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Your Christmas Eve Dinner.

We always have Chinese take out for our Christmas eve dinner. It's been going on for years now. All of the family will gather at my nieces house. Beautiful table setting,food,wine,hot chocolate afterward. So do you cook,get take out,or go out to eat on Christmas eve ?

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  1. We cook; in the past it's been an appetizer spread. This year, I'm going to visit my daughter & her boyfriend out of state. Daughter indicated that we should go out to eat, but really, I only see her a couple times a year for a few days at a time and I really want to cook so that's what I'll be letting her know the next time we speak by phone.

    I'm leaning toward a gumbo, good bread and some type of dessert.

    1. Most years at my parents' its pizza from a local place we just love. Take and bake, just a little/lot better than Papa Murphys. So we could be to church on time to light candles, etc. And after church, brandy old fashioneds while we open gifts.

      This year we are being rebels and staying home (HOOORAY!) and I think it's going to be some kind of seafood something. A minimalist feast of 7 fishes type spread (me, hubby, and 2 year old)

      1. I'll probably do another duck, as much for the duck dinner as for the duck hash I like on Christmas morning, topped with crispy skin and a runny fried egg.

        1. I spend Christmas with my SO's family these days, but as a kid growing up, we always had salami, cheese, and crackers. Gallo salami (the kind you slice yourself, one year mom bought the pre-sliced and we revolted), sliced cheddar and jack, both ritz and club crackers, and some sliced granny smith apples. It was the highlight of my year. Even when I was alone on Christmas Eve as an adult I would have something similar.... upped the quality level of the salami and cheese usually, and added wine.

          1. Our tradition has always been a huge appetizer spread and clam chowder. Sometimes a second choice of chili.

            This year will be different as we now have gluten free, vegetarians, and low carbers all together. We will also be renting a house in the mountains this year, so I'm not even in my own kitchen :/

            1 Reply
            1. re: sedimental

              House in the mountains sounds so nice.

            2. I am still trying to figure out what to make. We are going to NY to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas day with my son who's in the Navy up there. He has a toaster-convection oven, a two burner hotplate and a microwave. I can cook it up ahead and reheat. Maybe beef stroganoff ; he likes that and doesn't get to have it anymore. Maybe a white chicken chili. He's a good cook too, and I want to make something he won't be making for himself.

              1. We did Christmas turkey (or ham) as long as I can remember growing up (in a Chinese household, lol). But in the past few years we've been doing Chinese hot pot at restaurants:



                1. Ooh, thanks for this. We're doing Christmas Eve brunch with our kids and grandkids. I've been turning over various ideas. Maybe a whole bunch of Chinese takeout could be really good. And different. Thanks for this.

                  3 Replies
                    1. re: c oliver

                      We did takeout last year and it was great.

                    2. Christmas Eve means ribeye steaks.

                      1. Interesting to see how different family traditions are.

                        We always do a Christmas Eve party at my parents' house. In a good year, all the grown siblings will be home, and there are maybe 4-5 other families we've known for 30+ years. Grilled filet tails, salmon, roasted potatoes, sautéed green beans, and assorted flat breads, plus insane dessert spread (pies, brownies, bundt cakes, cookies, fudge, etc.).

                        Christmas day is turkey day again. It's like Thanksgiving all over again, which doesn't sound awesome right now but I'm sure my tune will change in 22 days.

                        1. Feast of the Seven Fishes for me....at my Best Bud's.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: fourunder

                            We will go to our friend's house where she does a seven fishes feast that is epic, we look forward to it all year.

                            1. re: cleobeach

                              It's nice to have GOOD friends.....

                              My Best Bud's spread is epic in the beginning during cocktails. U8 shrimp, crab, lobster and scallops in every conceivable way you could possibly imagine...fried clamari, shrimp, smelts....seafood salads, clams, oysters, dips, cheeses and etc.....For dinner, this family is from the generation of WWII, and they pay tribute for the seven courses when times were very lean, money was scarce....and food was even more scarce, so they do the traditional dishes as a nod to past generation which will include...scungilli,stuffed calamari, pulpo, a fish, pasta, soup. It's a great time, especially when desserts come out.. We start around 4PM and it usually ends past midnight.

                              1. re: fourunder

                                That sounds fantastic, enjoy!

                                It has been years since I had scunguilli. I used to always order it at an old school restaurant we would visit a couple of times a year. My Italian friends don't have it on their menu.

                                We grown the whole way home and lay on bed with visions of those cookie care packages dancing in our heads. It has become tradition to have the cookies for breakfast to save room for our brunch.

