There is so much activity that accompanies the Christmas season, even during a pandemic. Get-togethers (the virtual ones, too), car rides that navigate us through neighborhoods with dancing light displays, cookie decorating, gift-wrapping, and addressing holiday cards. In December, I make a daily list that never feels completed before I collapse into bed at night.
However, there is one event that serves as the pinnacle moment of the season, and that is our family’s Christmas dinner. While it’s not uncommon for meals on other days of the year to undergo what sometimes feels like last-minute prep, the flavors that we indulge on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are all familiar friends—delicious ones— that we are thrilled to make room for at our table.
On Christmas Eve, a fish or seafood dinner follows our visit to church for this special night’s service. But before the entrée makes its appearance, I like to craft luxurious little nibbles such as caviar blinis and smoked salmon with an elaborate cheese board. My winter spritz of Aperol and prosecco with a rosemary garnish sparkles into festive bliss.
Christmas Day boasts a different flavor profile, but with equally decadent results. My husband, Mike, prepares a crown roast, leg of lamb, or beef tenderloin with roasted root vegetables and Brussels sprouts that add wonderful color to our plates. A tasty mint jelly or lingonberry sauce accompanies the meat with a touch of sweetness.
Perhaps the world’s most famous cooking school, Le Cordon Bleu Paris, is not necessarily a regular in our kitchen on most days. But on Christmas, the dessert that I’ll make is my mother’s Buche De Noel, complete with meringue mushrooms and powdered sugar that covers it like a fresh blanket of snow. Mom learned to cook in Paris at Le Cordon Bleu, and since we can’t be together on Christmas this year, I’m eager to make her classic for my family.
Everyone in the family has favorite Christmas music. George loves to play the Nutcracker Suite while Mike likes Handel’s Messiah. To appease everyone, I made a detour and compiled a “hipster holiday” list of our favorite Christmas hits, and we add to it each season. Don’t worry. Nat King Cole, Burl Ives, and Brenda Lee are sure to stream their decades-old classics through our Mp3’s at some point, but we prefer the artful rhythms of Indie artists. Think the Bird and the Bee, Alice Smith, and the aptly named, Snow Patrol. A traditional Christmas all of the sudden gets a modern-day spin. And we love it!
This year, all of the activity will happen, of course, in outfits that usher me into Christmas mode comfortably and with a chic twist. Once reserved to make taffeta dresses for little ladies and bowties for dapper young men, tartan has made its way into apparel for grownups. From blouses with pouf sleeves and velvet jackets with patterned linings, to heeled shoes and headbands, tartan rings in the season with plaid pizzazz. Texture is also key, and it’s common for me to find it on a warm and cozy sweater with wonderful knitted cable detailing, a daring piece of snakeskin, or a tactile piece of faux fur. Of course, all garments become classic when paired with simple black or ivory.
I can say with confidence that by the time you read this I will officially be ready for Christmas. As we’ve all experienced, this year’s festivities have been anything but conventional. And although parties have been canceled and time with friends and family has shifted to an online format, I’m optimistic that we will look back on this holiday with a sense of joy, happiness, and love.
From my family to yours, Merry Christmas.