As December draws to a close today I am looking back on the past few weeks that has been Christmas 2014.
Coming home to Adelaide for the holiday’s means more than anything to me for several reasons. The house is always festive – from the Christmas door to the merrily adorned front room in themed colours or the wafting scent of Christmas lilies and fridge filled with wonderful Christmas food, everything feels special. Even just being home with the family around is lovely – they may not be talking to you or even notice you’re in the room but their presence makes all the difference (something you come to miss when you live out of home). Being in Adelaide also means visits to see the Grandparents, which are guaranteed to be filled with laugher and reminiscing. I try to stock up on as many mental pictures as I can of their smiling faces and mannerisms, storing the moments and imprinting them onto my memory. Catch-ups with old friends also a must and a true blessing when we can pick up right where we left off, as though no time has passed at all since I left almost 3 years ago. And then you have the weather, which this year has been pretty much perfection. Beach walks everyday followed by coffee at Joe’s Kiosk is a morning ritual that can’t be beaten.
There really is no place like home, especially at Christmas. So here is a round up of my 12 favourite Christmas Traditions (12 for the 12 days of Christmas!) that I am thankful for, treasure and look forward to year after year…
1. Fresh berries
Every year in the second week of December, for as long as I can remember, we would journey to Macclesfield in the Adelaide Hills, were we would handpick punnets upon punnets of fresh raspberries with my Grandparents. It used to be one of my absolute favourite things to do in December but sadly, since moving to Brisbane I haven’t been able to go with them the past few years. However, that doesn’t stop me from looking forward to the produce they bring back after visiting farmer Alan, spending the morning chatting away whilst scouting out the plumpest, sweetest and juiciest berries.
Cherries are also a Christmas favourite and fortunately Mum always orders a giant kilo box of organic South Australian Cherries. Found either adorning the ham or gifted away on cellophane wrapped plates, for me it’s just a matter of reaching into the box, grabbing a handful, washing them and plucking them straight from their stalk.
2. Mince Pies
My Auntie Gerry (or more accurately, my Grandmothers best friend) makes the most amazing Mince Pies. Quality ingredients are lovingly prepared – from the zingy fruit mince to the perfectly crumbly shortbread pastry that caves in the middle after the outer shell is broken – and then baked and presented in a box wrapped in cellophane and a red ribbon. It’s a gift guaranteed to omit a squeal of delight despite the fact I ask the same question every year…“Will Auntie Gerry be making her mince pies?” Insanely delicious they are best enjoyed with a cup of freshly brewed Dilmah tea.
3. Our Christmas Door & Christmas Table
Mum takes great pride in her Christmas door which she themes every year (last year was a silver-tinsel-illuminated Christmas Tree adorning the fly screen and the year before that was a stunning handcrafted wreath). This year she opted for a giant white-shimmer snowflake with a silver bow in the centre.
We also always have a magically adorned Christmas table – each year it’s almost like battle of the best dressed table! From deep reds and towering centre pieces to paired backs sophistication with carnations and lace potted posies.
4. Christmas Lilies
Dad knows that this is one of his most important jobs in the days leading up to Christmas. To source and procure a big, beautiful and abundant bunch of fragrant Christmas lilies, also known as November lilies. They’re Mum’s favourite and they fill the front room with a glorious aroma that immediately makes me think of Christmas and family. It’s happiness in a vase.
5. Christmas Eve Tree-Decorating
Christmas Eve is an entire evening’s worth of celebration. It’s what I ask for every year – for the family to be together to put up the tree, listening to Bing and Frank Sinatra croon Christmas carols while we admire our hand-picked decorations that we collect during our family travels overseas. Each one has a story to tell and we remember exactly where we sourced them. Conversations over Mum’s eggnog go something along the lines of “Ooh look here’s Cinderella’s castle from Disney World” (circa 2004) or “It’s San Gimi!” (circa 2009 during our visit to San Gimignano in Italy).
