Today I want to take you on a journey back in time to when I was in a little girl and the way my family celebrated Christmas. A Danish family Christmas, celebrated in Canada, on Christmas Eve. It was everything I could ever have wanted and I was so blessed.
Christmas dinner was the first item of the night: Turkey, bread stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, peas and carrots, red cabbage, cottage cheese salad, and homemade rolls. Dessert was Danish rice pudding served with caramel sauce. This wasn’t any ordinary rice pudding. This was Christmas rice pudding. Mom would dish up the rice pudding in the kitchen and hide, in at least one bowl, a whole blanched almond. When eating your pudding, you had to be careful and “watch” for the almond. If you found it in your bowl you would be given an “Almond Present”. It was such a wonderful memory to this day.
After dinner, the womenfolk would head into the kitchen to put the food away into containers. While they did that, the menfolk were tasked with washing the dishes. While these chores were being done, the younger children had to be kept in-line. It was my “job” to play Christmas carols on the piano while the children sang with much gusto.
Once the dishes were done and the food tucked away, we all gathered in the living room to have Dad/Grandpa read the story of Jesus’ birth from the Bible. It was a wonderful way of remembering the reason for the Christmas season and focus on what we were thankful for. Once the story was read, the Christmas tree was moved into the center of the living room. We would all hold hands in a circle around the tree and start walking around the tree while singing Christmas Carols. This was actually one of my favourite traditions. I miss those days even now.
Invariably, one of my brother’s would interject with “is it time to open presents now?” Note, it wasn’t the grandchildren that said this! Even now it makes me laugh. This was the time the night got chaotic. Our way of opening presents was to take turns being blindfolded, spun around, then led towards the Christmas tree, picking a present, which could NOT be yours, and giving it to the person who’s name was on the tag. Everyone would watch as the person opened their gift. We would start with the youngest and work up towards the oldest. This process could take hours if there were lots of us and lots of presents. I remember regularly having over twenty people at any given Christmas.
Once the gifts had been opened and the grandchildren had skedaddled down to the basement to play, the grown ups started to play games too. There was usually a game of Scrabble being played in the kitchen. A game of Rook being played in the dining room. And there was usually a group in the living room just visiting and waiting to play referee if the children got rowdy. About half an hour after the games started, Mom would bring out trays and trays of Christmas baking, candy, chips, nuts and bolts, crackers, cheese, meats, and Christmas oranges. All the festivities wound down between 1 and 2 am. It was amazing. I miss those days.
This Christmas, I hope and pray you can develop some traditions that are perfect for your family. Merry Christmas from my family to you.