Welcome to my little corner of the 2011 Virtual Advent Tour. If you’ll permit me a digression from the usual book talk, I’d like to share with you a Christmas ritual in my family that began as a tradition, but then morphed into something unique to us and the source of a good laugh.
Christmas has always been one of my favorite holidays. Sure the presents are an important part of it, but even when I was a kid I loved everything else that went with the holiday; decorations, Christmas cards, the truly Silent Night of Christmas Eve (in Winnipeg where I was born and raised just about everything closed by 6:00 pm on Christmas Eve and didn’t re-open until the 26th – Boxing Day – or even the day after that), and of course the food. And though sometimes I felt left out of bigger celebrations, I was lucky that I come from a small family and was able to celebrate Christmas with everyone at the same time.
On Christmas Eve, my parents, two brothers and I would go to my maternal grandparents’ house for dinner. My mom’s family is from Denmark, and the traditional dinner was roast pork, frikadeller (my Grandma’s were THE BEST) and rice pudding for dessert. The Danish tradition is to hide an almond in the pudding and whoever is lucky enough to have the almond in their serving receives a small gift (a box of chocolate or something like that). In our family anyways it became a big game to see who could hide the almond from everyone the longest.
The problem: My brothers and I hated rice pudding. Even the thought of an extra present was not going to get us to eat the stuff.
The first few years that I can remember, we just didn’t eat dessert; but then one year my Grandma made a chocolate mousse pudding with an almond instead of rice pudding so that we could play along, and that was the Christmas Eve staple for as long as Grandma hosted Christmas Eve dinner (the last one I attended at her home was six years ago and the chocolate mousse was still there, and we all still fought over the frikadeller). It took me a few years to “win” the almond, but at that point it didn’t really matter; Grandma was the best because she made us what we wanted to eat.
Christmas Day was held at our house, with my grandparents, my paternal grandmother, and my dad’s aunt joining us for dinner. My mom also made rice pudding for dessert, but she was a purist: if you don’t like rice pudding, then no dessert for you. So we just watched the grown-ups eat theirs and my brothers and I made our own game of guessing who was hiding the almond.
Fast forward many years. I live in the US now and am not able to get up to spend Christmas with my family every year, and my brothers have children of their own and must split their holiday time with the other side of their families. But that Christmas six years ago again sticks in my mind. I was home and dinner was as always at my parents’ house. One of my brothers, his wife, and their two kids (about 4 and 2 at the time) were with us and we had a lovely dinner as usual. Until dessert. There was a rice pudding for the adults in attendance and we still had to eat it if we wanted to get a prize, but my niece and nephew each got THEIR OWN bowl of CHOCOLATE PUDDING that had THEIR OWN ALMOND! My brother and I cried foul — this was totally not fair! My parents just laughed it off — grandparents’ perogative, they said.
My Grandma passed away last year, and I’ve only been able to come home for Christmas once since that Christmas six years ago, so my own special treatment is but a memory. And even though my nieces and nephew have developed a taste for rice pudding, they still get their own almond at my parents’ house. I guess that is the benefit of being the grandchild.
Happy Holidays everyone! May you have a grandma that makes chocolate pudding just for you.