Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Christmas Train is Coming and I've Strayed onto the Tracks

( day I might write a country and western song called that)

Christmas starts tomorrow for us, with Martin's immediate family. We're doing Christmas lunch and presents on Christmas Eve, which has become something of a tradition, except for the years we're in Tassie for Christmas. On Christmas day we're having a quiet day at home and then seeing Martin's extended family in the evening, at his Aunt's house in Williamstown. The kids had a ball there last year, I'm looking forward to it, though I always miss my own family when we do a Melbourne Christmas. We wrapped all our presents last night. I am making some things too that aren't quite finished. A bag for Una with a big girl on it and I've written a fairy tale for Fred called The Robber Princess (based on a character she invented when we were in Queensland) which needs to be bound. Martin and I have already done some illustrations.

I've been feeling a bit spiritually bereft this Christmas and churning over what we can do next year to make Christmas feel a bit more meaningful. We're not Christians (I grew up going to Church sporadically but pretty much the whole family gave it up before i hit teenhood), but I do yearn for some kind of ritual or ceremony. I love the idea of Carols by Candlelight but it's become increasingly more commercial everywhere - too many ex-Australian idols warbling up and down the scales so that it's physically impossible to sing along to any of the carols. Ach. Or maybe it is just the melancholy that is Christmas, the belief that other people elsewhere do it properly and with the kind of golden grace saved for Christmas specials, combined with an air of nostalgia for Christmases past, when I believed in Santa and Jesus and the magic of Christmas. Maybe Christmas is only really magical when you're not responsible for making it be.

Anyway, food. We're going to roast a leg of lamb for Christmas lunch and have it with this:

Dani's Raspberry and Feta salad
300g raspberries (frozen will work if fresh are too overpriced)
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup honey
500g mixed salad greens
150g crumbled feta (bulgarian is perfect for this)
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts, toasted
Stir 1/2 berries into vinegar. Stand 1/2 hour. Puree with honey and season to taste.
Just before serving, combine all salad ingredients and dress.

Dessert will be chocolate shiraz raisins and a quiet afternoon in front of the Are You Being Served? Christmas specials DVD as we recharge our batteries for a big night of watching the children degrade into general feralness.

Boxing day is Martin's birthday.

The day after is mine.

What's everyone else doing for Christmas day? Recipes strongly encouraged.


  1. Anonymous8:27 PM

    This afternoon on the radio I heard about an English poet (whose name escapes me of course) who has written some lovely traditional-sounding but non-religious carols, because she's an atheist but loves singing 'em. I want them. They have Christmassy themes like the wonder of babies generally, being nice to homeless people, kindness and charity and so forth but without all the explicit God/Saviour of the world stuff. I would love to have a non-religious carol-singing night with the children tradition at Christmas time, what do you reckon?

    Kate C

  2. Anonymous10:33 PM

    Second line
    "With Johnny Cash and Jesus and a mystery guy called Max"

    Recipe as requested:

    Tangy Apricot Balls

    1 cup dried apricots
    (Aus are yummiest but Turkish are a more realistic price)
    1/2 cup siltanas
    1/2 cup ground almonds
    zest of 1 orange
    zest of 1 lemon
    1 dessertspoon orange blossom water
    1 tablespoon lemon jiuce
    1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds

    Place all ingredients except sesame seeds in food processor. Process until mixture clumps into a ball.

    With damp hands roll mixture in small balls. Roll balls in sesame seeds.

    Put on a plate in fridge and leave to harden. Keep in fridge in a covered airtight container.

    Keeps quite well but doesn't last long.

