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Sunday, January 10, 2016

Christmas Dinner & Traditions

I wrote this post on Christmas Eve, then I added the pictures later, before publishing.  More than half of these pictures belong to my sister in law, which I borrowed from her blog post about this same event.  Thanks Mandy for taking pics!  And now I can publish it.  Here's the post about our Christmas Dinner...

I just want to take a moment and stroll down memory lane. Tonight is Christmas eve, I'm lying in bed, lights are out, and I'm talking to my iPad. I just wanted to remember all these good times. My family just got back from a festive Christmas Eve dinner at my dads house in Orem. We had a warming feast, made with love of course.  Each dish brought back lots of memories.

In front of me was a beautiful table setting. There was a centerpiece with fresh flowers. It reminded me of the centerpieces that my dad had me and my sister put together in the back shed as a surprise for his new wife Debby on their first Christmas dinner together....
It was so fragrant in there, like a pine forest.  He had cut branches from various evergreens around his yard and neighborhood, and he bought some sparkley branches and decorative mini gift boxes situated atop long floral picks that we could intersperse among the green in the centerpieces.  He wanted to surprise her.  The centerpieces turned out beautifully and it was so sweet to be a part of. I can't exactly remember Debby's reaction, a good one though, but I do remember being a part of such a kind gesture of love, and the warmth that it always brings to my heart.  The Christmas centerpieces were placed upon each of the tables for the big Christmas dinner.  Subsequent Christmas dinners after that, my dad reused some of the glittery branches and what not to make more centerpieces for a few more years.  All those are now long gone.

My eyes traced away from the centerpiece and to the place setting in front of me.  On the gold lined plate lay a cracker.  I'm not talking about those salty crunchy snacks that go so well with cheese, I am talking about a cylindrical shiny gift that you hold on both ends and pull apart to crack into the hidden prize inside.  Each cracker has a golden crown made of paper for us to adorn our heads, a little paper with jokes on it, and a small trinket. These have become a tradition at my dad and Debbie's Christmas dinners. It's fun to eat Christmas dinner with everyone wearing their paper crowns.  This year, my cracker popped open to reveal three little heart shaped jewels hanging on three little rings.  Steve got a pen, Lily got a little sprayer, and Amara got a bottle opener made of metal, which she ended up trading me for mine. 

Our first course this evening for the special dinner was my dad's colorful Christmas Jell-O. The bottom layer is green the middle layer is a fluffy pineapple cream cheese, and the top layer is Christmas red. The colors give this dish it's name and my dad has made Christmas Jell-O since I can remember as a child. I don't remember if we always had it on Christmas, though.  Sometimes I remember having it on Thanksgiving, nonetheless, I remember that middle layer was my favorite. Two years ago, I made this Jell-O for Steve's family at Thanksgiving time. That's when I found out what was in the middle layer.  I had called my dad to find out the recipe, and I discovered that middle layer is basically a cheesecake with some pineapple in it. No wonder I like it so much!
Dad making April's tomato soup.  French Onion soup bubbling away in the big pot at the back of the stove.
Our next course was French Onion Soup. This recipe is from my dad's dad, and is a tradition at these fancy Christmas dinners. French onion soup is served in these individual-sized ceramic brown pots with a long handle, with the hot soup inside, and floating atop the soup is a piece of sourdough bread with Swiss cheese melted down into the soup. It's very good, and Lily requested that she have a bowl of it this year. This year, my dad also made April's creamy tomato soup, which is absolutely divine. It's not a tradition by any means, but there are several people that don't care for French Onion Soup, Steve and Amara included, as well as other children and Spencer who can't eat onions.  The soup when it comes out is hot from the oven and will burn a hole through your tongue if you try to sip it right away. I put three ice cubes in my soup and it was gone within 10 seconds, but the temperature was about right after that.  I should also mention that Steve and Amara really enjoyed their soups also.

The appetizer was dad's famous crab stuffed mushrooms. These mushrooms came about when I was a child, and my dad needed to bring an appetizer to a ward party. He came up with this idea of making a stuffed mushroom, and it belongs solely to him. It was such a delicious invention, that it has been made many times since, and always has a place at this annual Christmas dinner. I have made it for my anniversary, my birthday, and for other special occasions. They're fairly simple to make and oh-so-tasty!  

Our main dish this evening was a slow roasted sirloin roast beef, with a sprinkle of homemade seasoned salt, a spoonful of au jus made from the drippings, and a side of horseradish.  Served on the side was rosemary roasted potato wedges, and almondine green beans.  This year there was also a yummy homemade Christmas bread cut into squares. My dad wasn't too happy with how the dough turned out, because the yeast must've been too old and it didn't rise very much, so he just baked it all together on a big pan instead of separating it out into rolls. But it turned out really good.  He had nothing to be depressed about.  The kids especially devoured the bread, have third and fourth servings.

With our hearts warm and bellies full, the grandkids had a game of bingo and won quarters from grandma Debby, while we cleaned off the tables and put away food.  

Then, we had a nativity play put on by the children and the adults with my dad as a narrator reading from Luke. 

For dessert, we had brownies and ice cream.  

Then the grandkids got to open their Christmas-Eve gift, pajamas. We even watched a little bit of a new DVD Debby bought with the Muppets singing at the Christmas concert with the Mormon Tabernacle choir.

The festivities came to a close, we packed up, and drove back to Steve's parents house. The snow was coming down heavily, and the roads were white, everything was white! We drove very slowly home, and thankful we made it home safely. Just as we were pulling in to Steve's parents house, Steve stopped and said, "Wait!  Have the girls ever done donuts before?"  I assured him they had not, to which he turned the car around and drove to the nearest church parking lot. The girls inquired why we were going to church and not going home, after all it was past 10 PM, and Santa be coming soon. We told the girls on nights like this, the snow is just right on the road and it's perfect for making donuts at the church. Soon the girls understood what we meant as we drove circles in the parking lot and let our van tires slip around and create a nice, big, round, donut shape in the parking lot.  Donuts in a parking lot, who knows, this could be a new tradition!  I guess it could only be a tradition if the snow comes down just right on Christmas Eve, but for this one, it was the perfect way to end a magical evening.

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