Tasty Tuesday: Planning Holiday Food

I’m sitting here in the waning afternoon, listening to Handel’s Messiah for the third time today. Man, there is NOTHING like belting out the “Hallelujah Chorus” or “Worthy is the Lamb.” What an experience. I can chop carrots and celery or knead bread and hit every note. Or I can sip my cider and savor the music. This is an important part of the Christmas season to me. An irreplaceable part, in fact.

The fact that I am sitting here in the half-dark, singing and sipping hot cider while the pumpkin bread bakes tells me that life is manageable right now. We’ve chosen to keep Christmas very simple this year.

The boys all agreed to stretch their creative muscles to the max in finding inexpensive gifts for their brothers and for us so that they can give extravagantly through the Samaritan’s Purse Gift Catalog. They have exceeded our expectations of what they might give. Better yet, there are a few people in their lives who are matching those gifts, so our family is joyfully giving several goats, some stocked fish ponds, medical supplies, sets of clothing, emergency shelters, and survival supplies to people in third world countries who need those things far more than we need a few extra Christmas gifts. The unexpected benefit of this kind of giving has been a much calmer shopping experience the last few days!

This year we’ve stayed home a lot. We’ve spent a lot of evenings together. Spending time together has been an annual priority for us during the Christmas season. It’s so easy to get wrapped around the axle by being frantically, frenetically busy at this time of year. We’ve intentionally chosen to make “staying home together” the default setting in December.

Yes, our kids have still been pretty busy with friends. In fact, last week the boys had a dozen friends over for homemade pizza. I invited a group of friends over for a Sanity night of hot cider and cookies. We’ve gone to a couple of concerts and a Christmas party or two.

One of the key questions for us is this…are we making memories? Is each activity worth the time? worth the energy? worth the busyness? We’re getting better every year at saying no to the things that cost more than they’re worth and YES to the things that we’ll value and treasure forever.

So, how DO we keep the main thing, the main thing? First, it’s important to determine what the main thing is for YOUR family. For us, personally, this holiday is a biggie. We’re celebrating the birth of Jesus. That’s huge. But it’s easy to get sucked under with huge guilt for not doing enough church activities at this time of year…I need to remind myself that we celebrate the birth of Jesus every single day of the year. We don’t have to attend every church event out there.

We also celebrate our family. We LOVE each other. As important, we LIKE each other. It’s good! This is a time to remember that. This is a time to TAKE time. To sit and talk, to play games, to laugh, to eat. If we don’t get all the gifts purchased or all the activities done, it’s OKAY. If we take the time to be together and love each other and remember why we celebrate Christmas, we’ve done the important stuff.

Well, I’m rambling now. Everyone’s Christmas looks different. Every family is different. I challenge you to walk through the next few days, intentionally making the Christmas memories that you want to spend the rest of your year savoring.

For most of us, part of savoring Christmas is wrapped up in the smells and tastes of holiday food. Rather than give you a single recipe today, I want to share a couple of links to holiday meals that both my sister and I have planned, prepared, and served over the last couple of years. It really helps to have A Plan for the days surrounding Christmas and I hope you’ll find some ideas here.

2006 Christmas Menus at Laura’s House

2006 Christmas Menus at Barb’s House

2007 Christmas Menus at Laura’s House

2007 Christmas Menus at Barb’s House

And yes, you’ll notice that this year’s menus aren’t up yet. For the most part, both Laura and I are copying the great food we had last year for the holidays. We’ll post some menus and ideas later today on My Sister’s Kitchen. Remember that a little bit of planning can make a huge difference in how memorable your holiday meals turn out to be!

If you still need a few Christmas gifts, check out Last Minutes Gifts from the Kitchen.

Wishing all the moms in the High Country a warm, wonderful, joyful Christmas,