Christmas traditions are the best. A lot of people do Elf on the Shelf. Some families bake Christmas cookies every year or make gingerbread houses. My family always wear matching pajamas on Christmas Eve and sometimes, not always, but sometimes, we have a Basque feast on Christmas day. I have heard of families having Chinese or Mexican food on Christmas, as well. I think there is something about the spirit of Christmas that makes us want to embrace our cultures, our families.
My husband and I both grew up in Northern Nevada where there is a rich Basque population. The Basque people came to America from Spain where they were primarily sheep herders. I am not Basque but my husband and children are. His grandparents owned large cattle ranches and would celebrate every Christmas with family and food. The family became so big they eventually had to rent the convention center and we took our children last in 2006. My husband and his sisters remember fondly their Tias cooking delicious food every year: clams and rice, rice pudding, beef short ribs, cabbage soup, salad, beans, bread, squid, chorizo. These are all the holiday trimmings. My father-in-law passed away in 2010 but his daughters have painstakingly perfected the recipes of their childhood and brought it to our families, here in Montana.
Basque cuisine is served family style even in the authentic restaurants and our Christmas feast has several courses. It begins with an iceberg salad tossed with an oil and vinegar dressing, perfectly crusted bread served with a spicy bowl of chorizo flavored pinto beans and then another bowl of perfectly seasoned cabbage soup. Time for a break because I’m already properly stuffed.
We are so blessed to have a large family here. The children are all almost grown and we are a family of nearly twenty. Now, the adults are outnumbered by towering teenaged men and giggling tweenaged girls. They do eat a lot of food.
Next we move on to the clams and rice. A big bowl for shell disposal, the clams are tender, the rice flavorful and there is just enough soup for one more piece of bread. The beef melts in your mouth and it goes perfect with a second helping of everything. Oh, so stuffed!! But dessert! The rice pudding is a must, cold and milky with a thick crust of cinnamon on top.
Time to open presents! I love this time of year because there are so many things to be grateful for and to look forward to. It always feels a little sad when it’s over. This Christmas, I look forward to Basque food, twinkling Christmas lights, lots of snow and opening presents. What are you looking forward to this Christmas? Does your family have any traditions? I would love to hear about them in the comments below!