6. Fresh Prawns
Traditionally, Mum buys giant SA King Prawns, which she lovingly peels and de-poops on Christmas Eve in preparation for the seafood cocktail for Christmas Day dinner. However, even if she hasn’t been allocated the seafood cocktail for the family lunch she will, without fail, purchase her King Prawns to have on Christmas Eve. It’s become a much-anticipated tradition, where we gleefully hoe into Mum’s fresh prawns on fluffy white bread with butter, or served simply on their own with a lemon wedge. If we’re lucky there is sometimes enough left for Boxing Day party contributions (last year it took the form of a healthy prawn pizza).
7. Christmas morning coffee at Joe’s
Having only begun in recent years this is now well and truly cemented as a tradition. Loyal regulars (coffee-lovers, walkers, riders and friends) of Joe’s Kiosk at Henley Beach don’t let Christmas day deter them from their morning routine (yours truly included) and venture to the beach for a cup of the best coffee in town along with a Christmas hug from Joe who is likely to offer a freshly baked treat, a Baci chocolate or even some Haighs.
8. The Present Line
Our family never really follows the norm – we prefer to make our own traditions. For as long as I can remember we never put presents under the tree. Like ever. Presents were only put out on Christmas Eve after we had gone to bed so that Mum could squeal with excitement and repeat “Has he been? Has he been?” over and over until we reached the front room to find a line of presents beneath our stockings and would reply, “He’s been!” FYI, this still happens to this day…
9. Broccoli Soup Kassler
Despite the lure of the seafood cocktail I can’t go past my Grandmother’s Broccoli Soup each year for Christmas Dinner entrée. It’s a well-ingrained tradition that holds special memories. Using the freshest, best quality ingredients, my Grandmother painstakingly prepares the giant pot of Soup a few days before Christmas to feed the non-seafood eaters on the big day – the result? An incredibly creamy and delicious bowl of warming soup that always signifies the start of Christmas lunch.
When it comes to the main course I keep all fingers and toes crossed that my beloved Kassler is on the menu, though I usually have nothing to worry about, it’s everyone’s favourite. Kassler is German in origin and is a salted and slightly smoked pork loin chop that is usually done in the oven as a giant rack and then sliced once cooked. It comes out succulent and juicy and is devoured with the roast veggies and gravy or creamy peppercorn sauce.
10. Mum’s Summer Trifle
Mum has once again created a precedent when it comes to Christmas dessert, having created her own insanely yummy Summer Trifle. Served alongside the usual pudding culprit (which is also makes the most insane brandy sauce for), the Summer Trifle acts as a fruity and light dessert option for those weighed down by their main meal. With layers of pineapple jelly, Malibu rum-soaked Savoiardi biscuits, fresh mango and Coyo coconut yoghurt, it’s topped with slices of banana and strawberries and a drizzle of fresh passion fruit. Utterly divine and incredibly refreshing, it’s seriously hard to stop at one serve…
11. Boxing Day “Reubens”
One of best parts about Christmas has to most definitely be the leftovers. It makes it feel as though Christmas lasts a week when I continue to consume delicious roast meats and veggies in the fridge or plough my spoon straight into the bowl of Summer Trifle and warm up the last of the pudding with Mum’s fiery brandy sauce.
But the BEST leftover treat we all look forward to every year is Mum’s Boxing Day Reuben Sandwich with thick slices of leftover ham, sauerkraut, melted Swiss cheese, Saltz-Gerkin (salted sour pickles) and Thomy’s mustard. Usually served on toasted Turkish bread it’s best on German continental bread, lovingly toasted under the griller.
12. Family Movie Night
In the days following Christmas my family continues the “veg-out” by venturing to the movies to see what is usually the latest Boxing Day release together. This year it happened to be the third and final installment of The Hobbit. However, with the movie also comes the obligatory pre-movie meal, which is without fail enjoyed at Casuarina Malaysian Bistro. As we sit down and are handed the menus we feign interest in the variety of dishes on offer or the latest specialties added, however, we all know it’s a fruitless exercise because we all order the exact same thing every time. Roti Canai Curry with Chicken or Beef and a serve of steamed rice for 4 people. It’s a hit every time with everyone dipping their flakey roti in the spicy curry sauce and soaking up the remains with the fluffy, white rice.
I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas surrounded by friends and family. I’d love to hear what your Christmas time traditions are!
Xo and Merry Christmas
PS this super creative seaweed wreath was created and photographed by the ever-clever Mother – thank you for lending it to the blog Mum!