over-the-top Christmas shopping with full-tilt-boogie Christmas cooking. And, by natural extension, Christmas eating. And now that I think of it, why am I saying I do no Christmas shopping? Of course I do Christmas shopping: Christmas grocery shopping ! A ton of it!
The shopping and cooking start weeks before as I try to get a handle on the big family reunion meal that we always host the day after Christmas. My basement freezer must be absolutely cleared out by the middle of December so that I can start filling it up, up, up with food for the up-coming feast. December 26 is only the beginning of the end of Christmas feasting for us.
Our standing Christmas celebration is a three-day event that starts Christmas Eve afternoon when we ( by "we" I mean Tom and whatever kids are home for Christmas. I don't mean me, as I'm still in the kitchen cooking, of course) go out and line our street with luminaries, that is,
plastic-milk-bottles-that-we-save-all-year-then- put -inside -them -candles-in-baby-food-jars luminaries. That's our Christmas gift to the neighborhood and brings much cheer.
We have friends who, having no family in town, embrace their friends as their family on Christmas Eve and have a big, wonderful party in their lovely home. (I'll admit, once December rolls around I start anticipating the arrival of "The Invitation", always a moment of pre-celebration celebration! ) So, then, on Christmas Eve we have somewhere to go with our children , a reason to get dressed up, people to be with, all gifts.
And then there's the food, food, food! For their Christmas Eve party our friends set out tables full of food not only in the dining room but all over the house: tables full of meats, cheeses, breads, meatballs, shrimp, casseroles, vegetables, dips, snacks, cakes, cookies, choclates, a raspberry trifle in glass bowl that always looks to beautiful to eat - and yet we bring ourselves to devour it! In the basement there's always a Christmas movie showing on the TV for the little ones, or the big ones who still secretly , (or not) love the Christmas movies.
Tom and I are usually ready to leave the Christmas Eve festivites by ten o'clock, though my children have been known to stay until the wee hours of the morning. Which is why the next day of feasting usually doesn't get underway until ten or even eleven o'clock on Christmas morning. Our Christmas breakfast (or brunch, or lunch, whenever we get around to it) is what we offically call "The Feast" : a family meal of eggs, sausage, potatoes, toast, fruit salad, cinnamon rolls, juice, coffee, tea. And then, after The Feast is consumed and the clean-up squared away the rest of the day is devoted sitting around feeling like stuffed geese, watching movies, playing chinese checkers, going back to bed, etc. Except, of course, for me (and anyone else who can muster up the energy to assist): I'll still be found rocking the kitchen, getting ready for the family Christmas reunion the following day. I suppose the irony of all this Christmas Day cooking - or result of it - is that we never have a nice home cooked Christmas dinner. We always have a nice, restaurant-cooked Christmas dinner. It takes most of the day to recover from breakfast, but by evening we're generally ready for another round of eating and ready to get out of the house after sitting around all day. The challenge, of course, is finding a restaurant open on Christmas, but we have found one that's become our Christmas night tradition: The Sakura Japanese Steak House. It's where we always head Christmas night. It's where we'll head this year, too, if the fates allow.
On the morning of December 26 it's all hands on deck and boots on the ground as we
all run around like a bunch of crazies (or a bunch of people having company), finishing up the final touches to the big meal. At 1:30, Lord willing, the buffet is laid out on the dining room table, the kitchen counter, some small tables brought up from the basement, and any other available surface we can find, and the relatives start arriving. And eating. And eating. And eating. There's usually 32 of us at the Day After Christmas Family Reunion and Feast, though this year due to one circumstance after another our number will be half: there will be only sixteen this year. But be we big or small in number, the great final feast will go on! So here's the menu for this year's Day After Christmas Feast For Sixteen: Honey mustard roast Pork, roast beef au jus, mashed potato casserole, green beans almondine, stuffed mushrooms, pasta with tomatoes and garlic sauteed in olive oil, ham and cheese stromboli, spinach and mushroom stromboli, salad, layered guacamole dip and chips, peach crisp, cherry almond streusel pie, ice cream, whipped cream, mini-cupcakes, cookies, beer, wine, soft drinks, coffee, tea. (If anybody wants recipes I'm glad to share!) As the relatives pile high their plates they'll tell me that I've really over-done it. They always tell me I've really over-done it. They're right. I always really over-do it. But the truth is, I just don't know how to do anything unless I over do it. For better or worse, that's my gift to the planet.