Xmas food and festivities


Family Food Fare and Favourites

Join me as I dig through my memories, and recipes, to rediscover my family’s food “back in the day” and how those food habits have changed over the decades to today’s diverse and multi-cultural cuisines. This is my theme for the 2021 A to Z challenge.

THEN

Christmas celebrations were so important as a family and Xmas food festivities only made the day more special.

There would have been commonalities between families, but then each would have maintained their own traditions depending on their location and the size of their families. My own family was a small one with only a few extended family members in the approximate vicinity. In a similar way Mr Cassmob’s was a small family but they were at a vast distance from both of his parents’ families.

The family recipe for Xmas Pudding.

Despite the small numbers, the ceremony of the day was undiminished. The silver cutlery would be laid out on the white lace tablecloth, the silver dishes polished and the crystal bowls provided to display treats like walnuts, ginger, chocolates or jelly lollies. The main meal would usually be chicken in my earlier years because it was an indulgence due to cost. Roast potatoes and vegetables would accompany it and Xmas pudding with custard, and often ice cream and cream would follow. The timing of our meal would depend on dad’s work shifts, because after all, the railway yards didn’t care about special days. As I mentioned previously, watermelon would be available for a snack during the heat of the afternoon. Drinks would be cold cordials, often homemade, or perhaps a ginger beer. Mum was often running late making the Xmas pudding so it didn’t get long to mature. Shortbread was a required treat and might even  be made on Xmas Eve. Mum had her own Xmas Cake recipe that she made each year, a tradition I continued after my marriage.

Mum’s Christmas Cake recipe with my annotations for a double mix. When the daughters were far away I sometimes sent one to them.

NOW

Over the decades of our marriage, our Xmas food and traditions have morphed and changed with time and circumstances. We too have a small family, though most years after relocating back from PNG we would spend the day with one or other branch of our families. I think this is a tradition in many families where one year is with the wife’s family, and the next with the husband’s. In PNG we had great times with all our mates who hadn’t headed back to Oz for their holidays. Everyone contributed to the food on the day and the cleaning up, the kids had a whale of a time hanging out together and we would often make a version of Sangria for the day. Even the local parish priest would drop by to join us. Those Christmases were the only ones where we had turkey as it’s not our favourite meat dish. Each family would contribute their speciality from pudding to cake or salads. And all that duty free alcohol meant it was well libated.

Xmas Cake making in progress.

Once back in Australia, our main Christmas festivity would include the glammed up table and silver. The main dish would be roast pork and veg accompanied by Xmas pudding, cake and shortbread. When our daughters worked part-time in hospitality we started having the Xmas feast on Xmas Eve and then head on to Midnight Mass. (The good thing about Midnight Mass when they were little is that they would sleep in.) For several years I continued mum’s Christmas cake as well as a new one that I liked better. The green peppercorn Xmas Cake that became our favourite.

The Green Peppercorn Xmas Cake.

It was in Darwin that the biggest changes came, with a complete transfer to a different festive meal that was more suitable to our climate given it might be as hot as 35+C (95F) during the day. Seafood was bountiful and incredibly fresh so was introduced as the main course along with salads but for many years, the tradition of the pudding continued. And while the sons-in-law avowed they didn’t like shortbread, it’s amazing how quickly the contents of the plate disappeared.

Christmas in Darwin was always best when the Wet Season had kicked in, and the humidity was no longer so fierce. I remember one year where the little ones had a great time getting muddy in the driveway after the rain. It was also traditional to invite friends who may have been alone and far from home for the celebration.

Each year we would try a new salad or two and try to add some celebratory element to our day. Coffin Bay oysters might be imported and grilled with fancy dressings and/or smoked roasts cooked in the smoker. One year I cooked a Coconut Meringue Cake but it was the introduction of Tiramisu by one daughter that has become a traditional dessert option while the traditional Xmas pudding has been dismissed, helped along by my inability to eat dried fruit.

Some meals would be quite formally presented, others would be very casual just hanging out together with no fixed timeline to the meal but never going hungry. I’ll treasure the memory of the kids filling their nerf guns from the frozen water in the Yeti eskies last year and then running amok with them. We love the years when it’s our turn to host the family or even when we return to Darwin to be with the family there. Special times and memories.

Did you have big family gatherings at Christmas?

Do you have different food traditions now than you did when growing up?

Have the Xmas pudding and Xmas cake survived the culinary cut?

You might be interested in these previous blog posts about how we’ve celebrated Christmas.

