Forgotten Christmas Delights
One of the drawbacks to emigrating to any country is the eventual loss of touch with the customs and traditions of the country of one's origin. Now that I've acclimated to my country of residence, I seldom ever think about what was happening on a particular calendar day in the Old Country until I'm called upon to be a font of knowledge in that capacity.
I was recently handed a survey by some university students in reference to Christmas traditions overseas. The first few questions were easy: How long have you been here? What country did you come from? Did you set up a Christmas tree in your house? Did you send Christmas cards? and so on. On the second page it got a lot tougher. Most of the questions were about cake and turkey.
Now, I have some vague memories of there being lots of food and lots of relatives sitting around in overstuffed chairs listening to Bing Crosby at the house of my paternal grandparents. I seem to remember Bing was singing Christmas carols at some point, but other than that I cannot distinguish which occasions were Christmas and which were Thanksgiving. I'm sure there are supposed to be two different types of meals served on the two holidays, but I cannot for the life of me recall which foods corresponded to which--with the exception of cranberry sauce. That went on the dead bird at Thanksgiving. There seemed to be the same type of bird on both occasions. Maybe it was served with gravy at Christmas. I can only guess.
The one dish that really stands out is pumpkin pie. (Not kabocha, mind you--if you try to make pumpkin pie with that vegetable you will be very, very disappointed.) I remember it because in my childhood I was certain my grandmother made the best pumpkin pie in the entire universe. I think it was served with whipped cream.
But the questionnaire really wants to know about cake, and I don't remember there ever being any. One possible explanation for this--and again, this is pure conjecture--is that at Christmas it was fruit cake, and children hate that stuff, so I would never have eaten it. (Ironically, most adults didn't seem to care for it much, either, which is why it often ended up on the shelf after the holidays, to be thrown away when it became the consistency of rock.)
As far as keeping Christmas traditions alive here, the only one we do in my house is eggnog. Obviously, I didn't drink it when I was a child unless they made a special non-alchol version.
This is the version my wife and I will be making this Christmas.