                                1. re: fourunder

                                  Very awesome. My dad was a 1st division Marine survivor Guadalcanal.He loved his seafood. Just made me think of him. Thanks.

                                  1. re: emglow101

                                    Tom Brokaw was correct when he penned your Father's generation and service.....as The Greatest Generation. I join you in remembrance and salute his service for us to enjoy the life we have today.

                            2. When I was growing up in NZ it was usually something really simple - beans on toast, salad and chicken or anything to clear out the fridge before it was needed for desserts and chocolate and fruit the next day. When we got a bit older I can't even remember eating - it was a frenzy of driving coast-to-coast, helping clean the house, wrap the last presents, unwrap the presents so my Mum could check if the toys had batteries in them, re-wrap the presents, wash the dog and groom the horses, pull the cat off the tree to get its Christmas bow put on. We didn't get take-out, because the parents live rural and there aren't many options local (and none that deliver). Once all the prep is done, including the argument about setting the timer on the oven to start the meat at 4am, I'd settle in front of the TV and share a bottle of wine with my Mum, watch approximately 11 minutes of a Christmas special, then pass out.

                              Now that I live in London my urban family meet at the pub on Christmas Eve, then anyone that's hungry comes back to mine for chilli prawn linguine.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: ultimatepotato

                                I don't know, they both sound good to me!

                              2. Christmas Eve is our big dinner. When we go to CT it is feast of the seven fishes: eels, fried flounder, crab sauce, stuffed lobster , shrimp cocktail, scungili salad, stuffed shrimp etc. Used to be at my grandparents house until my grandmother got sick a couple years ago. When my grandfather got sick in 94 my uncle took over prep at their house. We have gone only sporadically since 92 when we moved to MD. Since then we have done a big dinner with the neighbors. We are up to 30 something for a sit down dinner. Being one of the two oldest kids I usually rate a chair at the adult table. Kids right now range from 13-30 years old though. Dinner has always been at my parents until space became an issue. They still do most of the cooking but another family had been providing the house. We basically alternate between filet mignon and pork crown roast. We always have baked stuffed shrimp. Side dishes vary. Homemade applesauce, cornbread apple stuffing, roasted carrots, spinach and mandarin orange salad, roasted broccoli, roasted potatoes. Sides have been getting simpler since the number of people has increased. Several people bring snacks while food is prepping and several bring desserts. There is usually a tray of cookies and ice cream cake. In past years the first course was always crab sauce or lobster fra diavolo (shrimp scampi made a few appearances). I think the pasta course was cut last year because people just can't eat that much. This year even though my grandma passed away in June, we will do the neighbor Christmas and go to CT later in the week.

                                2 Replies
                                  1. re: melpy

                                    Only 26 this year but it will be the first time we've had small children in about 10 years so that will be exciting. My best friend and her husband will be missing though so I will be trying to keep up with the mid 20s crowd or entertaining some older relatives someone will be bringing probably. Actually on second count it doesn't look like the over 60 crowd will be joining us. First time in 21 years she won't be there. Very sad :(

                                    Menu has been announced:

                                    pigs in a blanket
                                    blue cheese fig crackers
                                    (another pre-dinner item I am providing but have not decided yet)

                                    Pork crown roast
                                    Baked stuffed shrimp
                                    (2 people have said they are making potatoes so I think that one will be changing their mind)
                                    green salad
                                    green beans or some other veg
                                    homemade applesauce

                                    ice cream pie
                                    chocolate chip cake

                                  2. From as far back as I can remember (I'm 72 now) our Swedish-American family has started our celebration at Noon on Christmas Eve Day with Dopp y Grytan (Dip in the Pot) where boiled Korv (a Swedish sausage), pork and beef are served with Vort Limpa (a dark bread) which is dipped into the broth in which the meat was cooked. In the evening we gather for an americanized smorgasbord which includes Korv, mashed potatoes, baked brown beans, cold cuts, Kotbullar (swedish meatballs), several varieties of sil (pickled herring) and other delicacies, all washed down with akavit and home-made Glogg. After dessert, which is a form of rice pudding with a grape sauce (an almond is hidden in the pudding and the one who finds is supposed to be married during the coming year?), we exchange our presents and then attend the Midnight service at our church

                                    1. Christmas Eve, for us, means dinner at Mom's. I bring whatever seafood I catch, trade for, or procure from my local monger that morning. Oysters Rock-m-Rollerfella (absinthe, garlic, and herb are the tweeks), Lobster thermidor, and fried blackfish are the essential traditions. Otherwise, I cook what looks good a couple hours after the sun rises on the twenty-fourth. My nine year old niece wants octopus again like last year (too bad I made that after I had finished my fourth tequila and have no idea . . . .)

