Blended Holidays

At my house, holidays are a time for us to be home together, have fun, eat great food, and remember times gone by. Being a native-born Texan, married to a Dane, living in New England, our holidays are like a quilt of different cultures! Come do a bit of celebratin’ at the Christensen household!

Got your holiday best on?

The weekend after Thanksgiving, we try to get our tree. While we decorate, my husband makes “Aebleskiver”, Danish pancake-type puffs made in a special pan, and eaten with strawberry jam. The best “American” version of a classic Aebleskiver recipe is found in MaryJanesFarm magazine, June-July 2010, page 92. It’s got my hubby’s approval!

Our decorated tree is part American/part Danish/part Victorian. The year we married, we didn’t have a lot to spend on decorations, so I designed my own. Dreaming of a “Victorian Style Tree” with lots of white, I used bridal tulle, cut little squares, filled the center with dried potpourri, and tied the little puffs with tiny satin ribbons. Since they only come out at Christmas, and are stored in plastic, I’m amazed at how the scent still lingers almost twenty years later!

Also on our tree are Danish-style candles. When we were first married, each Christmas, Kim’s family would send us a candle holder or two for our tree. Now, we don’t actually light them, but they make a beautiful tree, and remind us of our Danish family, past and present.

There’s also ornaments I made as a child, when I was no more than age seven or eight. Growing up in Houston, the Turners from Michigan lived next door. Jeffrey was my best friend. We’d play sun up to sun down! One Christmas, his mom, Sue, had me to their house each day to make the ornaments as a present for my parents! I remember how fun it was, and how excited I was to give my parents their special gift on Christmas Day. I think it’s then I first caught the ‘crafting’ bug. Over time, a couple ornaments were lost, but my mom sent the rest to me a few years ago. Sue, if you’re out there, thank you! Making those ornaments is a happy Christmas memory!

This little ornament is one of a set of ornaments I made as a small child.

The other side of this Santa bell ornament reads “Merry Christmas 1978”, a gift from Lucy, who was like a grandmother.  Too precious to hang on the tree, each year it goes in the china cabinet.

I also have a few ornaments given to me from Lucy, a neighbor who was like a grandmother. She loved Christmas, and would always say she believed in Santa no matter what age she was! As a kid, I was scared of Santa. Whenever I’d ask if Santa was real, my well-meaning mother, not wanting to lie to me, would answer, “He’s the Spirit of Christmas.” I thought she meant literally, as in a ghost! The closest I ever got to sitting on his knee was the year I wanted a Wonder Woman doll so badly I thought I’d die if I didn’t get it. There was a Santa sitting outside the town square. When my mom stopped at that traffic light, my older brother rolled the window down so I could shout out to him, “I want a Wonder Woman doll!” It was like visiting Santa at a drive-through.

Nowadays, Christmas Eve I make a Danish-style meal, with pork roast and caramelized potatoes. Afterward we drive to see Christmas lights (a tradition my Daddy always did), and head home to eat traditional Danish rice pudding with one hidden almond. Whoever gets the almond gets a prize.

I change the display of this sideboard in my kitchen with the seasons. All the items here were gifts from friends and loved ones, and the picture is last year’s Santa picture.

We eat our Danish-style Christmas Eve meal in the kitchen.  It’s casual.  Christmas Day, we sit at the dining room table, and I set a more formal table setting, even if it’s just us three.

I love tables with red and green, but also love the simplicity of cream, white, and gold.  The little house is a traditional Danish tea light holder, made from laser-cut, paper-thin brass.  The conch shell napkin rings belonged to my grandmother.

Christmas morning, while opening gifts we have coffee and eat “Koulourakia”, my grandmother’s cookie recipe. She was from Greece. I make a big holiday meal in the afternoon, although this year it will be ham, not turkey, after our Thanksgiving turkey “incident”. I was going to teach my daughter how to cook a turkey. Upon opening the package, I was horrified to find one side was still covered in feathers! On the top, there were no feathers, but quills still stuck in the skin. In desperation, I ended up pulling them out with tweezers! (Where was I going to find another thawed turkey on Thanksgiving Day)? One drumstick looked as if something had bitten it, and the entire length of skin from the neck was left attached to the bird. At that point, my daughter was completely grossed out, and ate no turkey that day. (The store where I bought it blamed mechanical error, and sent me a gift card). I don’t think Audrey is scarred for life, but ham sounded better for Christmas this year.

Audrey with our “mechanical-error” Turkey at Thanksgiving.  Not funny at the time, it’s something we’ll laugh about for years to come.

