Monday, November 05, 2007

My first Fun Monday!

I've been enjoying reading Fun Monday for a while, and finally decided to get involved.

Basically each week someone sets a challenge or asks a question or similar, and everyone posts about it.

This week is hosted by Deborah, from The Humble Housewife.

And this is what she wants from us.

I want to hear about or see a holiday tradition, recipe or event. It can be any holiday you like or that is special to your family. With Thanksgiving and the Winter holidays coming up, those would be especially apt, but anything that is special for your family is fine. If you have pictures - it's a bonus! Whether it's your Mom's famous stuffing recipe, going caroling on Christmas Eve, Diwali dances, or even the inevitability of Great Aunt Polly having one too many brandies and knocking over the Christmas tree - I want to hear about it!!!

My family isn't big on the traditions really. Being English and atheist, we don't do the church thing and we celebrate Christmas in a eating lots and giving presents kind of way. But we do have out little routines which I suppose you could call tradition.

For me alone, Christmas starts in the couple of weeks before the 25th. Because this is Carol Singing Time. Those of you who know me, know I'm really into my choral singing, so the vast majority of my spare time during those weeks is spent with my choir(s), belting out the carols like none of us will have sore throats at all the next day. This is usually in the form of a sort of pub crawl, doing the old favourites and taking requests in every pub we go to. And collecting money for charity - it's not unusual for us to collect over £500 over a couple of nights. We have mince pies and wine and everything is good.

Now fast-forward to the 24th, and on to the family stuff. I don't remember writing to Santa, but I was taken to see him in a department store to tell him what I wanted, until I was about 6 and stopped believing in him. However I had to pretend for quite a few years because I had a little brother by then. You know, the old carrot for Rudolph and mince pie and can of beer for Santa (my dad doesn't like brandy or sherry).

One year when I was young, Mum decided that cooking the turkey on Christmas day was too much work, with everything else she had to do with two young kids. She wanted time to see us opening presents, so she hit on the solution of roasting the turkey on Christmas Eve, and eating it cold with Christmas dinner the next day. Brainwave.

Because this lead to the ritual of Hot Turkey Sandwiches on Christmas Eve. Actually my favourite bit of Christmas - all the bonhomie but none of the stress. Mum aims for the turkey to be ready around 9pm, we drink, and demolish a leg (never the breast, because if you cut the breast when it's warm it goes very dry) and make unnecessary amounts of sandwiches on white bread cobs and drink some more and eat trifle and chocolate and drink. My brother ruined it a little when he became vegetarian, but we forgive him, and he eats some sort of quorn roast thing instead.

Christmas day sees presents, and more food. When I lived at home we'd be woken by my brother very early (I'm not a morning person), even when I was working in a nightclub and didn't get home til 3am. The presents would be under the tree (as a kid it would be decorated with coloured fairy lights and tinsel and bad taste ornaments that had been given to my mum, a lot of which I'd made, recently Mum goes for bad taste fibre optic trees, loads of that gold stuff that looks like long separate bits of tinsel that I can't remember the name of that falls off the tree all the time, and gold and red ornaments - me and my brother mock it every year). I remember the living room being literally half full of presents when we were young, it's much less so now when we get small presents like DVDs and stuff. But my parents still spend silly amounts of money on us, even though I keep insisting that I'm a big girl now, and don't need so much.

Present opening happens after breakfast, and now we're older, proceeds in an orderly fashion. Someone (usually me) sits near the tree and picks out one present at a time, reading the label and passing it to the appropriate person. I try to make sure I do this evenly, so no-one's sitting for ages with nothing to unwrap. Summer always has a couple of presents too, which we are childishly amused to see her unwrap. Recently she's taken to "giving" presents to us as well - she even writes on the tag (with my help of course!). Silly but fun. We then stack up the presents neatly, and new toys are played with and I try to persuade Mum to let me help with the dinner.

