Christmas is a festival that is celebrated all over the world. It’s a time for sweet indulgences, fun parties, for shopping, for dressing up, for listening to Christmas carols, for decorating the tree, for Santa Claus popping up all over the place, for getting presents and for giving. In our family, it’s also the time for traditions. Being Christian, we have a host of family traditions that start from the beginning of December and sometimes even earlier.
Putting up the Christmas tree and lights while listening to our favourite carols and arranging the hand picked decorations that are carefully unpacked and repacked each year. Much like the tradition of Golu dolls, I have a personal tradition of buying 1 handcrafted Xmas tree ornament every year. Last year I bought a beautiful angel made from coconut fibre and jute and the previous year it was a Channapatna lacquered wooden reindeer. On Xmas eve we wrap a few presents (usually one each) and place them under the tree once the kids have gone to asleep. We also hang up personalized Christmas stockings filled with little treats and toys. Even our dog Tashi has her own personalized stocking!
And finally, around 10 days before Christmas, we start making a range of cookies, sweets and cake to indulge and share. I have been blessed to have a mother and a mother-in law who both still make amazing Xmas fruit cakes that they prep over several months (cutting up the fruit and nuts, soaking them in rum for a month and then slow bake the cake) and so I’ve not needed to make my own.
But we make a bunch of cookies and a few Goan sweets like kulkuls and milk toffee every year. And that brings me to the point of my article. For me, there are two important messages about Christmas and any religious festival that we as Indians might celebrate:
- The message of giving and sharing (which is almost more important than receiving) as a family tradition, and
- The traditions related to celebrating with food –making cookies, cakes, sweets and savoury snacks/dishes. The loving acts of preparing plates of sweets/food to share with our neighbours and of planning and cooking a special feast for lunch or dinner on the festival day.
As I’ve said in my book Everyday Love, food is more than just nutrition – it has social and communication functions too. It is something that bonds families, and is a source of celebration, especially during festivals. Family traditions are passed on through traditional dishes and special meals.
With the abundance of ready-made cakes and cookies and chocolates, it would be so easy to just go out to a store and buy some or go out to a restaurant to eat that Xmas lunch or dinner, but it’s preserving the traditions around food and festivals that makes some of the best memories for us and for our children.
Regarding gifts, it’s the same principle. Homemade gifts and cards for close family and friends are simply special. Sharing gifts or donating money to the underprivileged is another tradition that we encourage and remember to make the time for, year after year.
So this Xmas, say Noto store-bought treats and lay out a table that is both pretty and (relatively) healthy. Do cook with your children or allow them to try these recipes by themselves. Here are 2 recipes from my cookbook Everyday Love – A Mother’s Guide to Healthy Cooking for Kids.
EVERYDAY LOVE COOKBOOK WOULD MAKE A GREAT HEALTHY GIFT FOR YOUR LOVED ONES THIS XMAS OR FOR THE NEW YEAR. Its available from www.sharmilacooksforkids.com or from Amazon India