Hmmm, I'm thinking about one family tradition that continues year after year but I'm coming up with little. Oh wait. There's the Eggnog recipe and I think this is the one family tradition I've adopted and kept going! Aside from that, family means the world to me and I try to honor that when I decorate in my home.
The bulk of our family resided in Maryland so Christmas growing up was just the four of us in Georgia, until Lauren was born in 1989 and then, not to my liking, we were a damn party of five. "No, we have to wait until Baby Lauren wakes up before we open the gifts," Mom told Nicole and me on Christmas in 1989. It was nearing 9:00 am and this was ludicrous so I took matters into my own hands, "I'll be right back. I have to pee..."
"Hey, hey, Baby Lauren! Wake up!" I whispered in a panic as I nudged her in her crib. Jesus Christ, child, wake the fuck up, I'm 8 years old and I have presents to open!
"Mom! Lauren's awake!" I announced right after I did a quick toilet flush like I had peed.
For years, we would go to the movie theater on Thanksgiving, then come home and eat a Turkey feast, canned cranberry sauce that plops out of the can onto a nice plate still in can-form, green bean casserole with the canned fried onions and Campbell's cream of something soup. Dad made his mashed potatoes from scratch. There was usually a Libby's pumpkin pie to follow. We'd eat at a regular dinner hour and not early like most. Then we'd watch the lighting of Rich's Great Tree in Atlanta on the family television that was encased in carved wood and sat on the floor. Mom would sit and enjoy it until Monica Kauffman would come on and sing, Oh Holy Night, and then Mom would start bitching about how much she hated Monica Kauffman and would proceed to the kitchen to clean up. Post "Home Alone" craze, we'd watch that on tv after Thanksgiving dinner and after the televised Atlanta Tree lighting, but not before Channel 2 Action News had to do a bit on the Macaulay Culkin shaving scene, where he slaps his face and screams. Channel 2 went around Atlanta taking videos of everyday children doing this. I remember thinking it was stupid. My parents tried to insert our Home Alone VHS so to avoid commercials, but I'd argue that I wanted to watch it live with the rest of America and see all the Christmas commercials. Usually on Thanksgiving night we'd set up the Christmas tree. I'd separate the branches by color and proudly insert them into the base. I took pride in this task and after several years, the color codes had faded so it was a challenge when most colors were rust. Mom always strung the lights on the tree and warned us to leave the room, since light stringing is a cuss word-inducing chore. I now know. How many "mother fucker"s I've thrown out this Christmas season alone when battling my own lights! Almost daily when I see my upside down tree with it's middle completely dim, because one whole strand of C9s went out after decorating it, I mutter "mother fucker" as I walk by. I feel your pain, Mom. I feel it.
Christmas Day as a kid seems to have mirrored Thanksgiving in our family. I'd always call Katie on the kitchen telephone and we'd spend an hour at my house and an hour at hers, comparing our gifts. My gifts were usually purchased in September so Katie's were always more current and cooler. We'd then do that whole go-to-the-movies shit and then come home and eat at 6:00 pm, just the four, and then one day five, of us. Turkey was replaced with a Honey Baked Ham and there was that damn green bean casserole in the vintage Corningware dish again. Cranberry sauce got an upgrade and was mixed with jello, diced apples and nuts (it was also in a Corningware dish). Mom would sometimes prepare a Hashbrown casserole that would rival Cracker Barrel's. In the mid-90s we'd used my Grandmother's fine china and at this point I was washing the dishes and I hated every moment of not being able to shove these suckers in the dishwasher. We didn't do fancy, we did us on a grander scale and it was perfect.
Since my Dad passed in 2007, we've been doing it differently every year. Two years ago, I decided to take on a traditional Dickens-style Christmas dinner for 20 people and told everyone to only bring themselves and a hearty appetite. I prepared a standing rib roast, Yorkshire pudding, brussels sprouts salad, mashed potatoes and a stone fruit pie and I spent somewhere around a million dollars. Last year, everyone was told to bring one dish so it was more like a Casserole party with this family and there was such a variety- from jambalaya to tamales to chicken 'n dumplings- it was fantastic! This year, our theme is Mexican and we're doing Feliz Navidad with Cranberry Margaritas and Mom is making her enchilada recipe that is so not Mexican and features a Campbell's cream of something soup (I think? Maybe it's Lipton's). Among the food traditions we have kept, Nicole took on Dad's mashed potato recipe years ago, Lauren will pay a few quarters for a can of cranberry sauce to plop on a plate and I've adopted the Eggnog recipe. The high calorie, super potent, give-you-a-hangover-the-next-day Eggnog. It gave me a hangover last week but doesn't always. I think you need to eggnog prep yourself and eat well and be hydrated. I had hardly eaten that day and was "hydrating" with a side of white wine.
I remember Mom always making Eggnog and people seemed to get louder and more animated after a glass. She'd pour it in a crystal punch bowl with a plastic ladle and set it in its own corner in the blue duck-clad dining room during parties. You know it's serious when your specialty drink gets put in a corner! As a teenager, I was fairly sheltered and innocent but my friends and I would sneak a tiny sip at my parents' Christmas party and feel the warmth of the whisky in our chests and feel so naughty. I'm happy to share the recipe because I've met a lot of people here in the South that have only had the grocery store kind and when they take a sip of the homemade Eggnog, their faces light up, their eyes widen and they say, "Ooooooh!" It is a fun drink! In this moment I feel like I'm doing my part to educate the people and make the world a better place.
Hope y'all try the eggnog recipe! Thanks for coming by!