Holy Days

Little Christmas Eve

My late mother-in-law, born in this country to parents who emigrated
from Sweden, sometimes had a party for her children and grandchildren
on Little Christmas Eve. It was her way of compromising, because
Christmas Eve was a big night in her tradition for home and food, but
my little family was going to church. On those evenings we would enjoy a groaning smorgasbord that filled her table: Swedish
meatballs with lingonberries, smoked salmon with mustard sauce, strong
black coffee and pepperkaker for dessert.

I miss her. Since her death in 1998, the charming Swedish horses have all gone to one set of grandchildren, and I doubt I will see them this year. The children will hang paper Swedish flags on their dad’s tree. And we have many little red wooden figures on ours as a reminder.

Filling in a blank from yesterday’s comments, childhood friend and I are pretty sure her ancestress Daisey and my dad’s friend Eggnog were related, having a family name in common. I once asked my dad why his friend Charlie, a high school classmate, had been called Eggnog? In his unbelievably dense drawl, Daddy replied, "Because he drank some once."

I pressed and received the further detail that Charlie had quite a lot of eggnog at a debutante party, and nearly fell into the punch bowl.

Eggnog became a pilot in WWII and died while flying a mission in Europe.

He is one of the long-gone friends my dad never forgot. I’m sad that I can’t plug him directly into a family tree, but I know his family was related by marriage to my mother’s family and that ties him right back to my dad again. My hometown, Jane Austen’s Village, really was that small in the 1930’s, when my dad was in high school. Everybody knew everybody, or I guess I should say everybody who was white knew everybody else who was white.

So I am thinking of Daddy and Eggnog this morning. Hope they’re drinking one together at some heavenly debut party.

But you wanted to know about the meat loaf, didn’t you?

A few years ago we had the extended family here for Christmas dinner. I felt some pressure to do a big beef meal, since others had done so in the years immediately prior. I ordered a prime rib, so many ribs per person (am I thinking of the right thing?). Pure Luck is not a big meat eater. If he’s eating beef, he prefers it ground. He was not excited about prime rib.

With a slight attitude, I asked, "Well, then, what sort of festive main course do you want to eat on Christmas Day?"

"Meat loaf," he replied.

"You want meat loaf?"

"Yes."

"You think it’s festive?"

"I think it’s very festive."

There was a moment of silence. I gathered my composure. I smiled and meant it.

"All right, then. We will have a Festive Christmas Meat Loaf."

So you see, what makes it festive is not the ingredients (although I do add cheerful grated carrots), but the attitude of the cook and the one who will consume it. It’s now a family story of a gently joking nature. Sort of like Eggnog’s nickname.

I hope my children will be telling it to their children some day.

13 thoughts on “Little Christmas Eve”

  1. What a fabulous story…rich and moving and lovingly told.
    I’d love to hear you preach sometime. 🙂
    Have a merry Little Christmas Eve, a holy and blessed Christmas Eve, and a joyful Christmas Day!

  2. wow
    I LOVE your definition of festive
    and the info about your late MIL was SO interesting. I can imagine her having that party to bring ‘a taste of home’ to her kids and grandkids. Bravo! Part of Christmas IS tradition and they are worth repeating and the stories worth telling
    Blessed Christmas SB and thank you for your support and love during 2006. You are very much appreciated by me!

  3. Ah, this is wonderful! I love family traditions that bring to mind how much those, now in the Church Invisible, mean to us.
    How many days? Is it soon?
    Are you here yet???

  4. This is a great story. Or set of stories. And a reminder to me to maintain composure in the face of endless frustration, as the paint-the-dining-room-in-December project means that I can find NOTHING. Festive is about hostess and guests, not about whether there are the serving dishes you thought there were!

  5. these are wonderful stories!
    i was hoping for a meatloaf recipe, and i guess you gave one.
    merry christmas!

  6. Thank you Songbird, for sharing these stories. I love your definition of festive – it’s right on.
    I think Festive Meatloaf is simply a grand idea! My mother would have enjoyed it too – her favourite treat in the world was leftover meatloaf on fresh bread.
    Merry Christmas Songbird!

  7. A great reminder that “festive’ is more about love and joy and being with your favorite people than about what’s on the table. Personally I’d love to have my mom’s meat loaf for Christmas.
    Merry Christmas, Songbird! Thanks for all your friendly encouragement this year.

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