5 December 2008

From Our House to Yours - With Our Favourite Recipes

Merry Christmas, Happy Christmas, Joyeux Noel, Feliz Navidad

Christmas is a magical time of year for many people in many countries. It is a time for tradition and goodwill, but, here in Canada, as in many countries, it has turned into a commercial enterprise where children dream of Santa, toys, and everything else the season has to offer. Christmas decorations go up in stores before Hallowe'en to remind us the "season of giving" is coming...and coming quick!!!!These days our children dream of computer games and Barbie dolls and all other kinds of expensive gifts that will be under the tree. Today a lot of the Christmas traditions that we have here in Canada are taken for granted with no thought of how they came about. I for one am completely guilty and have done just that and have not taken a look at the significance behind these traditions or where they originated in recent years. This seems to be a habit we all can fall into around the holidays, getting caught up in the shopping and commercialism that Christmas has become, and forgetting what Christmas is all about.

Did you also know that Canadians are especially proud to say that their country is the home of Santa Claus who lives at the North Pole?...although the people of Finland might disagree!!!

Kala Christougena, Frohliche Weihnachten, Buon Natale

I have a challenge for you!!! How do you celebrate Christmas in your country or your home? I would like you to create a post on your blog about how you celebrate... your traditions, your countries traditions. Then let me know about it. You can email me here if you like with your post URL or just leave a comment here on this post. I am intersted in how everyone else celebrates .

Canada is a vast country with a diverse history. It was claimed by England in the 1400's and later in the 1600's by a French explorer Samuel de Champlain who founded Quebec City. There was a war and Canada became a country with two distinctive backgrounds living as one....French and English.

For the French Canadian Christmas Eve is the highlight of the holidays. They have prepared for days for the reveillon (the evening meal). They decorate their tree and place the creche (Nativity Scene) underneath the tree before going to Midnight Mass. When they arrive home from church there is traditionally a feast of tourtiere ( meat pie) and various other dishes ending with a Yule Log. Many families of French descent have a huge feast on Christmas Eve that lasts well into the early hours of Christmas morning . The children open their stockings this same night saving the big gifts for New Year's day. Christmas Day for the French is a day for relaxation and for children to play and have fun. At the end of the Christmas season, January 6th, people in the province of Quebec have a celebration called "La Fete du Roi" They bake a cake and place a bean in the middle. Whoever is the lucky discoverer of the bean, gets to be the king or queen, according to tradition. This is similar to a tradition in Spain.

Christmas for English Canadians focuses more on Christmas Day. Many people in Canada have to work on Christmas Eve, but it is also a day of preparation for the approaching holidays. Some people buy last-minute Christmas gifts for family members and friends while others wrap presents that they bought earlier. Many others, particularly those with small children, end the day by hanging up their Christmas stockings. Children are told that Santa comes to fill them with presents during the night. The story of Santa is so important to Christmas in Canada and the United States that the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) maintains a website to allegedly 'track' Santa's movements on Christmas Eve. Christmas Day is reserved for exchanging presents in the morning, off to church if you're so inclined, and back later for a huge feast. If a family is going to eat a traditional meal on Christmas Day, they might begin preparations on Christmas Eve as I do. A traditional Christmas Day meal often consists of roast turkey or goose with squash, turnips, potatoes and cranberry sauce as a main course and mince pies or plum pudding for dessert. However, people may eat dishes as diverse as clam chowder, spiced chicken wings or traditional food from the wide range of cultures represented in modern-day Canada.

Shub Naya Baras, Selamat Hari Krimas, Geseënde Kersfees

Even though the traditions of Christmas were well-established by the time Canada was settled by Europeans, early pioneers did not celebrate the holiday as we do today. Most pioneer families did not put up a Christmas tree. Firstly, small log cabins held no space for such a frivolous item. Secondly, United Empire Loyalists , who were some of the first Canadians, were of English, Scottish, and Irish descent and the tradition of the Christmas tree did not originate in these countries. It was not until Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, introduced the Christmas tree to England that United Empire Loyalists in Canada took on the tradition. Many families put up their Christmas tree and other decorations on Christmas Eve. However, some do this earlier in December and just save a few special decorations for later.

As the country grew early settlers in Canada came from a wide variety of cultural and religious backgrounds. People from each country and region in Europe who moved to Canada often brought their own customs centered on marking the birth of Jesus at Christmas. Present day celebrations consist of a mixture of these customs and the commercial influences that began in the late 1800s and continue today. Christmas today in Canada is a conglomerate of cultures and traditions from all over the world.

As an example the Christmas tree, Advent Calendar and gingerbread house come from Germany. The English introduced greeting cards (and Hallmark ran away with it), from Ireland came the custom of decorating our windows with lights, the United States and the Coca Cola Company gave us Santa Claus, and the French introduced the creche (Nativity) scene and carols. So really a Canadian Christmas is a mixture of various cultures combined to create the festivities we have come to know.

