For some families, the holidays are all about presents or trips to see the snow. For others, they’re for building fires and watching favorite movies together. For my family, Christmas is all about food. But…not like you may think.
My family isn’t one for elaborate recipes or complex dishes. We love to eat, but we also love to keep things simple. On Christmas Eve we bake cookies, the premade ones from Pillsbury. We’ve been making them since they came out in a slice-and-bake tube and my mom would have to escort me out of the kitchen so I’d quit eating the dough slices as they hit the baking sheet.
Each year for Christmas dinner, we have ham, mashed potatoes, corn, cinnamon apples and rolls. The ham is a precooked honey-baked from the grocery store and just needs to be heated up. The mashed potatoes and cinnamon apples, while occasionally homemade, are just as often store-bought, and the rolls come from the freezer section.
But it’s not really about what’s made at home and what’s not. The cinnamon apples remind me of my grandma—she looked forward to them while the rest of us would politely pick around them. My sister and her husband both mix their corn into their mashed potatoes, always earning a “Yuck!” from my grandpa, who is, as usual, drinking black coffee even though it’s dinnertime. We ask each other to pass the Engelbert Humperdincks, our term for the dinner rolls made by Sister Schubert’s, because years prior my mom couldn’t remember the correct name and just filled it in with the singer’s name instead.
At my dad’s, there’s always an irreverent breakfast Christmas morning. One year, we made bacon, eggs and biscuits while watching the Christmas Day parade. Not much for holiday content, Dad quickly switched it over to Godzilla vs. Mothra, which has become a favorite seasonal movie of mine as a result. Or we’ll have breakfast burritos with chorizo and peppers, because seasonal foods be damned, they’re just what we like to eat together.
So parents, may you feel no pressure to slave away in the kitchen or overspend on presents and trips. Now that I’m all grown up and thinking about a family of my own one day, I realize that elaborate traditions and hours-long recipes aren’t what shaped my childhood Christmas memories. Each year when I get in the car to drive to visit family, I look forward to passing the Humperdincks, preheating the oven for premade cookies, turning up Godzilla so we can hear it in the kitchen and basking in my family…exactly as it is.