  3. we do the very traditional english christmas dinner, with turkey and ham and stuffing and bread sauce and pudding and mince pies.

    bestest mince pies ever recipe:

    100g raisins
    100g sultanas
    100g currants
    50 g each of dates, glace cherries, flaked almonds and candied peel
    4 tablespoons of brandy
    1 tsp each of nutmeg, ginger and mixed spice
    1 overripe banana

    mix all these things together. make your favourite pastry recipe (i'm too lazy to write one down here, but something a bit shortbready but not as crumbly is best), and line a mini pie tray or mini muffin tray. i like to fill my mince pies and then put a pastry star on top as a sort of half-lid, as it allows the mince to go a bit caramelly on top. put in the oven for 10 minutes, or until brownish, then take out and dust with icing sugar for snow.

    mum and i made 8 dozen this year, and there are only 2 left...

    nom nom nom.

  4. Anonymous9:14 AM

    last yaar we went to our local church carols with some friends. we had glow sticks, champers, hot dogs and ice creams. it was 16 degrees in sydney and we huddled (me pregnant, my friend with a 5 week old baby) our husbands and children under brollies as it drizzled on the christian teenagers doing bad anti-buddhist street theatre. (yes, complete with mime)

    probably would have done it again this year had the universe not caught up with us.

    we are in Newy with my parents, my niece here from tassie. we will have bonbons, ham, cherries, seafood (not me, thaks!), pretzels and a whole bunch of shirley temple and nutcracker ballet dvds (yeah, thanks santa). could be a trip to newcastle beach at some point, kits flying and riding of peddle-less bikes.

    boxing day we are joinging the traffic madness going north to my younger sister's remote village bush house for a HUGE boxing day bash (her hubby has 5 siblings and 13 kids)

  5. Penni, you have missed them for this year - but on the Sunday before this Christmas there was a public carols ceremony at St Pat's for tout le monde. Evening-ish, I think.
    Also you might like to consider the chapel at Trinity College, Melb Uni - they have a bosky choir too. Covered two denominations there I think.
    I was a regular churchgoer (under sufferance in recent times) until about ten years ago and have a really strict thing with myself about NEVER going if you don't practise, unless you go all the time (except funerals and weddings of course.) But I am beginning to feel the old 'ooh wish I could break that rule' now. Especially at Easter, it is much richer than Christmas in lots of ways (music, ritual, crosscultural background, &c.)
    Maybe it's time I visited some other festivals (Hannukah would be nice) and broadened my horizons.

  6. I've been thinking about this whole Christmas thing.What I'm going to aim for is a tradition of making (gifts, cards, decorations) and doing (stories, outings, dvds) things together. Easier said than done, I know, but even if we only do it in a small way, it's the getting ready rituals that is where the meaning of Christmas is for me. Oh, and culminating in the family gathering.

    Gosh I think I'll need to do a post on this (but tommorow because today is for relaxo and telly)

    Hope you guys had a good one

  7. We have gradually evolved into celebrating advent as a way of counteracting the consumerist horribleness of modern Christmas. We also have a nativity scene and we read 'Mary's Little Donkey' every December and open a window of the accompanying advent calendar.

    I figure if we're going to celebrate Christmas we need to do more than just look at 'Santa' and presents. And so we tell the story of the birth of Jesus, and accept that that's what Christmas is celebrating. I can do that without buying into the whole son of God business, I find. When the boys ask, I say Jesus was a special and good person and that's what WE are celebrating.

    Not sure if that's what you were talking about, but it works for us. I have posted about our advent rituals on my blog over the past three (!) years now. Sheesh.

    As for other traditions, we have slowly developed our own family traditions, like decorations up on the first of December, everybody taking a turn at stirring the pudding/cake mixture, etc. And we try to go to either a local carols by candlelight (Warrandyte does a good one, down by the river although it was rained out this year) or the St Andrews Twilight Market, or the Myer windows. This year we missed all those things but we did go out and look at the Christmas lights in The Boulevard (Ivanhoe) on Christmas Eve.

    Hope you had a good one. Happy birthday for tomorrow!

  8. Sending my son to a Catholic schools requires certain things from us (tho none of us are really religious) which is actually nice, the "usual Gang" of us mums and dad's sit together, sing along , crack jokes and have a good time, why don't you plan a aussie pot luck party for neighbours with carols? Put up lights and make it your own little thing?