                                      Take out on X-mas Eve? Bah humbugs! That's like bein' a virgin on your wedding day!

                                      1. My SIL does the Seven Fishes- but also serves a ham, potatoes, vegetables, rolls, eggplant, salad. After dinner, there is a huge spread of Christmas cookies, pies, pastries. So good! All I have to do is bring some wine!!
                                        PS- we do Chinese food for New years Eve- a tradition in the Boston area- been doing it since I was a kid.

                                        1. More often than not, in recent years, we've cooked a gammon joint. It makes for a nice, easy meal and, of course, lots of leftovers for sandwiches, etc over the holiday season.

                                          1. So what/how did the "tradition" of Chinese take outs (or eat-in) start with so many of you ? Was it because they're the few restaurants that are open on holidays ? Just wonderin'

                                            And what are some of your popular or must-have Chinese dishes for Christmas Eve ?

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: LotusRapper

                                              I think it started because it's easy to do during the hustle and bustle of last minute prep for Christmas. I think that because Chinese are some of the few restaurants open is what makes them the cuisine of choice. That's my guess1

                                            2. Growing up, our family tradition was fondue by the fire, Christmas music and we'd make peanut butter and birdseed ornaments to hang on the tree outside the kitchen window for my "forest friends", who would show their thanks by leaving a present under that tree - it was always a board game, which we'd play into the night - as an only child it was a special treat around the holidays when family was in town (my only complaint as an only - most board games needed 4 players!).

                                              We were in a rural area, so fondue felt fancy and special. And now that I'm older and do my own holiday dinners, I can appreciate how that was a minimal-effort project for my mom before a big/stressful cooking day. This carried throughout college when I refused to allow my mother to ditch her old fondue pot ...

                                              My mother in law passed this year, so our recent Christmas Eve tradition of spa and fancy food at the ritz will be discontinued, and im thinking about bringing my old family tradition back, with various stray neighbors (deployed husbands, far away families, etc) ... And a slightly fancied up menu.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: alexajord

                                                I guess nowadays many kids have to make soybutter + birdseed ornaments ....... :-/

                                                1. re: LotusRapper

                                                  If I hung out peanut or soybutter and bird seed ornaments, the napping bears would probably wake up :(

                                              2. Feast of the 7 Fishes at my home with my parents who spend Christmas Eve at our home. Even though the grand kids are now 16 & 18 they still like to see them open their gifts after Santa comes.

                                                1. We always go out to eat to one of those Chowhound despised chains, such as Olive Garden or Carrabas (no, seriously), in fact, it was Carrabas last year, and then we drive around and look at Christmas lights. This has been the tradition for as long as I can remember.

                                                  16 Replies
                                                  1. re: SaraAshley

                                                    Assuming you were dragged kickin' and screamin' ?

                                                    Coulda been worse, like Sizzler or Denny's.

                                                    1. re: LotusRapper

                                                      Sizzler is still around? I thought they went the way of the t-rex 20 years ago? If you don't mind me asking Lotus where are you located that you still have a Sizzler around? Salad bar and all? As silly as it sounds I would love to just go to one for old times steak! (pun intended)

                                                      @ Sara just out of curiosity are they busy on Christmas Eve? I've never eaten out on Christmas Eve.

                                                      1. re: jrvedivici

                                                        Yep, there's always been a wait every year we go. We try to do call ahead seating for this reason.

                                                        1. re: jrvedivici

                                                          Apparently so:


                                                          Thank God they left here (Vancouver) in the early '90s :-D

                                                          1. re: LotusRapper

                                                            Omg!!! I wanna go! A sundae bar, a salad bar and a taco bar!!!! And I can get a steak!!! What?!?!? I'm sure it all tastes like shit, but I want to try it.

                                                            1. re: SaraAshley

                                                              I was a line cook at a Sizzler, probably before you were born!

                                                              1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                I'm jealous!! And I think you're only like 12-13 years older than me, so I'm thinking I was around, but just little one then.

                                                              2. re: SaraAshley

                                                                Well I gotta admit, I miss Sizzler's taco bar. I think they had a pasta bar too. Back in the days it was AYCE for like Cdn$6, perfect for my university budget at the time.

                                                                You know what else I miss ? Black Angus Steakhouse, another one that retreated from their Canadian invasion in the '80s: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_An...

