Twenty one years and counting.
The teenager who once donned costumes and wrote plays for our annual Christmas celebration, does her part now by asking “will there be goat cheese?” The boy, eleven, enthusiastic in spirit, selected the country based on the amount of chocolate involved. Yet, it wouldn’t be Christmas in our house without celebrating traditions of another country.
Truthfully, the children don’t own this tradition. When Dan and I, not married perhaps engaged (Christmases are an amalgam of ornaments and faces), celebrated an early Christmas before departing for our respective family holidays. Not satisfied with the idea of ham for two and sitting cozy by the fire, we thought we should make our celebration more interesting. More international. More themed. We were afterall living in the city whereJesuss themed restaurants were born.
That year we chose Japan, surely for cuisine and not for the wild Christmas traditions. We rolled our own sushi and got drunk on sake. As Dan rolled a tight tekka maki, I knew that I needed this man with sushi mite in my life. Had we been truly authentic to modern day Japanese Christmas customs we would have ordered carryout from here. Many countries have slithered into our Christmases. Some good, some challenging. We brought our act on the road. Had it catered one year. Hosted friends and family. Every year, when we think it’s just our little thing, friends come out of the woodwork asking “what country is it this year?”
And so in 2011 (Griswold drumroll please) we will honor the country that sits center to Italy (2002), Germany (1994), and France (1996), one that doesn’t take sides, and where chocolate fondue prevails: Swiss Chris.
This year our celebration will land on Christmas night with grandparents, when Big Ted (my dad) flies in from Denver and MIL Nancy comes in from down the road.
For nearly two months, we have been using a makeshift kitchen while things like load bearing beams, foundations, and a 1/4″ coating of dust are installed in our kitchen. We weren’t sure if a dining table was even possible until a few days ago, so our meal from Switzerland honors traditions and cuisines true to the country, yet caters to the tastes of our diners and scenario. It’s so like the Swiss to make everyone happy.
We’ll start with a big helping of Kirsch in aCherry Gin Smash from Martha., Cheese Fondue (guilty, bought a shredded cheese packet from Gelsons, we’ll add a big helping of white wine), sausage, baby swiss cheese, spiced nuts, crudités with herbed dip, andsalmon tartare. We’ll add dinnerlike items to the table: roasted capon and swiss chard with currants and pine nuts. And Christmas wouldn’t be Swiss without heaps of cookies (we made my mom’s two notables) and chocolate fondue. Update: thanks Garrett McCord for that photo. My first batch of fondue seized. Who knew chocolate was like an freakin’ science project. Batch two will be ready for Christmas.
In Switzerland, where people are less frantic, customs range depending on neighboring influence, but most acknowledge Samichlaus, the mystical man who delivers presents along with his darker sidekick and coal distributorSchmutzli. in the German part of the country and Père Fouettard (from “whip”) in French, Samichlaus’s alter ego usually carries a broom of twigs for administering punishment to children whose behaviour throughout the year has not been up to scratch. Prior to Christmas, there is a parade where men walk with lit headdresses called mitres. Poems are read by elders. Although I don’t have a commitment from our boys on this one, I’m hoping an activity will pull itself together by tomorrow night. In the meantime…
On behalf of the German Swiss (because Switzerland doesn’t have its own language):
SchÃ¶ni Wiehnachte und es guets Neus