X is for PNG Xmases

Christmas Geneameme 2017

So this is Christmas – 2014

Christmas Travel

Xmas Recipes and Food


17 thoughts on “Xmas food and festivities

  1. Although I’m an only child my parents both had lots of siblings who gathered together with their families on Christmas day. We used visit one side at lunch and the other for the evening meal. The only food memory that is clear from those times is Nanna’s Christmas pudding with it’s threepences and sixpences inside.

    As I had been dragged around on Christmas Day when I was a child I tried to host the family Christmas at my home so my kids could enjoy their new toys at home, both sets of parents and sometimes my maternal grandmother would join us for a traditional roast dinner of turkey, chicken, ham and sometimes a red meat.

    Now that the children all have families of our own we do year about Christmas days with the inlaws, the whole family then comes to us on Boxing Day. Up until a few years ago we did the whole roast dinner. Now there is always a ham with perhaps duck, turkey or seafood. Events these days are more casual with the emphasis on the family not the food.

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    1. We had such a small family as dad was also an only child and Mum only had two siblings who were anywhere near us. When I was small we used to catch a bus then a tram to my grandfather’s place for Christmas and I’m guessing the daughters brought the food with them. In later years we stayed home and I know what you mean about wanting to have the family be able to play with their toys.
      Your Boxing Days must have quite a crowd! I think the emphasis being on family, and in our case, each family contributing, means there’s less pressure on one person.

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  2. The Christmas cake and pudding have gone by the wayside because no one wants to eat them in my family. For a few years I did a frozen Christmas pudding but that has been replaced with trifle. I’m not a great fan but my daughter insists. My Christmases were small as a child because I was an only and so were both my parents. We would have one or both grandmothers present and always had roast chicken with roast vegetables followed by pudding with custard and threepences and sixpences. Now we alternate between having it at my daughter’s place and all the family coming for Christmas Eve. Then they go to other family on Christmas Day.

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    1. I think by and large we’ve gone “lighter” with our meals. It’s just occurred to me though that it might merit me making the full cake and pudding one year now the grandkids will be old enough for the memory.
      You took the “only” one step further than me as Mum had siblings. Can’t believe I missed out the three pence s and sixpences. I may include an addendum.

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  3. 95 degrees on Christmas Day in Darwin!! Phew! I can see why that would make for a very different Christmas dinner. I grew up with the tractional meal, and continued this after marriage, but we never had Christmas pudding – it just seemed such a heavy dessert after a big first course of turkey and all the trimmings. I used to make a fancy trifle and our daughter’s speciality is a gorgeous pavlova with fresh fruit salad.

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    1. Provided the humidity has dropped 95 isn’t so bad – or provided you’re in airconditioning or heading to the pool. Interesting that the Down Under Pav has become your Xmas treat.

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  4. We weren’t a large family and Mums tradition was cold chicken etc and salads on out me knew in the backyard under a tree. How I hated that tradition so with my own family we always had a traditional hot meal with only the trimmings and fancy crockery and cutlery. My kids are spread out and don’t get home for Christmas so it’s just the two of us, and sometimes friends who are without family. Even if it’s only us two m, it’s still traditional.

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  5. I love the idea of mixing old and new in holiday celebrations. I experimented a lot when we were first married and now we have our go-to dishes but we also always make pork pies which was something my grandmother and mother both made previously. I like having that thread of tradition still there at Christmas. Weekends In Maine

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  6. Green peppercorn cake — now THAT is unique! My grandmother was the big Christmas baker, and always showed up with home made fudge and her famous “rum ball” cookies. No matter where I have bought fudge over the years, none tasted as good as hers.

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  7. Wow never heard of peppercorns in a cake! I have no special Xmas memories from a kid but I have special memories of my husbands Xmas and Xmas Eve foods. They did the Italian 7 fishes on the Eve night snd always lots of cookies and wine. Such fun times but the new generations hardly continue that… sad!

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  8. I love all the notations on the older recipes. This is a really great post.
    “treacle or black treacle or, in the US as blackstrap molasses” — Yup, I had to look that up because I didn’t know what it was. I wonder if you have a version of Shoo-Fly Pie?
    I love letter X posts! Always such variety.
    It’s hard to believe the blogging challenge is almost over for 2021. Down to the after survey, reflections, and the road trip sign-up.
    Plus, I’m taking part in the Bout of Books read-a-thon in May. So much excitement!
    J Lenni Dorner~ Co-host of the #AtoZchallenge, OperationAwesome6 Debut Author Interviewer, Reference& Speculative Fiction Author

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    1. Now we’ve both learned something about treacle and molasses. No, we don’t have Shoo-Fly Pie that I’ve ever seen.
      You’re very committed to going around for more challenges immediately. Thanks for visiting.

      Like

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