Being Northern we say dinner and not lunch. Turkey, roast pork, sage and onion stuffing balls (the family resists any attempts to introduce more exciting stuffings), little cocktail sausages wrapped in streaky bacon, Yorkshire puddings, mashed potatoes, roast potatoes, roast parsnips with honey, carrots, broccoli, peas, sprouts (yuk, but traditional), cabbage, cranberry sauce, apple sauce, mint sauce for my dad who eats mint sauce with everything, and of course lots of gravy made with gravy granules and meat juices. There's so much food, I take a little of everything and still have a massive plateful which I struggle to finish. Afterwards we have a choice of Christmas pudding, more trifle, Christmas cake (made by me) or whatever cold dessert Mum bought. More drinking, liqueur chocolates and cheese and biscuits for anyone who's not already exploded.

Boxing day would see my mum catering again, for people who weren't at Christmas day mostly. Auntie Lorna and uncle Keith, Grandma and Grandad. And the rest of us again. This year the venue was different - I insisted that we move to my house, so mum could have a bit of a rest and Michael could have a drink! And Michael's mum and dad, and my uncle John were added to the guest list.

The food was the same though. Leftover meat, salad, jacket potatoes, cheese, coleslaw, a huge sausage roll thing with hard-boiled eggs in it that mum makes. I added roasted veggies and halloumi and a bulgar wheat salad with feta. Wine, beer, and electronic entertainment, such as a Who wants to be a Millionnaire? game that kept my dad quiet for a good hour.

I like the time with family. Usually we manage to avoid arguing and sniping at each other too much anyway, so it's all good. Just remind me not to eat so much this year.


  1. It sounds like you have some nice traditions. I love your two weeks caroling. Sounds like fun!

    We always opened presents the night before so mom could be a part of things, but I like how you guys have sandwiches, then cold turkey the next day.

    Happy First Fun Monnday!!

  2. Welcome to Fun Monday. Turkey sandwiches sound wonderful - Now I know why my neighbors shooed us away when we showed up for a dinner invitation one evening!

  3. Wow the food in that post had me drooling - sounds like you have a wonderful family Christmas

  4. Welcome to Fun Monday! Great post.

  5. You had me at Yorkshire Pudding! Welcome to Fun Monday.

  6. Welcome to Fun Monday! And I'm glad you mentioned music - carolers are something I actually LIKE to see on my doorstep!

  7. So much food! I love the leftovers almost as much as the actual meal!

    Caroling sounds wonderful. Not many people actually go out and do it anymore.

  8. Goodness me what a great first Fun Monday posting! It sounds like you still have a great time at Christmas, regardless of atheism!

    Christmas Eve sounds like so much fun, and so sensible too! Maybe you've started something with your Hot Turkey Sandwiches; they're all coming to me this year so I get to chose the menu's!

    How on earth do you find the time to do everything? It would tire anyone out, having such an active lifestyle, let alone a feak & weeble fellow fibro sufferer!

  9. Hi, Anna! I'm glad to see you doing Fun Monday - it's so much... Fun! One of the reasons I like doing these is that they make me think of things I haven't thought of in a long time.

    Your description of your Christmas and choir activities made me think of my aunts - both active in the Crouch End choir - and what their holidays must be like. The English and American Christmas holidays are so different - and so alike!

    Mmmmm.... Yorkshire pudding....

  10. Oh I love the idea of the turkey sangers.
    Hope your neck is feeling better.

  11. Wow, a lot of comments all of a sudden...

    Hi guys, thank you! I'm getting round to reading all your FM posts too, bear with me because I'm also trying to catch up with 3 weeks of missed lectures. Oops.

    Hope you'll stick around anyway, I'm not always moaning about being in pain... sometimes I moan about being tired. ;)

    Damn, I'm craving turkey sandwiches now...

  12. You've just sent me into a panic over Christmas - haven't even thought about it yet. Nice post though.

    Hope the neck pain's cleared up.

  13. A wonderful story, really enjoyed it.