                                                                'Twas a stormy, thunderous night. As I drove by in the pelting rain, I can barely make out their large lit sign outside the restaurant, wherein the lights behind the letter "g" were burnt out [thunder clap] .......

                                                                1. re: SaraAshley

                                                                  We used to go when I was a kid and that salad bar thing was absolutely the best thing ever.

                                                              3. re: LotusRapper

                                                                I don't hate either of those places (although I prefer Carrabas to Olive Garden), plus it's time with family and a free meal. I'm perfectly happy with this. :)

                                                              4. re: SaraAshley

                                                                We have no tradition of going out to a chain, but we do traditionally drive about, observing the Christmas lights. I love doing that. One of the real highlights--so to speak--of the Christmas season.

                                                                1. re: SaraAshley

                                                                  No issues with Carrabas here. Decent food & good service at an acceptable price. Some good wine too...sit at the bar and ask if they have some 2nd day bottles. You can get some killer deals on some good wine...

                                                                  1. re: SaraAshley

                                                                    I don't hate Carrabas at all. I think it's one of the better chains.

                                                                    1. re: jeanmarieok

                                                                      Yes, I would agree that it's one of the better chains. I actually haven't been back since last Christmas, so hopefully it's still decent.

                                                                    2. My family has always had meat fondue for Christmas Eve. I guess it started in the 70's when fondue was new and exciting to Americans. We've never stopped...and actually I and all of my siblings now do it with our own families. My favorite meal of the year!

                                                                      1. No Christmas eve dining tradition, but on Christmas eve eve, the extended fambly gathers at one of the houses and everybody brings a soup. It's a mammoth soup supper. I may make cream of asparagus with wild rice this year.

                                                                        1. Our tradition is clam chowder with fresh baked bread. I'm not sure when this started, but it had to be after college (because we use my roommates mom's recipe). Afterwards we go to Church for a candlelight service, then home to open presents and eat Christmas cookies. I'm thinking of shaking it up this year tho... My folks will be visiting us, and thinking of doing lobster.

                                                                          1. Usually it's our favorites. Duck (or Cornish hens for those of us who can't handle duck), potatoes gratin, and green beans. My mom and I are usually too lazy to make a dessert so we just have Christmas cookies.

                                                                            1. Growing up and until the late '90s on Christmas Eve it was family tradition to fast during the day then sit down in the evening to have The Feast of the Seven Dishes for 20 - 25 people. The menu was more or less: seafood antipasto, fried smelts, baccala, fresh eel in tomato sauce, shrimp w spaghetti, fried cod/haddock/halibut(whichever was available), stuffed squid, lobster in some form, fritto misto of cauliflower/broccoli,green beans), eel salad. Lots of wine for the adults with Italian orange soda for the children.

                                                                              I can't remember dessert but there must have been something because all the family were tremendous home cooks. Two uncles were chef owners of restaurants. They were responsible for the more labor intensive dishes. Uncle Frank would bring live eels that he butchered and prepared in one of the two kitchens we had.

                                                                              For the last 10-ish years it's just been the two of us so the menu has changed considerably but it's still some sort of decadent seafood meal. Christmas time just seems to be not the right time for scrimping.

                                                                              ETA: we have Chinese food on New Year's Eve. For good luck.

                                                                              1. Oysters, Oysters, Oysters.
                                                                                Raw, Fried, Char grilled.

                                                                                1. Our tradition is the French Canadian Tourtiere. A dense meat pie with some gravy and frites.

                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: Candy

                                                                                    And washed down with some La Fin du Monde ? Or is that a New Years Eve beer ? ;-) I like most of Unibroue's beers, and out here in Vancouver they're cheap ($3-4 for 750ml bottle).

                                                                                    1. re: Candy

                                                                                      For several years, until he got married in 2011, my son and I would make Julia Child's tournedos with Madeira sauce on Christmas Eve. I had pasta with friends last year and am not sure what I'm going to do this year.

                                                                                      A co-worker is married to an Italian and they are going to his family near Milan for Christmas and I asked if they were going to have the feast of seven fishes on Christmas Eve - she had never heard of that – turns out it's an Italian-American tradition, learn something new every day!

                                                                                      1. re: Taralli

                                                                                        Interesting. Unlike many people I know, I like smelts. And sardines.

                                                                                        A very nice way of preparing smelt is found in dim sum houses, where they're fried, tossed with a mix of salt & pepper, chopped garlic and jalapenos:


                                                                                      2. I'll be working aroun the holidays this year so won't get to go home to see family but I'm planning to make both Christmas Eve and Day special for me and SO. I haven't decided on dinner yet, but I think I'll reserve the big meal for Christmas Day. Christmas Eve will either be lasagna or take out.

