Evolution of a Holiday Tradition

Evolution of a Holiday Tradition

This is a guest post from Online editor, Vanessa Wieland. While most of America (or, at least, most of the Americans I know) think of Thanksgiving as their favorite meal of the year, in our family, it’s Christmas day brunch. It used to be Thanksgiving, where we’d get together with...

This is a guest post from Online editor, Vanessa Wieland.

While most of America (or, at least, most of the Americans I know) think of Thanksgiving as their favorite meal of the year, in our family, it’s Christmas day brunch. It used to be Thanksgiving, where we’d get together with all my dad’s siblings and their families for a massive meal. Once the 13 cousins started having children of their own and started scattering to various parts of the country, it got too big and unwieldy to fit inside any one of our houses, so new traditions have evolved.

That is my dad and I, many years ago.

It’s interesting, how family changes over time – and with them, the traditional celebrations. While we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving with my dad’s side of the family anymore, we’re still a close-knit group. However, the nucleus has changed. While it used to be my dad and his siblings providing the center around which we revolved, now we celebrate Christmas with my sister and her husband’s family.

My definition of family has expanded to include my sister’s in-laws. We have words for our relatives by blood – mother, father, sister, brother, son, daughter, aunt uncle, cousin, niece, nephew. We have the in-laws – brother-in-law, father-in-law, sister-in-law, mother-in-law- but there are no easy or common ways to reference my relationship to my sister’s nephews or niece, at least not in English. How do you describe your nephew’s aunt on the other side, or your niece’s cousins on their other side? In their marriage, my brother-in-law and sister combined two families into one, but that means the relationships can get a little more difficult to define.

Both holidays involve sitting down together to eat a large meal that we’ve all contributed to, but food-wise, I prefer breakfast. Maybe it’s a throwback to all the Sunday mornings my dad – disgustingly cheerful morning-person that he was – would make breakfast for us. He’d drag us out of bed with the scents of coffee and bacon. Our dog, Princess, got her share of eggs as well, since my father took his breakfast preparation rather seriously. Things had to be just right. If an omelet wasn’t perfectly shaped, into her bowl it’d go. Luckily for her, my dad always had one “oops” that went into her bowl.

You can see Princess here, waiting patiently for her omelet.

It could also be that from the time I was a toddler, I’d head over to our next door neighbor’s house for “second” breakfast. See “Mawmaw” Marge’s Coffee Cake recipe in the 30-day cooking challenge, which is my mom’s contribution to Christmas brunch.

Unlike my father, I’m definitely not a morning person, so brunch is far more of an appropriate time of day to eat breakfast foods. And Christmas brunch is the best brunch of all. Everyone contributes, which means there are far more types of foods than any one person can eat in one sitting. Pancakes, waffles and coffee cake indulge those with a sweet tooth; there is also usually toast, potato breakfast casserole, and biscuits and gravy. There are also sausages and bacon, and fruit, but the best part are the omelets. My brothers-in-law make omelets to order. Omelets can have everything from ham and green peppers to mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, and cheese. It’s the job of one of the older kids to go around and take everyone’s order for their omelets.

And of course, with the food there must be beverages. There’s coffee, tea, orange juice and my favorite contribution – mimosas. I’m fine with leaving the cooking to those suited to it. After all, there are plenty of debates and schools of thought about crafting the perfect cup of coffee or tea, and creating a sparkly, tasty mimosa is an art form that allows me to exercise my creativity far from the stove. I can stay out of the way and still be part of the activity.

You can see two of my mimosa recipes on the drinks page; one alcoholic and one friendly to kids, new moms and people wishing not to imbibe.

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  1. We called any cousins extended or inlaws and relations "shirt-tail cousins" or if you’re up in Alaska, "totem-pole" relations. It’s too hard to explain third cousin once removed or sister in law of my brother in law. Just call them Family. 😉