I am definitely one of those people who respond well to praise! You only have to comment on my culinary skills, to find me blushing and handing you another spoonful of whatever deliciousness I have created. This does however have a downside. . .
Having been appropriately applauded by my entire family on my ability to cook for large numbers of people, I find myself with 25 for Christmas dinner, six of whom are ten and under. Of course I would not want to eat anyone else’s home cooked Christmas dinner and the thought of going out to eat at a restaurant on Christmas day is just plain crazy. This means I will be cooking a goose and a turkey, with all the trimmings for my family, to be served at 6pm! I prefer this to the Czech tradition of eating carp. Already the sales of carp are evident as keen customers are buying live, large carps and taking them home in buckets on the tram. The carp will live in the bathtub until it is sacrificed for the Christmas family meal. Other Czech traditions include putting money under plates and the one with the highest value will have the most prosperous year ahead. However leaving the table during the meal is a very risky business, as first person to leave will die in the following year. You have been warned!
My in-laws are not British, so we are very indulgent and get in effect two Christmases, the Continental one on the 24th and the British one on the 25th. On Christmas eve we go to their house and enjoy a delicious meal, opening of gifts all followed by bell ringing. It all started many years ago when we were given christmas crackers with teeny-tiny hand bells in them. My father in-law is a musical genius, on just hearing the bell he points to us and we have to ring our bell. This produces a tune, a Christmas carol, much laughter and astonishment. I think he uses magic to achieve this but at 84, he is a great wizard.
Our ritual is to spend the Christmas day with our ‘own’ families and then get together for the main event at my house. The only fish we will be having is a little smoked salmon for breakfast. We usually have this with some chilled champagne but that is different this year (read next paragraph!) I am hoping some of the little members of the party who will have risen early to see if Father Christmas visited will fall asleep about 7pm. It might reduce the noise levels.
The other piece of flattery came in a phone call from a member of our home Parish. On hearing that we were back in the UK for Christmas, she called to ask if I could organise the nativity at our Church for Christmas day Mass. She started by telling me I had done such a good job in years gone by and the usual lady, who had replaced me in 2008 was unable to do it this year. This means Christmas morning I will not be having the usual champagne breakfast but holding fire until after Mass, which will hopefully pass without too much trouble. The little darlings of our Parish can act out the story of the nativity, there will not be a dry eye in the Church, if I get it right! Or there could be tears rolling down the cheeks of the parishioners for all the wrong reasons.
Merry Christmas everyone!