                                                                                        1. At home, with friends and family. Decorated, but informal for sure. And dinner is ALWAYS fondue, and apps. generally involve a do-it-yourself fresh picked crab sald, dressed lightly due to the richness of the entree (usually lemon, plus plus..), and scooped w/ endive leaves. Prawns if no crab.

                                                                                          1. When I was little, back in the 50's, we lived in a small town right on the Mexican border for several years. The population was largely Hispanic and my mother learned to cook Mexican food from various neighbors. Somehow we got started having Mexican food on Christmas Eve. The menu varies from year to year, but the tradition continues today.

                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                            1. I have a very small family, and we aren't religious so no midnight mass or crowds of relatives.
                                                                                              It changes year to year but i cook when i am home (i live across the country from them), last year was a lentil soup and salad, and a few too many cookies.
                                                                                              I cook a "fancy" meal for christmas day when the total headcount (including my 7yr old nephew) is 6.

                                                                                              When i was younger we often had the tamales from mom's co-worker with veggies, or we would go pick up mexican from our favorite place since they would close from xmas day thru january (the family who owned and ran it went back to see relatives in mexico)

                                                                                              1. Christmas eve was always an appetizer spread when I was growing up, but now that my siblings are usually otherwise occupied on the 24th, I tend to make a special pasta of some type to enjoy with my parents (last year was a creamy lobster pasta, with steaks for the seafood haters). This year I'm leaning toward lasagna bolognese, depending on who's going to be there.

                                                                                                Xmas day also varies a bit but tends toward beef lately. I think my parents are planning to roast a tenderloin this year.

                                                                                                1. This may sound odd. We travel to my daughters at Christmas as she cannot get away due to her job (retail). Christmas eve is spent at my Ex's house, who lives just up the hill from my daughter and across the street from my son. My Ex's wife puts on a very Mexican themed dinner for about 30 family members. Christmas day is spent at my daughter's house (I usually cook a Turkey) and the Ex and his wife come to eat turkey dinner. We've learned to live with this as a way to stay connected to our kids and grand kids.

                                                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: boyzoma

                                                                                                    It sounds wonderful, not odd. Merry Christmas, and happy holidays all around, boyzoma. :)

                                                                                                    1. re: boyzoma

                                                                                                      If we can't get along with our exes during the holidays and other special occasions then that's just too bad. Good for y'all.

                                                                                                      1. re: boyzoma

                                                                                                        Its actually really nice to
                                                                                                        hear! You and your ex have your priorities straight. Kudos to you both.

                                                                                                        1. re: boyzoma

                                                                                                          And not all Ex's necessarily live in Texas ....... ;-)

                                                                                                        2. A fish soup/stew made from start usually. Problematic this year as I won't buy / eat anything from the Pacific due to Fukushima contamination.

                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                          1. re: OCEllen

                                                                                                            I have the same concerns (byproduct of working in research on the issue). I have found some alternative sources. I either get Atlantic shrimp or buy farmed ones. I found Atlantic Canadian lobster (tails or claws) at Costco. Still in search of the mythical Atlantic scallops Costco supposedly sells. I get crab meat from an Asian store. I think it is Thailand or Vietnam. Not a perfect solution but a workable one until some better research is conducted to fully understand the issue. The FDA and NOAA's responses and public statements have been unacceptable and insulting.

                                                                                                          2. When I was a kid, my mother made a big meal, and a big deal out of both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day meals. At some point, she simplified Christmas Eve dinner to relieve some of the stress. We have continued that tradition on our own after my parents and my ILs became snowbirds many years ago. Last year we had lasagna. This year I think it will be seard scallops, asparagus, and polenta.

                                                                                                            1. What I find interesting about this thread is that in Minnesota, or at least in the suburbs, almost everything is closed on Christmas Eve, even most of the Chinese restaurants.

                                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                My husband really wants to have Chinese on Christmas Eve. Being Italian American, that is just not going to happen. Although my family did Chinese and a movie on Christmas day last year while we were stuck in PA eating 2nd Thanksgiving with his family (seriously, they eat the same menu for EVERY holiday).

                                                                                                                1. re: melpy

                                                                                                                  We keep it sort of boring. Turkey for Thanksgiving of course, beef for Christmas, and ham for Easter. We have a nice dinner of Christmas Eve, but nothing extravagant.

