Tales of Christmas

While I spent a good portion of the weekend sick with a cold, curled up on the couch watching the latest season of ‘Dexter’ (cheery, I know), this Christmas still turned out to be quite a good one.  The festivities began Friday night with a delicious Christmas dinner.  Since Elliott was leaving Christmas Eve morning to spend the weekend with his family, we decided to celebrate on the 23rd. For an appetizer I baked half of a goat cheese log, covered with sun-dried tomatoes and olive oil all in a small, covered ceramic dish.  That served as the dip for my favorite pita bread.  And, of course, we also savored a glass of pinot grigio.  We marinated a pork tenderloin in some leftover red wine I’ve had sitting in the fridge for a good two months, herbs de Provence, white pepper, olive oil and lemon juice.  All of this sat in a crock pot while we drove through McAdenville, donned Christmastown USA since the entire town dresses up its houses and yards for the season.  For a town that’s all of two miles long, during Christmas you can expect to sit in traffic waiting for up to 90 minutes just to catch a glimmer of the first house all lit up in twinkling lights.  Growing up here, I’ve visited this small town “Tinseltown” every year for twenty-six years.  Since the mill houses have been torn down and replaced with cookie cutter townhomes, it doesn’t exert the same warmth and community feel as it once did.  Unlike years past, there weren’t families perched in their rocking chairs dressed up as jolly Christmas characters singing holiday inspired tunes and passing out hot chocolate.  Alas, I felt that one of the revered institutions of my childhood had since died.

When we finally returned home an hour and a half later, dinner was almost ready.  The smell of wine and spices filled my little house. Almost half asleep by this time, I still managed to prepare a cranberry chutney and baked sweet potato coins.  The flavors blended so well together and the pork was soft enough to cut with just a fork. We watched the new ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ while we ate. It was a magical pre-Christmas feast 🙂

The evening of Christmas Eve, I did a little grocery shopping with my mom and entertained my 15 month old nephew, Mason, while she cooked.  I did get to help her make some German chocolate cookies and chex mix.  Then, I journeyed home to make some fresh OJ in my new Breville juicer and a spinach and bacon quiche for Christmas morning.  That was the best glass of orange juice I have ever had. I foresee my new juicer getting lots of use in the days to come…

Mason dancing with a broom

I was told to arrive at my parents at 7:30 a.m. on Christmas morning or else I would miss Santa’s visit.  Late as usual, I got there at 8:30. My parents had just gotten up and my sister and nephew were still in bed….so I guess if I’m always late, my family is always later. I made coffee and put the quiche in the oven so it’d be nice and hot and anxiously waited for my mom to make bubble bread, a Clanton Christmas morn staple. Soon after, everyone was up and ready for presents.  Mason sat in his new Toy Story fold out chair-bed, which served as a sort of throne while he opened various things that made shrill sounds and played repetitive music.  Mason loves to dance and he puts his entire body into it as he shuffles and drops to the floor like a baby freestyler. Needless to say, there was a lot of dancing. Since he’s still small and doesn’t exactly know how to unwrap, I helped him pull apart the edges of the paper.  He would peek in and wait for me to do the rest of the tearing to reveal whatever new treat he’d just received. Then he’d ‘ooh’ and clap wildly with excitement.  There’s only one word to describe this scene – precious. The rest of us exchanged gifts and took turns trying out Mason’s new toys for ourselves before heading to my paternal grandparents’ for a traditional, albeit multicultural, Christmas lunch.  My grandmother is from Okinawa, Japan, so we have your ordinary Christmas feast with turkey, ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing and cranberry sauce. We also have sweet and sour pork, fried rice, sushi and seaweed soup.  Holiday visitors usually enjoy this eclectic mix and those tend to be the dishes that run out the quickest. My mouth becomes a literal melting pot. Some other things you typically see at a Clanton family Christmas are: my grandfather walking around with a tin of cookies talking about how much he hates sweets as eats them all, the 4 great-grandboys (all under age 4) taking each other’s toys and pulling hair, all the men watching football and all the women staying out of the chaos in the kitchen.  It is never a relaxing, stress-free day.

My mom’s parents both passed away this last year and a half, so there was a sort of melancholy over the weekend.  In this season of births and blessings, it was apparent that my nephew came into this world at the perfect time.  He was the focus of the day, which turned out to be a good distraction from those that weren’t with us to celebrate.  I went to sleep Christmas night with a full belly and the beautiful memories I have about the other family traditions: my grandfather acting as Santa and climbing on the roof over our bedrooms to yell ‘Ho, Ho, Ho, Merry Christmas’ (this signaled it was time to get up and run to the living room), spending the two days before Christmas helping my grandmother concoct recipe after recipe to produce melt-in-your-mouth treats, and an unopened box of chocolate covered cherries for my grandfather hidden under the Christmas tree.  As all the grandchildren become adults and Mason grows up, those will be some of the stories that we share every year at Christmas, remembering.

I hope you had a fabulous, nostalgic Christmas as well!


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