grandchildren will recreate with smiles.