One of the first Christmas pictures I remember was taken when my father was still a student. We lived in a tiny student housing and money was scarce. What did they do for Christmas? The picture shows my mother with a pig’s head and a toothbrush, cleaning it to make the traditional pressed meat. That was just the start, as we moved to bigger houses more and more of the traditional fare was prepared and consumed around Christmas. My parents made it all themselves, hams and cold cuts, chutney and cheeses, sausages and pates.
The first Christmas my husband and me were to celebrate in our own home, I bought half a lamb and a pig and was ready to start. I just checked with him to ask if there was something special he wanted. Nothing, he did not want anything. Not to be kind, he just was not used to that way of celebrating. Deeply troubling to a traditionalist like me. This had to be done, and it looked like I was the one that had to do it. For some years I forced ahead. Never on the same scale as my parents, but always making lots of strange stuff we were not able to finish.I even made fun of everyone who tried to behave and prepare like they lived on a big farm with lots of people when most actually lived in small apartments.
Accordingly I made smaller and smaller portions, until I almost stopped. Then I saw the movie by Astrid Lindgren, about Emil who carried all the Christmas food out of the pantry to serve the poor, and I remembered why we always prepared lots of food for Christmas. It was to always be prepared for any guest, and to have something to share.
The traditional foodstuff can be carried in and out of the pantry, it can be served again and again. It is prepared for a time before refrigerators and does not turn bad for days.
The tradition was to serve this food for almost every meal, and to everyone through Christmas, how neat is that! Never to think about what to serve or to plan for different meals!
At Christmas it is only the time of day that decides what kind of meal it is. Christmas breakfast, Christmas lunch and Christmas supper is all the same, different variations of what is in the pantry. Everyone expects that and knows what they will get. Easy.
Another bonus, never any leftovers that should be concealed as something else, just plain good food until the ham is eaten. Great. To make small portions just to have a taste of Christmas was actually quite stupid.
I had to look for the essence of that idea. What kind of food did we like, could we afford, could we prepare or buy in advance in big quantities, store and be ready to serve at any time for a couple of weeks?
How could we welcome anyone without planning, without fretting and without hassle, at any time, no matter what other activities we were doing?
We are still working on that, in the reverse way. I do not make everything, I buy most, always with the criteria above in my mind. My new motto became: to be prepared for anything while playing along as we go. Then I do not make or buy anything that does not fit that plan. Of course the freezer makes it possible to cheat, and I do. I do not even wait till Christmas, I do it now. Fill my freezer with hams and cuts, smoked salmon and cured meats, everyone are welcome, anytime, I will soon be ready!
If not, we could always do take-away, but that is tomorrow’s story.
Believe me, I know better than most how frantic and exhausting it is possible to make the season of peace and goodwill. The main story on Indexyourlife in December will be my way to a Christmas free of tangles.
In December my brother and I write an advent calendar blog together in norwegian.You may visit at JULEFRYD or Christmas Joy. This year we will be writing or sharing thoughts and joys of gifts, giving and sharing. We will post there every day, and I will share some of that blog here on indexyourlife too.
All pictures at Indexyourlife are mine, if not otherwise stated.