                                                                                                                  1. re: melpy

                                                                                                                    Melpy, do a Chinese dinner for New Years Eve for Good Luck in the coming year, and do a Seafood meal, a la Italo-American, for Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve doesn't have to be anything more than pasta w some sort of seafood - shrimp/clams/etc. A salad or a baked fish.. etc. Happy Happy to you!

                                                                                                                2. Finalized my Fish Feast menu and placed the order at my favorite fish market; starting to look forward to it already. There will only be three of us, so of course there will be way too much, although some of it can be recycled as Christmas Day apps.

                                                                                                                  My BIL (if he remembers to show up! long story that I don't want to get into) promised to bring oysters and clams on the half shell from his favorite place. But since I have a lb or 2 of giant shrimp in the freezer (not sure of the exact size but bigger than anything I've ever bought), I'll probably make some scampi too. Mussels marinara in red sauce will also make an appearance at some point. Lots of garlic bread obviously, I made a pesto type butter with fennel fronds from my garden this summer, so that will jazz it up a bit.

                                                                                                                  For the pasta, something very simple (since I have to do cannelloni or manicotti the next day) I'm thinking aglio e olio. I put a few anchovies in mine per husband's family tradition..I know there's another name for it that way but we call it aglio e olio. However, since there's plenty of fish already on the menu, I may do cacio e pepe instead. Something I can throw together last minute, during the break between courses.

                                                                                                                  Then fried flounder for the guys and seared tuna and possibly striper too for me, if they have it that day. I also ordered bay scallops, don't know if I will also sear them or take the easy way out and fry. That's the fish part, the sides aren't really important I guess.

                                                                                                                  So grand total, at least 7 or possibly 9 fish, I think I'm covered!

                                                                                                                  1. Christmas Eve has always been the most formal holiday dinner of the year, a family tradition that seems to go back to the mists of time. People dress up and the table is set with sparkling silver and china.

                                                                                                                    We always start out with oyster soup with oyster crackers. Prime rib roast with the trimmings. Plum pudding with hard sauce served alongside a platter of Christmas cookies. Champagne's involved. Pre-dinner appetizers include smoked salmon and liver and shrimp pates.

                                                                                                                    It's a long meal, starting at 7 when the first guests arrive, we're seated at the table at 8:30, the plum pudding is finished around 10:30 in time to head to church for the 11:00 service.

                                                                                                                    1. I've been hosting Christmas for the last few years. That's enough cleaning and prep on Christmas Eve, so I typically order pizza or a cheesesteak for delivery.

                                                                                                                      1. Always fish. I spend the afternoon cooking - making the main dish for Christmas Day, icing the cake, making brandy butter, while listening to the carols from King's College, happily remembering all the years of doing the same thing with my later mother and grandmother. So after all that, it will be some simply prepared fish, some white wine and a mince pie for pudding.

                                                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: Londonlinda

                                                                                                                          I forgot how important Christmas music is to the whole process! Our favorite is a show on Public Radio here hosted by David Bouchier, although at this point I think they're all reruns, I'm guessing the same kind of music you're speaking of. He is from England originally, and it's called Victorian Christmas, luckily we have them all on cassettes. He intersperses the music with stories of his childhood, and quoting Charles Dickens et al, the funniest one happens to be the story of his mother making eggnog (I think) he asks her for her recipe and she starts with eggs. He asks her how many, and she replies, well it all depends on how they're laying, dear! Think it's time to pull them out of the basement.

                                                                                                                          1. re: coll

                                                                                                                            The King's carols are always the same format - the same nine readings from the Bible and some old, some new carols. It could easily be a rerun each year! It's the predictability (as you have indicated) that is so soothing. I know that once they get to the final reading, Christmas really has begun. My brother cooks on Christmas eve to the sound of Phil Spector's Christmas album!

                                                                                                                            1. re: Londonlinda

                                                                                                                              I wonder if Phil can play the album at his current residence...?

                                                                                                                        2. We ended up spending one awful xmas out of state with nothing to eat on xmas night. We found a Chinese buffet that was open. We were thrilled as we were discussing how to pull off some sort of meal out of what we could find to eat at Walgreens...

                                                                                                                          The food was not bad for Chinese buffet food. This struck a new tradition. We go out for Chinese on xmas eve every year. Xmas day is whatever everyone agrees ahead of time sounds good with a few suggestions if I find something new/on sale/interesting.

                                                                                                                          1. We pick up pre-ordered take out pizza on our way home from church. Then it's on with finishing preparations for dinner for Christmas day and wrapping gifts.

                                                                                                                            1. When I was nine or ten, my grandparents were coming in from Texas for Christmas. I think I asked my dad what we were doing for Christmas Eve, and he basically said "why don't you put something together?" And so the Christmas Eve Buffet was born.

