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Minimise the fuss, maximise the fun for a successful feast.
Back in my early 20s, when backpacking around South America, I spent Christmas in Colombia with the family of a rather dodgy Colombian boyfriend. My paramour’s father was in attendance with not just his newest wife, but his five previous wives and all their children, and more cousins and aunts and uncles than you could imagine anyone ever being related to.
At around 11pm on Christmas Eve we dined on a big slab of dry corned beef and cassava, and then the tables were cleared so the salsa band could perform. Around dawn on Christmas Day, somewhat worse for wear,
we all piled into the family car and headed to the local abattoir, where a bucket of fresh blood and some ox hearts were purchased. Then it was back home for a Christmas feast of boiled blood and hearts grilled over the hibachi. Oh joy! This was a very special treat in honour of the New Zealand guest. My advice: don’t leave home. No one else ever does Christmas right.
Every culture has its traditions and rituals that collectively anchor us and provide a sense of place and belonging and reassurance. Usually it’s not until you enter someone else’s culture that you realise what you miss about your own.
That said, by the time Christmas comes around most of us are already frazzled. Do whatever you can to simplify the day. If making gravy causes last minute stress, forget about it serve your turkey with a tangy relish or salsa verde instead. Share the love and get everyone to contribute to the menu with a salad or dessert or if they’re not a cook put them in charge of the decorations or the wine or washing the dishes afterwards.
Most importantly, come up with a menu that involves as much advance preparation as possible. Once everything is good to go, pop the bubbles, pour a festive cocktail and settle in to enjoy the feast of the year.