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Christmas Scenes: Trees, Tables, Holiday Menus and a Tale of Traditions

December 26, 2012 by Joan Nova in Family-Size Meals, Holidays, Party Menus, Recipe Development, Side Dishes | 11 Comments

Mary + Nick’s Tree, Boat Parade Party 2012

I’ve enjoyed seeing everyone’s postings on facebook the last few days with photos of families beside gaily decorated trees and enjoying holiday meals. It’s such a happy time of year. Full of traditions and memory-making moments.

Our season starts with the Boat Parade Party the first weekend in December and the festivities don’t end until my birthday early January. A month long of family celebrations … 6 weeks if you count Thanksgiving! And I do.

When my sister and I took over hosting holiday dinners from the generation before us, we divvied up Christmas by her doing the Eve and me doing the Day. It was always an all-fish dinner on Christmas Eve and a roast of some sort with lots of trimmings on the Day. That’s where tradition began and where it ended.

Unlike other families who look forward to a special (and the same) holiday meal, we always had a different menu … but within those parameters. Every year, shaking it up a bit.

A number of years ago, the holiday hosting passed hands once again … along with the tradition. My niece took over the Eve and my son took  the Day, both with a little help from their Mama Elves. :)

As many readers know, we are fortunate to have our entire immediate family (4 generations) nearby and to continue the tradition of the holidays together. Our regular base around-the-table for family dinners is 17 but, for holidays, it could be 20-25 people depending on whose in-laws are around or visiting relatives.

In between, various smaller segments of the family get together for breakfast and intimate gift-giving … though we have a gift-giving tradition for Christmas Eve and Day too. On the Eve, the children open gifts from half the adults and on Christmas Day they get gifts from the rest while the adults enjoy opening gifts from their Secret Santa (picked at Thanksgiving).

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This year I started what I hope will be another new tradition … a quiet little pre-Christmas dinner with just my son and his family.

I stopped doing the big Christmas tree when my son moved out — and the work was left to me :)  Every year since, I put up less and less decorations. Over the years, it’s been live, artificial, big, small, smaller and this year … teeny weeny. But it was perfect for our intimate pre-Christmas dinner.

Pre-Christmas Dinner
Lump Crabmeat Cocktail with celery, green apple, avocado and ginger-lime vinaigrette
Beef Wellington* served with a sauce made from the duxelle, Roasted String Beans and Chestnuts, Israeli couscous with Butternut Squash (not shown).
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Christmas Eve
While the children decorate gingerbread men, the adults entertain themselves with bubbly, cocktails and an assortment of things to pick on.
Fried Shrimp 2-Ways
Endive Boats with Goat Cheese, Nuts, Oranges + Balsamic Syrup
Assorted Marinated Olives, etc.
Lobster Mac ‘n Cheese

Is it time to open the gifts yet??

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Christmas Day
Pumpkin Ravioli
Stuffed Baby Artichoke
Spatchcocked Turkey
Mashed Potatoes
Cranberry Sauce + Muffins
Roasted Vegetables and Butternut Squash and Corn Pie**
There’s always an extensive dessert table including home-made biscotti,
assorted Christmas cookies, candies, cakes, nuts and fruit.
And some gratuituous food porn in the form of porchetta.
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* Beef Wellington: beef tenderloin (filet mignon) topped with mixed mushroom duxelle, wrapped with serrano ham (instead of paté) and puff pastry. A little porcini salt on the duxelle and a light sprinkle of truffle salt on the pastry finished it to perfection.

**Butternut Squash + Corn Pie
roasted (and gently mashed) butternut squash and corn kernels, folded with mixed cheddar cheeses, chopped herbs, dry seasonings, a little crumbled bacon and baked pastry. Finished with a little paprika sea salt flakes before going in oven.


NOTE: Some recipes found on FOODalogue are offered without ingredient quantities. They're meant as a guide to food pairings and techniques to be experimented with … in your own kitchen … to your own spice and taste levels … to your preferred portion sizes … and to however many people you’re cooking for. A perfect meal has multiple levels of flavor and textures, bright colors and tastes, and healthy(ish) choices. It's all about enjoyment. Enjoy the process, the presentation and the just rewards...eating!


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  1. bellini says:

    All of these traditions are worth continuing year after year Joan. It is nice to have everyone so close which makes this time pretty special.

  2. Foodiewife says:

    What a beautiful family you have. Thank you for bringing me into your home to admire the decor, colors and delectable food. How blessed you are to have such a large family so close. These will be treasured memories for the young generation to carry on. Happy New Year!

  3. Dorothy says:

    I just had such a happy visit with your family via foodalogue.
    All the children, family, food look great. Great tradition.
    Happy New Year to all!

  4. Arlene says:

    Joan, your dinner is tantalizing! I’m glad you had such a good holiday with family and friends. Happy New Year.

  5. How nice that everyone is so close. Everything looks scrumptious, especially the beef Wellington. Love that you’ve allowed us a peek into your home.

    Happy, happy.
    Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen recently posted..Holiday wishes from our house to yoursMy Profile

  6. Marie says:

    I’m detoxing already, I can’t look at this glorious food, that porchetta is calling my name! I’m so weak! What a beautiful family you have and such memorable traditions for all those cute kids!
    Marie recently posted..Last Minute, Holiday AppetizersMy Profile

  7. Liz says:

    Wonderul holiday celebrations!

  8. How special to see all of your Christmas glory. I adore photos of family (all families!), and your food and decorations look absolutely wonderful. And so special. You are indeed making incredible memories for all. Wishing you the best of 2013 and a very happy birthday as well!
    Victoria of Flavors of the Sun recently posted..Happy Holidays!My Profile

  9. Looks like a fun family and as usual lots of great looking food. Best Wishes for the New Year and looking forward to some fun together.
    Patricia Durr recently posted..Paris Metro SeatsMy Profile

  10. Katie says:

    Fabulous, Joan! The food looks amazing, and you’re so fortunate to have all your loved ones close by. I tried to mix things up a little down here in Argentina, to great success! I wish you all the best in 2013!

  11. sippitysup says:

    Special. So very special. Thanks. XOGREG
    sippitysup recently posted..Cooking Shirley Balboa’s Christmas Goose- A Holiday TaleMy Profile

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