We each have our own Christmas traditions that we grow up with- my family certainly had strong traditions for celebrating Christmas. Oh-so-lovely-daddy brought his own traditions, perhaps not as prominent, as they place a much bigger emphasis on Sinterklaas. Together we have created traditions that suite us, while respecting eachother’s strong feelings and adopting some from our host country, the United Kingdom.
Growing up, my family would never decorate The Christmas tree before the afternoon of Christmas Eve, often getting our tree that week or even on the day of Christmas Eve. Since moving to the UK, and especially since having the Littlins, we have decided to take the pressure off ourselves and adopt a little of the our host country’s approach by decorating the tree a couple of days in advance. (Still not weeks in advance, though.)
These past 2 weeks the children and I have been busy with crafts: we made lots of Christmas decorations: salt dough figures- painted, glittered and varnished-, popcorn garlands, walnut babies, walnuts painted silver and gold and strung up and the Hungarian version of Gingerbread biscuits- Mézeskalács- (for which we use honey instead of treacle or golden syrup). Yesterday, we finally decorated the tree with the Littlins. They needed to do it in bursts, as doing the tree in one go was too much for them.
According to Hungarian tradition we also hung some Szaloncukor (a special chocolate-coated Christmas sweet, in a wrapping that looks like a mini cracker) on the tree, which we got specially sent over. There are many different fillings to choose from- we got a couple of packs of marzipan. The Littlins love these- especially Little Man, who will disappear every once in a while only to return with the tell-tale signs of chocolate around his mouth and a HUGE cheeky grin on his face.
…so tree is ready, cupboards and fridge is stocked for us to stay in for the next week, presents are wrapped.
On Christmas Eve morning we wake up, have a filling breakfast and start cooking. The Littlins help out with peeling and chopping vegetables, mashing and blending sauces and soups.
The Christmas menu this year:
• Hungarian fish soup (Halászlé)- a delicious thick soup made from fresh water fish- most commonly carp or catfish
• Fresh white bread– I think this will be shop bought from our local bakery, as I have not had much luck with our bread machine recently.
• Honey and clove roast gammon – not so traditional for either of us growing up, but we grew to like it as our former employer used to give everyone a gammon for Christmas. My family would make wiener schnitzels, which we would all form a line for the coating process- flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs (who knows we might do this too in the coming days…it is great fun, lots of laughter as your fingers get all gooey!)
• Roast potatoes and roasted mixed vegetables– again something we have adopted from English traditions… and we love it! Especially with a lovely honey glaze on these too.
The Challenge will be, as was last year, doing all of this without a full sized oven. Since I haven’t been able to decide on which oven I want, I still only have a combination microwave oven- large for a microwave, small for an oven.
We hope to have dinner ready by the time darkness falls- 4pm. Then we light the candles and sit down for our Christmas Eve dinner.
After dinner we shall walk down the road to our local church for the Christmas Eve Mass. For a young family this is better than going to the Midnight Mass (we tried that 2 years ago and though it wasn’t as bad as one might think- after Littlins had a very long daytime nap, it can be a hit and miss if the nap doesn’t go as we hope).
…during service the miracle happens and our home and our Christmas tree will be visited by Little Jesus and blessed with presents underneath.
I suspect the Littlins will be in a hurry to get back home from the church to open all their Christmas presents- which have been sent from far and wide. To keep the energy levels up and avoid low sugar melt-downs we will enjoy dessert while opening our Christmas presents. Again we have chosen to adopt the British traditions and will be tucking into a delicious Christmas Pudding (as opposed to the traditional Hungarian beigli – a sweet pastry rolled and filled with poppy seed or walnuts- delicious, but too much work for me.)
The night over, the Littlins are allowed to take one toy to bed to encourage them to a sweet slumber.
That’s the script for our day.
What about you? Do you do anything special on Christmas Eve?
However you are spending these couple of days, whatever your religion, I wish you peace, love and joy.
Boldog Karácsonyt! Merry Christmas! Vrolijk Kerstfeest!