My father’s side of the family was very traditional with the foods they served during Christmas. Everyone would gather at my Aunt’s home that usually held celebrations for 40-50 people annually.
There would be food as far as the eye can see. You always start off with the turkey and ham. There would usually be 2 to 3 sets of both meats. One or two would be for the dinner table while another would already be sliced and set in a buffet style so everyone would have their fair share.
The stuffing, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce were all hand made and placed around the table. There were always a few non-traditional foods that made it to the dinner table but were the staples of the family for many years. One of which was hot roast beef that would be simmering in one of the many crockpots lined up besides the main table.
In another was homemade meatballs drowning in tomato sauce. The popularity of the hot roast beef sandwich and the meatball sandwich was obvious because of the line of people waiting to take a bite of the delicious foods. If you did not make at least two plates for each sandwich, you would not get a second chance to make more.
After dinner, the children would sit in the living room and watch the traditional “Charlie Brown Christmas Special” or play Ping-Pong in the basement, while the adults got together by the fireplace to drink and talk about childhood memories.
My mother’s side of the family kept the religious and modern traditions of Christmas. On Christmas Eve, my mother would start early in the morning preparing the dinner. The most popular food was not the mouthwatering turkey but the homemade stuffing.
Taking a couple loaves of bread and splitting them in pieces into a big bowl, then add eggs, celery, and seasoning. From there its placed in a crockpot that’s placed in a pot filled with water where it would slowly cook to perfection.
One thing I would watch my mother do while everything was cooking is to make some soup. She would put in the cook the chicken, the put some in a bowl with some potatoes and a half an ear of corn. It was always great to eat on Christmas or whenever the weather was cold. Little I knew she was making Ajiaco.
Over the years I have tried to add more of my culture into the Christmas dinner by making some Natilla, which is sweet custard usually made on Christmas. Some recipes you can add Aguardiente to the Natilla for a stronger taste but it is optional.
There can’t be a Christmas without buñuelos. They are a Christmas treat for breakfast but are usually eaten throughout the year with some coffee or homemade hot chocolate. In between preparing the dinner, everyone in the family would help with decorating the home and the Christmas tree with lights and garland.
The youngest member of the family would have the opportunity to place the angel or the star on top of the tree. While the family goes to church to celebrate the birth of Christ, the children would be home sleeping awaiting the baby Jesus to bring grifts Christmas morning left underneath their beds.
Being Colombian and Irish has opened my eyes to the wonderful holiday traditions that my families have had and how I to keep those traditions going.