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Suggestions for starting a christmas eve tradition for my 2 year old daughter and inlaws...

I would like to start a christmas eve tradition w/ my family --- something that I would only make for this occasion --- I saw an English woman make a beautiful standing rib roast w/ yorkshire pudding on Martha Stewart and it looked amazing, but w/ working full-time as well as taking care of an active 2 year old --- I'd need something a little easier. Any suggestions/recipes that will help build a wonderfully warm memory for my daughter when she grows up and thinks of Christmas?

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  1. I've taken from my family's tradition of Swedish meatballs on Christmas Eve, and a rib roast on Christmas Day (our tradition we started when we started our own family). The meatballs can be done ahead, then put into a slow cooker to hold for when you are ready for them. My kids look forward to both meals every year.

    1. does your tradition have to be the main course? What about chocolate fondue? Fruit, pound cake (store bought, if you want), chocolate and long skewers. Fun for all ages.

      1 Reply
      1. re: jessinEC

        Thank you so much for your fondue suggestion! My sister and I had a fondue dinner years ago that we still talk about. We sat there for hours catching up on stories and what's been happening since we last saw one another...What I LOVE about your suggestion is that all the prep is done before friends and family arrive and I will get to enjoy their company instead of being a chef/waitress which normally happens...THANK YOU AND HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

      2. Unless you're working Christmas Day, a standing rib roast and Yorkshire pudding are pretty easy to produce: Throw the meat in the oven, while it's cooking, mix up the batter. While the meat rests, bake the pudding.

        1 Reply
        1. re: pikawicca

          Only if you're an accomplished cook is roast and pudding "pretty easy to produce." There's the timing on the meat--and seasoning--getting the pans prepped correctly and then having it all come out right at the same time. Not an easy task if you are inexperienced and/or have a two-year old. I think the chocolate fondue is a great idea.

        2. How about shooting for a fight free evening =) ?

          The dinners always changed at my home growing up, but we always had springerles, and pfefferneuse cookies.

          You could also do something for others, like volunteer at a kitchen, or donate a meal to a needy family.

          I don't think I would want to get stuck with one meal for ever, and ever.

          1. You should let it happen organically.

            Forced traditions become albatrosses in the long run and serve only to make bitterness down the road.

            1 Reply
            1. re: ipsedixit

              I totally agree. Try a few things over the next couple of years and see what items everyone remembers and asks about and looks forward to having. Make those your traditions over time. You'll have much better memories- just like you do of the fondue with your sister.

              My in laws make "traditional" foods for the sake of tradition and I can't tell you how much I'm dreading the food portion of the holiday. (I love the company, just not the food.)

            2. I'm no expert on Yorkshire pudding but a prime rib roast is easy. Just throw the dang thing in the oven! It is, however, expensive. Someday, there may come a time when you can't afford that $60 -$80 roast.

              I would go with a ham. You can make it look very extravagant with cloves and pineapple rings and cherries just like in the old pictures. Another Christmas Eve tradition that has been lost but I think it will come back some day is decorating the tree and singing carols. Well, at least listen to them.

              Baking a lot of various cookies would be a wonderful tradition. Everybody can help. It would be fun and memorable.

              Taking the whole family to that special area or neighborhood that has all the extravagant lights would be magic for your daughter and if it is magic for her, it will be magic for the grandparents.

              If you think back on your own pleasant memories of childhood, you will find it is those simple things, you remember most.

              I have a grown niece. When she was 2-3 years old, I used to hold her and have her hold her arms out to the side and tell her to be like a helicopter then I would shake her and say hover hover hover. When she was grown I did the same to her 2-3 year old daughter and Cindy's eyes got big as saucers and exclaimed "I remember that!". I thought she might and I was so proud that she did remember.

              1. First of all, I would like to applaud your desire to begin a tradition. You may have already guessed from the limited responses so far, that you will get responses from those that eschew tradition, and those that embrace it, neither giving you what you wish---which is menu ideas. I will be the same.

                This is not a political forum so the reasons for this traditional divide you will have to research if you wish.

                I agree with Wyogal, in that the “natural” tradition is what you experienced yourself. Mine was cabbage rolls. I can never think of Christmas Eve without thinking of cabbage rolls. There was a lot of other food, but cabbage rolls were the tradition. They were awesome, and I looked forward to them each year. Hank also brings up a great point. What if you start a tradition now, and can no longer afford it later? It happens.