                                                                                                                              Back then it was things like taquitos and "zesty chicken skewers" and store-bought cheese balls. It's sort of fallen off in the past few years, since my parents divorced and one of my siblings is in California. I'm picking it back up this year, and I'm kicking it up a notch!

                                                                                                                              A cheese ball of some kind (either the basic one my boyfriend makes, or the prosciutto-basil one I didn't get to make for Thanksgiving)
                                                                                                                              A caprese tart or tartlets
                                                                                                                              Asian or Swedish meatballs
                                                                                                                              Broccoli fritters or Japanese vegetable pancakes
                                                                                                                              Fruit skewers

                                                                                                                              Grenadine punch (staple from the original buffet)

                                                                                                                              I'm trying to come up with one other vegetable app. Something that doesn't involve bread (pastry, crackers, etc) or meat. Cheese would be okay.

                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                              1. re: Kontxesi

                                                                                                                                How about a dip, like hummus or caponata, served with veggie stix?

                                                                                                                              2. We always go "downstate" (in the local vernacular) to Bangor to have Christmas with Mrs. Potato's family, so she and I always eat out on Christmas eve. No one particular restaurant though.

                                                                                                                                1. Y'know, I had never heard of the Feast of the Seven Fishes until this thread.
                                                                                                                                  What is its history? Is it a Biblical thing?
                                                                                                                                  I was raised in the Catholic Church - in the Midwest, mostly. But that was not part of our traditions.

                                                                                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                                                                                  1. re: kitchengardengal

                                                                                                                                    The origins of the feast is debatable. Some say it's an American thing, some say it's Sicilian and then there are those that believe it is religious with the Catholic Church.

                                                                                                                                    there is no dispute it can be a very Italian thing on Christmas Eve,

                                                                                                                                    1. re: fourunder

                                                                                                                                      That makes sense. My family's Polish and Irish. I've never lived where there's been a large Italian population.
                                                                                                                                      I'll have to ask Hubby. His ex was of Sicilian background, and he's from the Hudson Valley, so the chances are he'd know about it.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: kitchengardengal

                                                                                                                                        The Poles have a tradition of meatless Christmas Eves, Wigilia, some fish, but also a lot of mushrooms, potatoes, pierogi and cabbage (as cabbage or sauerkraut). Though in my grandmother's more new world interpretation, there was ham.

                                                                                                                                    2. re: kitchengardengal

                                                                                                                                      Christmas Eve was for centuries a day of varied fast and abstinence in the Catholic church and still is in the Orthodox churches (major feasts are preceded by ascetic penitential observances). In the Western church, that meant abstinence from meat of warm blooded animals; hence, the emphasis on seafood. Mass in the middle of the night was popular because it was the earliest that Mass could be scheduled (for centuries, it was forbidden after noon until midnight), and the fast before receiving Communion ran from midnight, so it was the fastest way to receive Communion and break the fast. The residue of this runs deep in countries with long history of Catholicism (other than, say, Ireland, where Catholicism was effectively marginalized for a few centuries...)

                                                                                                                                      The feast of seven fishes is huge with Americans of southern Italian/Sicilian ancestry. Still.

                                                                                                                                      In my family, Christmas Eve dinner was simple, plain fare. The Christmas tree was not put up until the little children had gone to bed. And it was kept up through the Christmas season (while many people are familiar with 12 days of the season, there were 40 days in other cultures, ending on February 2; my family, Irish and southern German, kinda split the difference.) The current phenomenon of Christmas Day often being treated as the end of Christmastide is completely alien to my tradition and experience. Christmastide begins on Christmas! We had our major feast on Christmas Day (and another one on New Year's Day; the Eve was for snacks and things, while New Year's Day was for calling on people or being called on and some major hosting duties for folks being called on.)

                                                                                                                                    3. I am making cabbage rolls this year!

                                                                                                                                      1. I can relate to what Karl S has written regarding the fast before the feast ethic, however in my case my ancestors lived in the Abruzzo and Apuglia provinces not Sicily. My maternal family moved to Trieste early on but yet adhered to the seven fishes Christmas Eve meal.

                                                                                                                                        The First Sunday of Advent marks the preparation period for Christmas. In our Catholic family Christmas wasn't celebrated until Christmas Day. During the four weeks of Advent that precede Christmas preparations are made, baking, greenery brought in, candles put in windows etc., but nothing gets lit until Christmas Eve. The Christmas tree is decorated after the children are in bed. So it's a major wonder when we wake on Christmas Day in the morning to see all the glorious decorations and presents under the tree.