As I have mentioned before Canada is a very large country and people of many different cultural backgrounds live here. Because of this, there are many different Christmas traditions in Canada. Many of the traditions and celebrations come from French, English, Irish, Scottish, German and Aboriginal influences and have been passed down from generation to generation. In some regions, Eskimos observe a big winter festival called Sinck Tuck. It features dances, parties and exchanging gifts. Children in Labrador receive lighted candles pushed into hollowed out turnips that are saved from the summer harvest. Scottish highlanders, who settled in Nova Scotia, over two centuries ago sing British songs and carols on Christmas mornings. During the twelve days of Christmas, small groups of "belsnicklers" or "masked mummers", go from door to door, making rude noises and actions, ringing bells and asking for candy or other treats. If the hosts guess who the mummers are correctly, then they have to remove their disguise and stop behaving badly. Mummers interview the children and those who say that they have been good in the past year, receive candy as reward.

A very important holiday during the season is on December 26, the day after Christmas. For many Canadians, it is a day off work and a chance to visit the post-Christmas sales or watch hockey. Boxing Day is a holiday in the United Kingdom and many countries (including Canada) that were once part of the British Empire. The origin of this holiday's name is not clear. In feudal times in the United Kingdom, the lord of the manor would 'pay' people who worked on his land in the past year with boxes filled with practical goods, such as agricultural tools, food and cloth. These were often distributed on the day after Christmas Day. More recently, employers traditionally gave their servants a gift of money or food in a small box on the day after Christmas Day. Some people in Canada still give gifts to people who provide them with services such as our postal workers. Other stories relate to servants being allowed to take a portion of the food left over from the Christmas celebrations in a box to their families and the distribution of alms from the church collection boxes to poor parishioners. These traditions evolved into the Christmas baskets that some employers distribute to their employees during the holiday season at the end of the year.

Fröhlichi Wiehnacht, Nadolig Llawen, Seasons Greetings!!!!!!

How do we celebrate Christmas in the More Than Burnt Toast household?

With food of course!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You might be interested in some of our traditions:

Blueberry Tea
They Asked for the Recipe Punch
Scottish 'Tattie Scones
Cheddar English Muffin Loaves
My Brother Neil's Shortbread Cookies
Almond Roca
Cranberry Bark
Nanaimo Bars
Chocolate Chunk Shortbread
Mom's Sugar Cookies
Maple Butter Tarts
Stuffed Artichoke Bread
Saltspring Island Cheese
California Rolls
Minnie Me Goat Cheese Tomato Tarts
'Betta Bruschetta
Curried Chicken Mini Pitas
Goat Cheese and Tomato Tart
Creamy Mashed Potatoes with Chives

Easy Cheese Danish
Blueberry Croissant Puffs
Christmas Eve Cheese Fondue and Chocolate Fondue

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  1. I think over the years we've celebrated with many of the activities that you bring up here. Christmas to me is family and food and friends and sharing good times.

  2. Val, Really impressive post with lots of interesting information about how people from different countries celebrate Christmas. Here in the US, we do the traditional Christmas day turkey, though we're celebrating on Christmas Eve this year because my daughter has to work on Christmas (she's a firefighter). I keep trying to get my kids to do a traditional Mexican Christmas dinner since we live in San Antonio, TX but our roots are in Chicago, so we're stuck with turkey. :)

  3. I can't say enough about this post! Thank you for capturing such a beautiful image and passing it along to all of us. I'll have to take you up on that and put together a post on Christmas traditions as well.

    Kales Giortes!

  4. I am going to accept your offer and post about this!

  5. When it comes to Christmas, I have to say my family has no set tradtions. Because my grandmothers were Italian, if I celebrated at one of their homes, it was always fish on Christmas Eve (although my paternal grandmother always made chicken for me). However, once my grandmothers grew too old to do this, holidays have become a mishmash.

    My mother does have a whole lot of heirloom ornaments and creche from Italy that once belonged to my great-grandmother. I look forward to seeing these decorations at her home every year. But dinner often changes from year to year. It's usually ham and/or some kidn of pasta dish like lasagna or manicotti. We eat dinner first, then open gifts, then eat dessert. That way we keep having things to look forward to.

    No one bothers with Christmas Eve anymore. My brother usuallyl spends it with his in-laws.

    Since I married someone Jewish, I have to downplay Christmas a bit. My husband and mother-in-law (since he has no local family) come to Christmas dinner at my mother's place (and they don't celebrate Hanukah)and Christmas Eve could be anything.

    My family's tradition of no tradition kind of works well for us. I wouldn't want to force any sort of tradition.

  6. Val, that was a very interesting post. In Australia, some people celebrate with the traditional turkey and all the trimmings but this has changed recently because people don't want to eat food associated with cold weather. There are lots of bbq's and Santa arrives on a surfboard!...LOL

  7. Such an interesting post! Thanks for the info regarding Canada... Nice traditions! And yes, it has become far too commercial here as well (it also starts at the beginning of October)!

    Cheers and have a nice weekend,


  8. I love your posts Val, seriously, I always learn something, you really put your heart into everything you do. And those recipes....I feel like I hit the jackpot!

  9. I was so impressed with the "Geseënde Kersfees"! You really did a lot of homework for this post, well done!

  10. Wow! Nice post, Val :)

  11. I have tried the Easy Cheese Danish link three times and it's still not working for me... could you re-link? Sounds great. I will be trying your sugar cookie recipe today because the one I did for Tuesdays with Dorie was dry and yours looks better.

