One of the most special parts of Christmas is the food. Every household in every culture that celebrates this holy day has some unique menu item that adds special memories to the occasion both with its making and its eating.
The main food traditions I remember as a child were special Christmas cookies and homemade fudge. Christmas was the one time we would make rolled and cut cookies in shapes of stars, trees and gingerbread men that were decorated with icing. We would frost the cookies with colored icing and decorate. Many families do this I think but believe it or not, I did not continue that tradition in my house.
When my firstborn was little I looked for a cookie that she could help make and I found one in a Good Housekeeping magazine (my go-to recipe source in the early days!). It was a simple cream cheese dough with chopped walnuts. They were just dropped on a cookie sheet and topped with a chocolate chip (or two or three). So easy for a little toddler to do. We have made those every year because so many years we had little ones around to help. My firstborn now makes these cookies with her little helpers. That's how a tradition is born I guess. For the first time in our family history we almost didn't have any this year but the kids finally made them the other day while I was out shopping.
There are a couple other things I started making in the early days of our family that have carried through to today. One is our Christmas morning sweet rolls, filled with cream cheese and iced with strawberry jam. The recipe came from Betty Crocker (my second go-to source for recipes. I had no Martha Stewart in those days!) There have been a few years when I tried to make something else for Christmas morning, like Grandma's fruit and nut wreath, and my attempts were met with loud lamentations from the family. They insist on the strawberry cream cheese rolls. That is also how traditions are born.
Another is our smoked salmon spread for our Christmas Eve post church buffet. This is a newer tradition established after we moved to the Northwest. We also always have some kind of wild game (venison, elk or bear) in the form of summer sausage provided by the hunters in our family.
I am really interested in hearing about these special food traditions in other families. If you have a few minutes of time I would love to hear about yours, especially if you don't live in America! I love to learn about the Christmas celebrations in other countries and cultures too. Please share!
Back to the kitchen...