For day 13, I tried to make mini-gingerbread houses...and failed. You can read all about my attempts here. Day 15 is to hang some mistletoe in the house. I'm off to town tomorrow (after Church I need to get me some big knitting needles!) and I'll have a look for some then.
Day 14 is to make a recipe traditional to your family. There is only one traditional recipe my family has: my grandmothers sherry trifle. I couldn't make it on day 14, as the recipe ends up making a ridiculous amount of trifle. And I have no clue how to make it smaller. Plus I'm all junk fooded out! What with the gingerbread, and the sweets from the gingerbread, plus the office Christmas lunch yesterday, my body is currently screaming "GIVE ME FRUIT! GIVE ME VEGETABLES! PLEASE, PLEASE, NO MORE JUNK". It has this wonderful habit of stopping me from overindulging for too long.
I wont make the trifle, but I will talk about it.
My childhood Christmases were rather different to those of the Northern Hemisphere. As I was born in South Africa, Christmas didn't come with cold weather and the possibility of snow. Instead it's right in the middle of summer. Every Christmas day my family would head up the coast to a little place called Onrus, about a 15 minute drive from Hermanus (any wale watchers may know of that place). By my family, I don't mean my parents and a few others. No, it was my parents, grandparents, great grandparent, a few of my aunts and uncles, great aunts and uncles, cousins, second cousins...Basically, it was a massive annual family reunion. We would descend upon this campsite for 2 weeks of holiday. Everyone seemed to have their little corner, and we didn't take up one single area. Instead, we were spread out, which was wonderful for us children as we were allowed to roam free (just not to the beach) with the adults knowing that there was someone, somewhere, not that far off. My parents would come for Christmas day, head home on boxing day, then come for a few days over New Years. Every year they intended for me to come home with them. Every year my mother would pack a bag for me, just in case. And every year, from the age of 1, I managed to stay with my grandparents. For two weeks of the year I was a slightly spoilt, ragamuffin urchin allowed to roam wild and free.
Christmas day would see everyone setting up their tents and caravans, with the children trying their best to get away from having to help, and failing. And then Christmas dinner would begin. Each person had their own dish, their own recipe and the feast would be laid out around my grandparents tent. I can't remember much of what we ate. Most of the food would have been cooked over the fire, in potjie pots (like witches cauldrons that get placed in the centre of a fire. They make delicious slow cooked meals.). I would have eaten my fair share of main course and promptly forgotten about it. Because, as I still know to this day, the most important meal of the day is dessert.
There was the traditional Christmas pudding, made by my great-grandmother, that I only ate because "You have to eat some of Nanny's Christmas pudding". I'd still protest I didn't want any until someone reminded me that there was the chance I'd get some money in my piece. Even at a young age I had a mercenary streak.
Then there was my grandmother's trifle. I suppose it isn't anything special. There isn't a magic ingredient known only unto her and special people. Perhaps there's a bit more sherry in it than usual. What makes it special to me, to my uncle (who will make it every year and then leave it around my parents for me to finish it) is the memories. That trifle is every summer spent camping. It's the memories of family who we wish we could be with, of summer, laughter and happiness. Of my grandfather, who is no longer with us, and my grandmother, who has never been the same since he died. In my family, we don't care about what we eat on Christmas day. We don't need a special starter or main course. Turkey is rarely served up. We don't have a centrepiece and decoration is to a minimum. We'll have something special to eat (of course) but the menu changes every year. What's important is that we come together as a family, a smaller unit than that of my childhood, my uncle and father's childhood and early adult years.
And at the end of the day, when we're too stuffed to think about anything else, we dig into that trifle. There's always too much made, always plenty left over for us to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner the next day if we want. We joke about who will eat more of it, moan about there being too much or too little sherry, and as we eat, the memories come flooding back.