Christmas Eve is the most magical, wonder-filled night of the year. We always went to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. Back in the day, we had to fast before receiving holy communion so we were all starving by the time we returned home. After a snack we were allowed to open ONE present. With the tree surrounded with presents (I am one of ten children!) picking one was both exciting and difficult. We’d fall asleep by the tree, Christmas music in our ears, like a pile of puppies.
Years later I married the most kind and wonderful man. But he wasn’t Catholic. In fact, Markus wasn’t a church goer at all. When we had children of our own I took the children to church while Markus stayed home to prepare a special dinner. As the years passed, Markus became more and more invested in his Christmas Eve dinners. In fact, they took on a life of their own! At some point he began creating menus around a specific country. Markus would surprise us with costumes to wear, or special china and table decorations. One year we went to Russia and ate caviar and stroganoff. There was the Hawaiian luau picnic sitting in front of the fire, a Swiss fondue, Italian pasta, a French dinner when we were introduced to Pere Frittard aka “Father Whipping,” (the kids really got into that one), Chinese meals that included candied bugs… It’s been quite a journey over the years.
Oh, did I mention that only the men cook? No women allowed in the kitchen…until clean up duty. The ladies dress up and go to church on Christmas Eve. We return at dusk to be greeted by carols playing and champagne!
We now have grandchildren and things are changing. Markus and I travel to our children’s homes for the holiday. Markus continues to prepare his Christmas Eve dinner but it’s been difficult in someone else’s kitchen.
This year, however, we are traveling to Ohio where my son lives. Zack is continuing the tradition in his home! He is preparing his Christmas Eve feast with the help by phone from Markus. I hear them laughing on the phone behind closed doors. I don’t know what country we will be going to this year and I really don’t care. We will have some dishes that are amazing, some just so-so, and lots of good wine to pair with the food.
Most of all, we will be together continuing a tradition that Markus and I began over thirty years ago because though we have different faiths, this is the time of year that families get together to celebrate love, hope and joy. Isn’t that the spirit of Christmas?