Christmas Dinner
So we're having our first-ever intentionally staying-home Christmas this year. My kids and I are planning a special meal for Christmas day - prime rib roast, garlic mashed potatoes, yorkshire pudding, pirogies, cabbage rolls, glazed carrots, green jello salad, petishkay, etc (you'd think we were feeding 20 instead of only 6, LOL). It's really exciting to be able to create new traditions with your family. :)

I was curious what other families have as their traditional Christmas dinner. What do you have? When do you have it (Christmas Eve or Christmas Day?). If you have it Christmas Day, what do you have Christmas Eve?

My wife's Argentine, and my family's largely Slovene, so we have an interesting spread. Sauerbraten or venison with red currant dressing (not this year, as I haven't been able to get out), chorizos, glazed sweet taters with cayenne, lemon roasted brussel sprouts, salad. Dessert is napoleons, potica, or alfajores. Dinner is usually Christmas Day, and Christmas Eve we typically do soup or something simpler; less food prep so we can get to bed earlier to be ready for Christmas Mass without being rushed.
My family is a little bit strange when it comes to Christmas traditions as we’ve incorporated the 3 main influences (Catholic, Orthodox and Soviet) in how we celebrate.  We have no other family here so it has always been us cooking the meal and being at home.  Actually, I take that back.  One year, we were invited to my brother’s in-laws and it was so different to us that we did not enjoy ourselves and never went back again.

On Christmas Eve, we fast until the first star is apparent in the sky.  Twelve vegetarian (or fishy) dishes are prepared: one for each Apostle.  Before the feasting begins, my father leads us through prayers, the youngest child (my niece) reads the account of the Nativity and then my father says a prayer of thanksgiving.  Then, since he’s the head of the family, my father breaks up bread and passes it all out.  An extra place setting is put out for Jesus or if possible, we invite a stranger to sit and eat with us.  Back in Russia, my Russian grandfather was notorious for inviting ‘random drinking buddies’ over for a meal.  Most years, our plate for Jesus stays for Him in his spiritual presence but one year we did invite a local “eccentric hobo” to dine with us on Christmas Day.  He was harmless but would always come chat with my father about fixing motors.  So, he stopped by to wish us Merry Christmas and my mother asked what he was doing for Christmas.  Naturally, he said nothing but he left extremely well fed.  O.K., I got sidetracked there.

But another sidetrack story; if a priest is present at the meal (obviously, since this is a Russian tradition, we are referring to an Orthodox priest), he leads the prayers and breaks the bread.  My grandmother distinctly remembers being a small child and having a priest over for dinner.  She also recalls her mother telling the same stories.  Just some intriguing family history stuff when it comes to life in the village.

Kutya is the star of the night.  Kutya is kasha sweetened with honey and mixed with nuts, poppy seeds and dried fruit.  It is in a big bowl and we pass it around and take a spoonful each.  It’s delicious and one of my most favourite foods.  There is an old tradition to fling up a spoonful to the ceiling and if it sticks, you’ll have good luck.  Needless to say, we have a stain on the ceiling that has never come out.

Now, the real dinner starts.  My mother is in charge of the menu and changes it up from year to year.  However, she usually makes 2 kinds of piroshki (mushroom and sauerkraut), pickled mushrooms (from the ones harvested in the summer), borscht, mushroom solyanka, lobsters, breaded smelts, draniki, potatoes with dill, fruit filled vareniki and fruit pies (apple, cherry, etc).

There are “rules” about what can be a beverage too.  No hard liquor is allowed (bye bye vodka) but wine and kvass is permitted.  We also drink kissel and pop.

Christmas Day requires its own meal.  My mother will make a pork roast, ham and turkey as the “mains”.  Then, there’s all the other stuff: sausages, kholodets, beetroot salad, Olivier salad, sauerkraut, mushrooms in cream sauce (another fave), bliny with different fillings, caviar, more piroshki, anything pickled, golubtsi, pelmeni, more vareniki, etc, etc.  The key to the meal is that if there is a blank space left, it has to have a plate of something.  Oh, I forgot to mention the cakes and cookies, but they come out too.  We can drink on Christmas Day (vodka) but we usually settle for champagne and kissel.

So, we do this all again on New Years Eve.  Without a history, and with common sense, you know Christmas as the birth of Christ wasn’t possible in the Soviet Union.  New Years became the day to give presents and have a “Christmas-feast” so we celebrate with the same kind of meal.  Snacking on tangerines is the thing to do on this day too.  Some of my best "Christmases" as a child were actually New Years in Russia.

The problem this year is that I am getting married this same week and since Russian weddings go for 2+ days of eating/partying, New Years will be covered.  However, on a “normal year” instead of a wedding, we’d have a New Years feast.

We also have a dinner on Orthodox Christmas (January 7th).  Ever since I’ve been a child, we’ve done this and I don’t really know why.  Part of me thinks it is because of my Orthodox family in Russia and the fact my father was Orthodox.  However, it is a smaller meal but still a lot of the foods served at Christmas. 

This year will be very different though.  A contingent of Orthodox worshippers (family and friends) are flying in (from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Serbia) and will be here for January 7th.  As well, my fiancé’s priest has been invited for solchelnik so we’ll be doing the whole Christmas Eve thing again.  I expect on this evening there will be the blessing with honey on the forehead amongst other rituals.  For the guests (family and friends), they'll need a Christmas meal.

It's a very busy time of year and lots of food comas.
Christmas Eve will be a meatless meal in keeping with Tradition (it is a Vigil of abstinence). This year, I'm thinking pheasant, with mashed potatoes and veggies on the Feat Day.
I forgot to mention gluhwein. On Christmas Day I always make a bottle of gluhwein (spiced mulled red wine) for after dinner.

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