The Tree is Up! Now it feels like Christmas! Somehow until the 40-some years of "special" ornaments are dangling from tree branches and infusing me with memories of Christmases past, the season hasn't yet arrived for me. Some of the traditions of my childhood have morphed into different types of celebrations. For example, I no longer send Christmas cards. I have too many friends from different cultural and religious backgrounds that there simply is no "one-size-fits-all" greeting that I'd consider sending to everyone. So instead I usually send an end-of-the-year letter or a Happy New Year greeting--by email. For the few people on my list that do not have email, I print off the letter and send hard copies by regular mail.
Another tradition that has changed are the foods associated with the season: I no longer make fudge, divinity, rum balls or even the sugar-rich but oh-so-tasty krumkake, sanbakkelse and futtiman from Bob's Norwegian tradition. Age and health concerns make that kind of food consumption unwise. The dressing, if we have one, does not include the turkey "grease," 10 raw eggs or ground sausage that was customarily served by my mother and her two sisters. We still mash potatoes--with no sour cream or butter--but with herbs and broth. The sweet potatoes are baked with crushed pineapple, apples and cinnamon rather than brown sugar and marshmallows. Instead of canned cranberry sauce I make a raw cranberry, orange and pecan relish. Though we choose our food extravagances carefully, there are some we simply haven't had the heart to omit from the menu (pecan and pumpkin pie with whipped cream). In fact, we justify their inclusion by the healthy modifications listed above. Even with the changes we still finish the Christmas dinner with an over-full feeling and the appropriate amount of guilt. And someone always mentions the too-many starving children in the world, just to keep our conspicuous gluttony in perspective.