This is my last installment on Christmas traditions. We’ve covered some Faith-based traditions, some family and fun-based traditions. This time, it’s all about the food! And there are several reasons for that.
First of all, I’m not talking about glutenous self-indulgence, but how we use food to celebrate as part of our traditions. The seven annual festivals of the Jewish people that we find in the Old Testament were marked with music and food that symbolized these as special times of rich celebration. These times all celebrated the goodness of God and His goodness to us.
Second, frankly, most of the meaningful conversations and celebrations in my home almost always centered around the kitchen table. It started at my great Aunt Marie’s Thanksgiving table, my Grandma Corl’s Christmas table, and later passed to my immediate family’s table for birthdays, graduations, and most other holidays. Laughter, music, story-telling and special foods all were a rich part of my family’s traditions. But Christmas was always the best.
So, it makes sense to us that the greatest celebration of the whole year would be the birthday of Jesus, the Savior of all mankind. Christmas should be the biggest birthday party of the year. The music of the season is sometimes reflective and sobering as we focus on the events of His humble birthday arrival in Bethlehem. Other songs are festive and fun, reflecting the “joy to the world” that knowing the Lord brings into a world filled with cares and concerns.
In keeping with the idea of the biggest birthday party of the year, there are foods that are reserved for the holidays that we just don’t make throughout the rest of the year. Sugary treats–like special raisin-filled cookies, snow balls covered in powdered sugar, Danish puffs on Christmas morning, eggnog on Christmas Eve, homemade and hand-dipped chocolates, a birthday cake for Jesus (especially when our children were younger) and yes, the proverbial fruitcake.
Now before you overreact, don’t think of the store-bought-sorry-excuse-for-a-fruitcake that all the late night comics love to make fun of–like David Letterman’s Top 10 Things you can do with a fruitcake. I’m talking about homemade fruitcake! This is the real deal, chucked full of a fruity goodness and a glorious reminder that the God who made our tongues to enjoy this scrumptious variety of delightful tastes is the One who makes beauty and goodness possible every day of our lives.
What makes it even more special is that we make all these delicious delights in our kitchen–together. Well, that’s where my wife shines. She loves feeding her family. And she’s learned how to include all of us in some aspects of making the Christmas foods together. For instance, my son is the peanut brittle specialist. I samples more than a few pieces of his first batch last night! Yum! My daughters roll out cookies and help dip the chocolates. These experiences not only teach them the traditions and skills of Christmas cooking, but they add to the fun and “togetherness” that is such an important part of the holiday celebrations. Every one participates where and when they can (as is age appropriate).
Growing up in central Pennsylvania and my wife in the Lancaster County area, our roots have Pennsylvania Dutch (really German, not Dutch like the Netherlands) influences. Thus, our traditional meal on New Year’s Day is pork smothered in sauerkraut and plopped in the middle of a pile of mashed potatoes. My grandmother said it was for good luck in the new year. Why “good luck” I’ll never get, but it sure tasted good then and still does.
These holiday treats serve as reminders that once every year we “bring out the best” and serve up a delightful banquet for the palate to enjoy as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the greatest man to ever walk the face of this planet. But they also serve as appetizers, anticipating the day when Jesus, who came the first time in humility to live and die as the sacrificial solution for our sin problem, will return some day as our King and will throw the greatest of all banquets–the Marriage Supper of the Lamb as a celebration for His second coming in glorious and triumphant power “to make all things new” (Rev. 21:3-5).
These are some of the foods we celebrate Christmas with. So, how about you? What are some of the special foods and why are they special to your family traditions? (Recipes are optional, but welcomed.)
Have a blessed Christmas celebrating with your family and friends.