Christmas Eve Dinner is a big event in our family.
On my side of the family a tradition has existed for, oh, 25 years at least, that makes it an exciting dinner:
We take turns hosting dinner at one of our houses – (in the last 12 years or so that’s included Jeanne and I, my Mom and Dad, my brother Dominic and his wife Alesha, and my Sister Gina and her husband Bill). In addition, we often wind up with extra friends or family being invited, which is always a nice addition! Whoever hosts is responsible for making dinner – and the fun part is that dinner is always from a different culture, or country, or ethnicity, or part of the world – some kind of cuisine/family of recipes/foods that we wouldn’t normally eat. Also fun: no one attending can know what it is beforehand – it’s a surprise to everyone who shows up. (So usually for weeks ahead of time, the rest of the family will be trying to find out what it’s going to be!) Some recent favorites have been Moroccan, Senegalese, Arabic, Ukrainian, and Native American.
This tradition is a ton of fun, and is always followed up by a big gift exchange where the kids all get presents, and the adults give a present to the one other adult in the group who they’re buying for that year. The dinner usually winds up having a few dishes that people just LOVE, and a couple that we don’t! (We still tell horror stories about the Tortilla Torte, or the Rutebaga Casserole from years past!) It’s a fun experiment every year, and one that we’ve all grown to anticipate nearly as much as Christmas Day itself.
Last night we hosted the dinner at our house, and we made a big homemade Chinese dinner. Chicken in Plum Sauce, Pork Roast with Triple Vegetable Stir Fry, Fried Sesame Balls with Red Bean Filling, Chicken Wings In Parsley, lots of rice and noodles. Yum! (We also, for the heck of it, added Hot and Sour Soup and Egg Rolls/Spring Rolls from the local restaurant “Chinese Tonight”, because we love them from there!) Plus we had Green Tea, Chinese wine and Chinese beer, and for dessert we bought Mochi green tea ice cream and Mochi red bean ice cream, which are little ice cream balls wrapped in a rice dough coating. (Opinions were VERY mixed on these: some folks loved them, some hated them, some liked the ice cream but NOT the wrapping!) And we also had a nice assortment of yummy pastries! The kids decorated the house with all sorts of Chinese lanterns and decorations, and had fun learning to pronounce “Happy New Year” in Chinese (because that’s the phrase they found translated, so they posted it on the wall!)
Overall, it was a very very fun night, and the best part of it is that we, once again, got the whole family together – plus some friends – to have a wonderful time telling stories, laughing, playing with all the kids, and continuing a tradition that I hope goes on for many more generations.
Merry Christmas everyone!