                It strikes me that the older traditions we love were born from what was available, and in the budget, at the time. I also know that many families saved money during the months preceding Christmas so that these special meals could happen. Not many people can, or want to do that now.

                My suggestion is to draw from the best traditions of your past, add to that what your family likes, and then experiment for a few years. After all, your two-year old will not know what they like for a while. Build a tradition in the next few years that suits you and your family. Your child will thank you for those memories. Traditions are important.

                Good luck

                1. When the kids were younger, we'd make and decorate a cake for Jesus. It was fun for them to get involved. Each year, they'd pick the flavor and the decorations they'd want to use. And, the kids planned the menu--as long as it was dinner food (not dessert), we'd go w/ it.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: chowser

                    I was also going to suggest decorating something with the kid. I would make gingerbread cookies because you can always find ready made ones if some years you don't have the time to bake from scratch. Icing is very very easy to make. The wonderful hounds on the home cooking board helped quite a bit in that regard. Here is the discussion:

                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/749504

                    1. re: chowser

                      Didn't see your post--we did the same thing...I wrote about it below. Glad that others do this. Just a sweet (no pun intended) touch for Christmas!

                    2. Soup has worked really well for us. The favorite is seafood soup. If we need to be able to transport it or people are going to drop in and eat, we'll do something that stands up to simmering for a couple hours, like beef stew. We usually keep the broth on the lighter side- not much cream if any- and it's a nice respite from cookies and heavy dinners.

                      If you don't want to commit yourself to making the same thing every year, wear the same sweater, simmer some mulling spices or light a scented candle, and let her help make dinner. That'll be just as warm a memory as any.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: jvanderh

                        in my family, it was oyster stew on Christmas Eve when I was little.

                        When the kids were little, we'd have a simple dinner, go to Christmas Eve services (the early one!) then return to our house for cookies, wassail, and hot cocoa, while my dad read "The Night Before Christmas" to all the kids, then home and to bed so Santa could come.

                        Now it's whatever we feel like doing that year -- which seems to change from year to year.

                        1. re: jvanderh

                          +1 on the mulling - I was going to suggest mulled cider, and leaving a mug of it next to the plate of cookies for Santa.

                        2. This may sound slightly corny, but I started this tradition in my family when my children were very young. The commercialization of Christmas had just started to get to me--and I needed something to make my young children remember what the meaning of Christmas was without getting preachy. Our tradition was this--after our meal, we had a birthday cake for Baby Jesus to start off our desserts. We lit one candle, sang Happy Birthday, then had the cake. My sister-in-laws loved the idea so much that they began doing that when they had kids. My children are all grown now, but they look back at that one little tradition very fondly.
                          That's it.

                          1. Our family's New Years Eve tradition has always been to have a dinner of appetizers. I think that this would be fun for Christmas Eve - in fact, maybe that is what I will do with my fiancee this year. Benefit is that you can always change things up a bit. My mom usually makes a few familiar things with the apps, and tries a few new recipes each year. Now I help her with the cooking, so I bring in new things as well.

                            My aunt's family's Christmas Eve tradition was to have lasagna - and when we had Christmas Eve at my Grandma's for a while, she insisted that we had to have her lasagna. Even when I developed a tomato allergy, we had to have her lasagna. Jerk. (Note - I had pretty good reasons to not like her before this, and my spinach alfredo lasagna is tomato free and way better than hers. Also not death laden.) Anyway, the good thing about the previously mentioned appetizers is that there is more than one main thing, and you can easily adapt as family members needs (allergies, celiac, diabetes, heart disease, veganism/vegetarianism) change so that they don't feel bitter like me.

                            1. When my kids were younger we always had made from scratch baked beans with homemade corn bread. It was easy, good for a late night snack for Santa and the kids thought it was a real treat. The beans cook all day and don't need much tending at all - just an occasional check to make sure they aren't getting to dry. Cooking them also makes the house smell good!

                              1. In Texas, tamales are typically served on Christmas Eve and it's a fine tradition. In fact, I'm looking forward more to the tamales, frijoles a la charra and starter of chips with guacamole and salsa much more than the Christmas Day spread. If you ever get the chance to have some even mediocre tamales, you'll likely understand what I'm talking about.