It is January 6, the Epiphany, so it is only fitting that I write about this past Christmas. You see, Christmas Eve dinner is a tradition in our home. We go to Mass then home to dinner. Yes, it’s quite a feat to plan a sit-down dinner that will be ready to be served when we arrive home from Mass. Every year the menu is different and no cutting corners on this special night. But, all the how’s and what’s of the menu are for another blog entry. It is easier than you think when you prepare ahead and have a well thought out plan.
It Happened About Nine Years Ago
One Christmas Eve day about nine years ago, I was working in the morning to prep some of the food for the big feast. We were somewhat new in the neighborhood but had just met a great family down the street—Mark and Melanie Poirier and their five children.
It came like a bullet out of nowhere! The thought hit me—the Poiriers were doing a major renovation of their home and their kitchen was all torn up. I knew nothing about them—did they have family to spend the holiday with? What would they do Christmas Eve?
I called Melanie and invited them to Christmas Eve dinner that night. Before I could get the invitation out of my mouth, Melanie, said: “YES!”
So, that’s where the friendship and the tradition began. Each year since then, the Poirier’s have been our welcomed guests. Melanie always asks: “What can I bring?” To which I always reply, “Nothing but your Christmas spirit.” (And I mean that!)
Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan
In 2005 my husband, Bill, a U.S. Army Reserves JAG officer, was deployed to Afghanistan and he was gone during Christmas. Melanie called and said: “You must come to our home this year, you can’t handle all of this alone, without Bill…”
I said, “Absolutely not! This is the tradition and we will uphold it! Nothing should change for our family especially because Bill is gone. Things had to appear business-as-usual for our son who was six at the time. It was a magical night—the snow, the meal, the friendship, and Mark’s beautiful prayer for Bill and all our troops oversees for their safety and thanks for their service. I have to mention that also that same Christmas, Washington Post sent a Christmas-decorating company to trim the outside of our home in lights and wreaths because my husband was deployed. Bill returned home safe and sound the following March.
It’s not only the Poirier’s who come but anyone we know who might be alone—single friends (Jim!) or relatives (Paul!), those serving in the military away from home, or an entire family who just had a baby and need a reason to stop and enjoy the season.
There is a place for everyone to sit as it is a formal dinner with a festive flair. There is a present under the tree for everyone who enters. Melanie, who is a top-notch cook herself, brings me a tin of homemade confections and says, “Hide these away so you can eat them yourself tomorrow!” (Which I do, by the way!) If there are small children, Santa might even appear.
This Year’s Menu
I went with an Italian theme this year—Caesar salad, foccacia bread, chicken Marsala, seafood lasagna (with fresh scallops, crab and shrimp in a bechamel sauce), green beans with red cherry tomatoes (I carried that over from Thanksgiving because I liked it so much), and for dessert—Italian cheesecake and tiramisu. Of course, Bill uncorked a good Italian wine(s). My dishes were all homemade, but I could easily provide ways to do this same menu with a few shortcuts (e.g., buying the Caesar dressing or the desserts).
So, if you’re nice and not naughty, I will give you all my recipes, most of which are original creations. Until next Christmas….to all a good night!