We’re that family. The one that “pffts” its way down the Christmas aisle in the supermarket. The one that bemoans the playing of Christmas carols on any day prior to Christmas Eve. The one that blatantly abuses the ‘commercialisation of Christmas’. We discreetly purchase our gifts, not wishing to be associated with the cheery, festive Christmas-shopper crowd (though if it’s Christmas Eve its more likely to be bug-eyed and flustered in nature). What’s that you say? We’re a family of miserable Christmas haters? Whatever gave you that impression? Sheesh. Because despite our Grinch-like facade, we actually do enjoy Christmas. And golly gosh, we even have traditions of our own. What kind of traditions might a family ‘allergic’ to most Christmas related festivities have? Why, those pertaining to food of course.
Our family isn’t particularly religious – my sister and I were brought up with a basic understanding of the various deities and dogmas, with our parents encouraging a broad outlook on the spiritual world. And similar to many other Western families that also define themselves as ‘non-religious’, we still wind up celebrating Christmas. Perhaps that’s why we have a tad aversion to the tinsel-lined streets, fake-snow storefronts and Christmas carols in November –our family has no ‘deeper, more meaningful’ reason for celebrating the occasion. Are we not simply imposters, seizing the opportunity to throw our money every which way, without a steadfast ‘justification’?
But hang on a sec, maybe there is a good reason to celebrate. Christmas is one of the few times a year (in Australia we don’t get Independence Day, or Thanksgiving, or Guy Fawkes Night. Instead we have Australia Day, but that usually involves throwing a few sausages on the barbeque and a lot of bad beer. It’s enough to make any food-fanatic weep). where it’s perfectly acceptable – even mandatory – to come together as a family, or with friends, and eat far too much some nosh, laugh, joke, argue, make grudges, break grudges and so on. A measured dose of frivolity is nourishing for the soul, particularly if it’s centered around scrumptious, heart-warming food. To pass up that opportunity would be barbaric. Wasteful, even.
So while I may not be exactly ‘deck the halls festive’, I do love to embrace the culinary ‘spirit’ of Christmas. Come November, as I push my trolley past the fruit mince pies, and shortbread, and baubles I’ll be tutting away, yet inwardly planning exactly when I’ll make my mince pies. Should I bake the fruitcake this week? Or next? How many coats of brandy to give it? To ice, or not to ice? Oh lordy, will it taste as good as my Grandmother’s? Probably not.
Christmas is foodie heaven. You’re allowed to be as gluttonous as you like and no one can judge. You’re able to eat as much Christmas pudding as you like with the excuse that after your second/third/fourth serve you can’t eat anymore for another year. Because that’s totally defined as moderation. Also, it would go to waste and it would be unacceptable to let that happen. Yet perhaps more importantly, Christmas presents the opportunity to cook with others, and for others. To share recipes, or flaunt the fact that it’s a family secret you’ll take to the grave. It’s something not to pass on.
Sure, presents are a large part of Christmas, but after the initial excitement there’s arguments – I wanted the cardigan in blue not red, dud’s to be returned, and the real killer – a gift that doesn’t come with batteries. Food on the other hand is the real unifier. It encourages merry banter – why did you let me eat that second helping, you promised you wouldn’t! – rather than arguments. Even if the incessant carols, wailing children and too-much-tinsel drives you bonkers, the food’s sure to stop you reaching for your ‘cynical hat’. It’ll bring out a little Christmas cheer in even the most Grinch-like of characters. I’ll bet my share of fruit mince pies on it.