  12. I agree Half Cups...Christmas is and should be about family.
    When we still lived close to our family Gloria we would always have a big turkey dinner on Christmas Eve at my sisters.
    I would love to hear about tour readitions Maria and J.!!
    You orobably have traditions you may not think about Short Order. Even among my friends we all celebrate in a different way.
    I'd like to see Santa on a surfboard Peter!!!
    I have a secret confession that I even like some of the commercialism and celebrate Christmas all through December.
    Feel free to try out some our traditional recipes for Christmas Bunny. We are creatures of habit but shake it up once in a while.
    Nina...I tried to find a way to say Merry Christmas in the language of all my foodie friends...South Africa included!
    Thank you Marya-Ann.. I hope you have recovered by now and the English Bloke is eating more than potatoes:D
    The link is fixed G..thanks for pointing it out!!!I love my moms sugar cookie recipe!!!

  13. This is really wonderful, Val. I feel more festive now just after reading it. My family has always celebrated a big Christmas Eve with many seafood dishes. Then Christmas Day was always done on a smaller scale with a ham and veggies. Happy Holiday to you, my dear!

  14. My goodness, seems just like a month ago that I made a Christmas post.

    I'll fire-off a Christmas post to ya soon!

  15. What a great post Val! I love all of the information that you give your readers in your posts! Great roundup of recipes too.

  16. I enjoyed reading all about the traditions in Canada. Although my son will be coming from Switzerland, my other son will be working on Christmas day. I shall try and write something. Kala Christougenna.

  17. Hey Val... In Cuba, Christmas has been mostly repressed for the past 48 years. Cubans here in the US for the most part do what they used to do , which just feast feast and go to Church. I grew up eating on both Christmas Eve and Day, big traditional dinners, usually having a major pig roast in a caja china in the backyard. You invite friends and family to partake in that. And then then the gifts, of course. As an adult now, I've been trying to really get away from the whole shopping and gifting thing; after all Christmas is about celebrating Jesus and HIS birth. So as of late, we only gift one other person in the family so that we can really focus on the other spiritual elements of Christmas.

    Thanks for an inspiring post! :)

  18. Wow, Val, great post and that's a LOT of celebrating at your house (or at least a LOT of cooking). I'll definitely take you up on this challenge - our traditions have really changed over the years and we've had a lot of different ways to celebrate.

  19. I like your traditions. A LOT. I'm hungry.

  20. Incredibly impressed. I was reading your post and looking at the greetings in various languages, and there at the end it was! Nadolig Llawen to you too! I'll be far from my homeland this Christmas, celebrating noche buena in Lima whilst I normally live in Argentina so I'll be missing the turkey and the pudding and the menyn melys (literally sweet butter, like custard, but not quite custard) my mum will be making in Wales, and most likely tucking in to some roast guinea pig...

  21. That's a great overview of how the different traditions celebrate during this holiday season.

    Merry Christmas to you!

    And thanks for adding us as a friend on Foodbuzz. We welcome you to come visit our site!

  22. christmas is a very personal time for most people in greece. we always spend it at home, and i always try to reduce its commercial value. we dont have special meals on christmas day (apart from the sweets tradtionally associated with christmas :melomakarona and kourambiedes), as turkey and ham are imported customs, rather than greek customs. although christmas has its special meaning in greece, easter is the holiday that dominates in the church calendar.
    christmas was much more special in new zealand as it signalled the start of the summer holidays!

  23. That is the Italian way Susan!!
    I know.. 2008 has flown by Peter!!!!!!
    Thanks Judy!
    I loved to hear about you traditions Bren since Cuba is one of my favourite places!!I'll look forward to it Jen.I'm hungry too Em because now it is breakfast...I should be eating my Wheaties.Thanks for visiting Elin I loved hearing about your traditions in Wales as well as Argentina.
    I feel most welcome Nate and Annie.
    Thanks for commenting Maria. Some day I would love to be in Greece at Easter.

  24. What a great way to celebrate Val...& with so much delicious food...WOW!! Been checking out those links you've got at the bottom. Seriously YUMMY stuff you got there! I feel like comin' over!

  25. hey what do you mean, they "allegedly" track Santa? he's totally real! :)
    last year we celebrated christmas with a french canadian dinner. the year before it was a swedish dinner. it's my new favorite tradition.

  26. Kala Christougenna!
    I'm glad to meet you here...what a yummy blog!!

  27. Great post Val. Although we don't "officially" celebrate Christmas in our household, we do take part in the traditions of food, family and friends. I think I should come to your place for Xmas and have you serve everything on he list.
    Also, Santa was around today casing out the mall and having his picture taken. I knew he was real.

  28. Thanks so much for such valuable info, Val!!! A great post♥ I also love to know about traditions and like to keep them alive as long as I can!

    We, Catalans, have a very special way to celebrate Christmas Eve. I will post about it and send it over to you :D

    Feliz Navidad, guapa!

  29. I love all your post ..... and food Vall, so nice!! Gloria


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