Christmas Eve

With kids of three and five (and another on the way), this shapes up to be a special Christmas for our family. Our daughter has been saying for weeks that she couldn’t wait for Christmas to arrive. The day has finally arrived and with it, much family, which, after all, is what makes Christmas so very special.
The day started with Chris heading off to work. That’s just fine by us since Chris does all his Christmas shopping on the way home – usually at Williams-Sonoma. He works in Fells Point, where he is also wont to pick up a gift or two since it has quite a few little shops ideal for picking up unique items.

While Chris was shopping (er, working), our daughter was preparing for Christmas mass, which she attended with Erin, Grammy and Boppy. She was the vision of Christmas loveliness and quite happy to show Grammy and Boppy around the church she knows so well (Robin heads the Mom’s Group there). She was especially excited to find that Baby Jesus had appeared in the “activity” scene.

With our daughter at mass, our son taking a nap, and Chris shopping (no, no, really Dale, he was working), Robin and Grandma put the meal together. We were quite glad to accept help with this meal from Grandma, Grammy and Aunt Kristen, but there was still plenty to do.

Shortly thereafter, Chris finally arrived home, bearing gifts both wrapped and unwrapped. He wrapped the gifts that required it, then proceeded to prepare his contribution to the dinner – popcorn balls.

In the midst of all of this, Erin, Grammy, Boppy and our daughter returned from church, bearing gifts and food. We had set up a narrow card table in the kitchen to hold hors d’oeuvres, which is where Grammy placed the prepared shrimp, crab balls, and chicken wings. Olivia, Sarah and Eric arrived a little while later.

Kristen insisted on making a contribution to the meal this year. This was completely unnecessary but, at the same time, most welcome. Rather than doing something simple, she assumed the most serious responsibility there is in our family – making cheesies. She used our recipe, but worked with the master cheesie maker – Grammy. Through this process, we found that Grammy uses significantly more mayo than do we (at least doubling it). Kristen also brings a very nice assortment of cookies for after dinner.

Once the cheesies are served, Christmas has officially begun. Seems that no matter who prepares them, there is never a shortage of takers. Kristen’s interpretation of the family classic is no exception this year.

After hors d’oeuvres, we open presents. In our family, it is tradition for siblings to exchange gifts on Christmas Eve. Now that our family has grown to an extended family, we do a sibling secret Santa gift exchange and give gifts to the children.

The centerpiece of the main course is fondue, a tradition adopted from Chris’s family. For years, this only included a beef fondue. The tradition adapted over the years to accommodate vegetarians. As was done last year, we serve a gruyère cheese fondue. We add some fried shallots, roasted potatoes and roasted asparagus this year. We also serve spicy pickled vegetables so that guests can dip veggies as well as bread.

Dinner was wonderful (we’d like to think). Given the disparate palettes and dietary restrictions in our family, it can be problematic to ensure that everyone has enough to eat. As we gain more experience with big meals like this, we’re finding that we are better able to prepare more dishes – providing everyone with a variety of foods from which to choose.

After eating all this food, we still have dessert to go. We serve some of the best (i.e. strongest) coffee that anyone can remember having along with more than a half dozen different types of desserts. Everyone is rather full by now, and not just a little sleepy.

We do not rest much after dinner. We give the kids a quick bath. We start on the preparation for Christmas brunch. We wrap last minute gifts and we ready the house for Santa.

It was a special Christmas Eve. We do so love spending time with the family – especially family that has to travel for the holidays like Brian and Kristen and Grandma. We hope that the day measured adequately with the anticipation for the kids. It did for us.

Kids, family and a whole lot of cooking – much activity to celebrate a little Baby being born so many years ago.

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