One way and another, today felt high on frustration and low on achievement, so my supply of seasonal cheer was endangered, till RevHRod produced her Christmas Friday Five. Having contemplated the delights ahead, though, I'm in a far more mellow state. Thank you :-)
1. What was one of your favorite childhood gifts that you gave?
I used to plant bowls of hyacinths with E, my honorary mother...She would hide them away in the dark somewhere till they began to shoot and, in a good year, they were just ready to bloom to be given as gifts when Christmas came. I still feel vaguely unprepared if there isn't a bowl of hyacinths lurking somewhere about the place as December wears on.
2. What is one of your favorite Christmas recipes? Bonus points if you share the recipe with us.
Not strictly a Christmas recipe, but one that is inextricably part of childhood Christmasses for me was Aunt May's Chocolate Cake. Aunt May was the youngest of my Grandmother's sisters. She'd married late and was childless, so had spoiled first my father and then me for many a long year...at Christmas the spoiling took the form of a tin of cheese straws for him, and The Cake(awash with chocolate icing, cherries and chocolate curls) for me. Thankfully I elicited the recipe before she died, aged 99 years and 10 months, and it is now the essential expression of birthday festivities for my children (though I've never made it as successfully as Aunty May did). Too weary to look it out tonight - but it's a goodie, truly.
3. What is a tradition that your family can't do without? (And by family, I mean family of origin, family of adulthood, or that bunch of cool people that just feel like family.)
Oh, so many. We are very traditional at Christmas. We all HAVE to be home before we can decorate the tree. On Christmas Eve, after supper, we have to sing certain carols...HG always does The Little Road to Bethlehem and all the singing Flemings take a verse each of "Now light one thousand Christmas lights". Hugger Steward plays descants on his flute..Then we read certain Christmas stories, always ending with The Good Little Christmas Tree, before heading out for Midnight Mass.
On Christmas morning, it's stockings before I leap up for the 8.00 Eucharist. If I'm lucky there might be be time for a croissant or pain chocolat before the main Parish Communion (which everyone attends...though it takes me alot longer to get home than the rest of the family). Once we're there, it's a glass of champage, and then just one tree present each before lunch...the others have to wait, and are opened in turn later in the afternoon...
Later on during the holiday, we have to watch The Box of Delights and play assorted silly word games. Mostly we just have to be together.
4. Pastors and other church folk often have very strange traditions dictated by the "work" of the holidays. What happens at your place?
There is just so much church between 4.00 Christmas Eve, when the Crib service happens, and the end of the Eucharist at around 11.45 on Christmas day that it's tempting to say that what happens is a pile of sleeping Flemings on the sofa for most of the afternoon...but last year I think we cracked this, thanks to the judicious substitution of cold salmon with yummy salads for turkey etc...No longer replete as well as exhausted, I actually found it possible to stay awake while we unwrapped presents. In previous years, we'd found ourselves opening the majority on Boxing Day, or even later....so this feels like progress!
5. If you could just ditch all the traditions and do something unexpected... what would it be?
I don't think I'd really want to ditch any...Grumpy and panicky though I may be on this Friday before Christmas, as the "to do" list spirals out of control, I'm still not remotely tempted by alternative ways of doing it...though if it weren't incompatible with Advent I'd love to spend some time in Vienna visiting Christmas markets, drinking gluwein and crunching through real snow to the music of Mozart. Or something like that...But I'd need to be safely home in time for Christmas Eve, the best day of the whole year.