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christmas 2011

Growing up I always longed for a huge 10 foot plus Christmas tree decorated just like the ones in the department stores with matching sets of lights, ornaments and garlands. Matching sets of linen, plates, cutlery and glasses on the Christmas table. Matching wrapping paper on all the presents under the tree too. All coordinated down to their ribbons and tags. Tidy, matching sets. It never happened, but I thought sets would be the way to make everything perfect on that day.

Maybe it's with increasing age or maturity (I'm not sure - especially with the latter), but nowadays I realise that Christmas is not about creating matching sets at all. It's about celebrating the individual, and when I say Christmas I mean all holidays, celebrations or simply 'downtime' when we take a step out of the normal day to day routines of the year. I no longer aim for matching sets on holidays. I've let that go. I have a new deeper love and appreciation for our holiday tree with all it's individual and unique ornaments we have gathered over the years. Spending time finding and adoring many old favourites, and the stories they remind me of. I think this is an analogy that can be spread to all aspects of our celebrations - to the day on which we choose to have them, the food we prepare and the people we choose to spend our time with, and not only how we choose to decorate or set our table. We don't need matching sets. Christmas needn't be on the 25th of December. For us, as many of you who follow my ramblings will know, we've moved our Christmas to the 25th of July. That's when we as a family feel 'Christmassy'. It's cold here in New Zealand then, the nights are long, our fairy lights can be enjoyed from 4pm instead of 3 minutes before we head off to bed at 10pm at night.

A celebration needn't be "Christ's Mass" even if it is to fall on the 25th of December. We aren't a church going family, although I was brought up to be Christian with staunch Anglican parents who went every Sunday. I believe the 25th of December isn't Jesus Christ's birth date any more than the 25th of July is. Moreover, Christmas in December has become such a huge commercial evil, that I think "the Church" would do well to reschedule it also. Another reason I love my CIY (Choose It Yourself) Christmas in July, is that it's away from all those commercial pressures.

My celebration needn't be within a birth 'family' set. Again I believe some sets simply don't fly, so why force it? Families are often broken up for various reasons - by choice or not. Why make any important day in your year, or your life, for that matter, unpleasant. Blood relative sets aren't Christmas either, they may well not even be family. I encourage you to choose and be with the people who are really important, who really lift you up, treat you and acknowledge you as an individual, not just part of their set. Remember to celebrate everyone close to you as individual, special and unique, everyday but especially in the holidays. No matter their size, shape, talents... etc. That is the true sign of love and good hospitality.

When it comes to food, I also believe your celebration needn't require a large roasted animal with all the matching trimmings. Just because you choose to prepare a turkey doesn't mean you need to make stuffing, especially if no one attending your celebration enjoys that part of it. Nor does one day's celebration need to contain the most impressive array of time consuming and expensive recipes. Remember it's your celebration. Make it your way. Create your own traditions. Create your own themes. A "cluck" of roast chickens instead of 1 oversized dry turkey, a pot luck, a barbecue, macaroni cheese, potato salad, popcorn or pizza, a mishmash of favourites - perhaps from several different cuisines or an Indian vegetarian inspired buffet. Perhaps I'm preaching to the already converted. Apologies if this is so, but if not, why turn a day of celebration into a hair pulling experience, slaving away if you're not enjoying it whether in 30 degrees Celcius or -5. Don't use it as an excuse to be snobbish about how much you spent on your Champagne and Foie Gras either. I endorse only doing, creating that which really makes you and your love one's tummies truly happy. It also pays to remember Christmas is just one day - all going well you should get several more afterwards. If you have a lot of ideas and recipes you want to make, space them out, perhaps delegate a few to New Years, or hold a Mid-Winter/ Mid-Summer feast - it may help save some space in your refrigerator this week too.

I guess the point I want you to think about is: your Christmas/Holiday/Celebration has so many choices - CIY - create it yourself. Don't let large commercial companies, other people or unhappy traditions tell you what you need to buy, eat, do, wear, decorate with or when.... Create a meal and celebration you'll enjoy remembering and looking back on for years to come, rather than an experience you would rather forget.

In this spirit of uniqueness, individuality and unmatched sets, I've chosen 12 recipes, some of my personal Christmas/Celebration favourites from 12 different countries and cultures to share with you. I hope you enjoy them as much as we did. Happy Holidays - Remember you have the choice to make it your best yet!


Christmas 2011 Table of Contents Bron's Thoughts for Christmas 2011 Australia BBQ Chili Mango Prawns Brazil Pudim de Leite Condensado Canada Chocolate Pecan Butter Tartlets
France Buche de Noel Greece Kourabiedes Scented Almond Shortbread Germany Gluhwein India Cream Cheese and Cumin Murukku Italy Panforte Japan Christmas Rudolph Bento
New Zealand Ice Cream Christmas Puddings England Christmas Ham Sweden Rice Pudding Until Next Time
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