One of the things I love about the Catholic tradition for celebrating Christmas is that it doesn’t begin the day after Thanksgiving and end on Christmas night, as it seems to for the rest of the world.
Instead, it truly begins on Christmas Eve, as Advent ends, and goes all the way till the Epiphany – just 12 days if you’re going to be stingy about it, but if you want to be more generous with the celebrating, the season doesn’t technically end until the Sunday AFTER the Epiphany, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.
And if you really want to go all out, you can keep celebrating Christmas until the Feast of the Purification of Mary and the Presentation in the Temple – which is February 2, or a full 40 days. (Read more here if you like.)
Anyway, my Mom was a firm believer in this Catholic way of celebrating Christmas. We kids went to bed on Christmas Eve to an Advent house – one that was waiting expectantly for the birth of the Christ Child, without a single sign of Christmas (except that we’d carefully laid out our stockings, of course.)
And then we would wake up, very, very early on Christmas morning, to a tree full of lights and ornaments, decorations on the walls and mantles and built-in buffet top, filled stockings and gifts under the tree. It was magical, I tell you, absolutely magical.
Don’t ask if I followed in my parents’ footsteps. Because I didn’t. I have a good excuse but am not going into that right now.
Anyway, believing as she did in the power of fully waiting for Christmas, she also believed in fully extending it. Our tree was usually up through at least the 3rd week of January, and Mom often invited people over for Christmas celebrations during the first part of January.
With that: some dinner menus.
Jan. 7 – Aunt Catherine (my Dad’s aunt)
– chop suey
– Christmas cookies & breads
Unless I miss my guess, the cookies included cut-out sugar cookies, cherry macaroons, pecan fingers, and chocolate snowflakes (with most of those probably made by my Aunt Corine, Mom’s sister, and brought to our house in metal tins). The breads surely included fruitcake, which my Dad loved and Mom was happy to bake.
Jan. 9 – Martin & Anna (Anna was another of my Dad’s aunts)
sirloin tip in foil (mushroom & onion soup)
green beans & carrots
baked potatoes & sour cream
And one more for January:
Jan. 29 – John, Teddy, and Mother (my Mom’s side)
ham loaf, mustard sauce
ice cream and berries