                                                                                                                                        The tree and window candles stay up and lit until Twelfth Night, Epiphany, which concludes the Twelve Days of Christmas. This is about the sixth of January. In New England some families leave the wreath on their front door into February to have a cheery decoration during the cold winter months. In our family we leave it up till Valentines Day. So, Advent is a period of anticipation and Christmas season is one of celebration.

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                                                                                                                                        1. re: Gio

                                                                                                                                          FWIW, I would count Abruzzo and Puglia as very much part of southern Italy. As I think almost any Italian would.

                                                                                                                                          The Irish tradition of putting a candle in the window near a door on the night of Christmas Eve was a traditional sign of hospitality and welcome to the stranger - the folk custom being (as it was in many Catholic lands, at least) that strangers looking for food and shelter on the night of Christmas Eve could be Mary and Joseph in disguise yet again. My Irish grandmother told stories of going out to find a small log in the late 19th century to hollow out a place for a tallow candle that was lit in the window that night. And hot food was kept in the fire, and the door left a bit ajar. Her daughter, my mother, kept the latter tradition in suburban Long Island until about 1970, when stories of Xmas Eve robberies euthanized that tradition (though it's not like the entire family was asleep: my parents stayed up till 4AM decorating, final wrapping, stuffing stockings, cooking*, then a 2 hour nap, waking the youngest child around 6AM with the sound of an old bell ornament on the tree - which we still do). The effect of having Christmas turn on overnight, as it were, was spellbinding for little children. I highly commend it to those with very young children; you will be tired, but the sudden sensory overload will linger as a sense memory for your children for generations.

                                                                                                                                          * In particular: bacon for Christmas breakfast (which we ate after going to the Mass at Dawn for Christmas Day - Mass having intervened after the gift opening - a good way to break the kids from the focus on loot...). Christmas was the only day of the year we typically had bacon! (Parents from Connecticut, not the South.)

                                                                                                                                        2. Mrs. O's take on Christmas makes Ebenezer Scrooge look like Santa Claus, whereas I get all sappy and damp-eyed at whiffs of pine boughs and stuff. She tolerates that and my habit of sitting up with a bottle of something nice for the Vatican show, even though I'm a lapsed Methodist and atheist besides. We have had an Official Food for Christmas day, roast duck, but nothing special for the Eve, so a couple of years ago I went looking for a nice simple fish dish appropriate to the season, and found a French bistro classic called Morue à la Savoyard, a gratin of potatoes, onion, salt cod and grated cheese. It's kind of fiddly for the home kitchen, having each component prepped and fried separately and then combined, topped with the cheese (a Gruyère typically) and given ten minutes in a hot oven. Well, she loved it, and so did I, and we had that for two years … and then she swore off meat of every kind. And damned if I'll do all that work just for me!

                                                                                                                                          So now CE dinner is whatever we have, and I have my dessert at the Vatican …

                                                                                                                                          1. My grandmother always did an early gathering and fancy dinner for 3 generations of us on Christmas Eve, very Danish, and a rare time when all the little people could eat shrimp and drink champagne. Then we would head to an Episcopal church in New Haven for the late service, to the chagrin of the little people (13 of them), to sing carols and Psalms. Then one year, one of the advent wreaths with candles in the church caught fire, and it spread to all the other wreaths and filled the enormous chapel with fire and smoke. The Christmas carol we were singing abruptly turned into a chant of Go! Go! Burn, baby, burn! , mostly from my family's section.
                                                                                                                                            As years passed and the tale endured, all the subsequent little people wanted to attend the late service with hopes for a repeat performance.

                                                                                                                                            1. For several years now, we have the seven-fishes Christmas Eve dinner with a bunch of friends--we all used to be neighbors, and remain friends. We don't get to see each other often these days, and the kids are all adults now and they still look forward to this wonderful, wonderful meal with friends. It is a great way to spend Christmas Eve!

                                                                                                                                              1. I started a tradition in my teens that Christmas Eve would be an evening just for me and my parents. On Christmas Day we are with a big group of extended family, and I wanted to do something for the three of us...

                                                                                                                                                I cook us a 3 course meal, followed by a boozy apple cider drink that my father loves. He is a lightweight and always gets a little tipsy. :)

                                                                                                                                                This year I'm making shrimp bisque soup, Gordon Ramsay's beef wellington with roasted new potatoes and spinach, and pear caramel mascarpone trifle.

                                                                                                                                                Now that I'm married our little group of 3 has become 4, and hopefully soon a little one will bring it to 5.