Also during the holidays, I host my Sisterhood Chapter’s Christmas Dinner, where we exchange homemade presents. It’s always fun to see what everyone comes up with! My daughter’s fourth grade class did that too. Audrey made pony tail holders from leftover knitting yarn, similar to the “hair feather” craze.

To make hair ornaments, we re-purposed leftover yarn and ribbons, tying them to a hair elastic.

We leave the tree up until after New Year’s for good luck. We might get invited to a party or two for New Year’s Eve, but our favorite tradition is  eating Chinese takeout and watching the ball drop in New York City on television.

New Year’s Day, most New Englanders eat cabbage for luck. With my Texas roots, I eat Black Eyed Peas! (This year I might eat both for good measure)! Here’s a favorite recipe.

Black Eye Pea Salad

2 ½ cups frozen black eye peas, boiled and drained

1 cup of corn kernels

1 cup finely diced carrots

1 cup finely diced celery

1 cup finely diced red bell pepper

1 ½ teaspoons minced red onion

¼ cup seasoned rice vinegar

½ cup cilantro

Fresh pepper and salt to taste

In boiling water, for one minute, blanch corn, carrots and celery until just tender. Drain well. In large bowl, toss all ingredients and chill for half an hour before serving.

What traditions do you have? Are there special decorations you put out or dishes you eat? Leave me a comment and Happiest of New Year’s to you all!

  1. Rachelle says:

    Love the post, especially about your Turkey trial. I would be scared too. Traditions – here are a few things we do. We put up the tree and decorations usually the day after Thanksgiving. Many favorite ornaments and we talk about when we got them or a funny story that might be linked to them. I have all my childhood ornaments I received from my piano teacher over the years. We usually watch It’s a Wonderful life, Rudolph (traditional one), Chevy Chase Christmas Vacation. A lot of our decorations are fun and we have a rockin santa that we all enjoy and try to mimic. We started an advent wreath a couple years ago and have added that to our "traditions". We used to go and cut a tree, but several years ago we just didn’t have the funds and opted for a "fake" tree that was my mothers. We have been using it now for 6 years. The boys and I would like to cut a tree again. Maybe next year!? Food wise, we have always had the traditional turkey and dressing but this year we did a Mexican fiesta! And like you we are from TEXAS so we always have ham, black eyed peas, cabbage and all the works for New Years!
    Happy New Year

    Hey fellow Texan!  Christmas sounds like a fun time at your house! MMMM..Mexican Fiesta sounds yummy!   We love the traditional Rudolph, too!  I still haven’t sat down and watched "It’s A Wonderful Life" this year yet, maybe tonight!  Thank you so much for sharing, and have a Happy New Year to you too! -Nicole

  2. Merry Christmas, Nicole! What a lovely collection of traditions you have developed in your family … everything so special and very meaningful! This is the first year that our family has had a live tree and used our own personal family decorations since we moved to our inn 7 years ago. We decorate the inn of course, but all our personal items have been in storage. Even so, each and every decoration still brought back memories of who gave it to us, or what we were doing on a particular year. They are like little time machines to precious memories! We have developed a tradition of a Christmas brunch, with special dishes we only make on Christmas morning. We nibble throughout the day and have dinner in the evening. Of course sometime during the holidays I have to watch It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street! We also used to have a tradition when the kids were small of reading a passage from a book called Jotham’s Journey each day of Advent. Even though we only have 1 teenager still left at home, I think we will revive that tradition next year. Merry Christmas Nicole and have a fabulous New Year! Much love, Cathi

    Merry Christmas, Cathi!  Your inn sounds so lovely.  You hit the nail on the head saying decorations are little time machines.  So true!  Sounds like you have some wonderful traditions, too.  Merry Christmas and Happy, Happy New Year!  – Nicole

  3. Kathy says:

    Your tree must be beautiful. The lace and candles are truly lovely.
    Every year I give my daughter a pair of PJs on Christmas Eve. Just after dinner we take a drive around to see everyones lights. I believe the combination of new PJs and cold fresh air helped her to fall asleep faster.
    Well in 2 months she will be 27. Gosh, where has the years gone to? I still give her PJs on Christmas Eve. But it was just my husband and I that drove around town checking out the wonderful lights. Too bad we didn’t have a little snow.

    Kathy, my mom STILL gives me new pj’s each Christmas, and I am going to be forty!  I carry the tradition with my daughter, now, too.  We open that one gift Christmas Eve Night, and take pictures by the tree in our new pajamas.  Did you see alot of Christmas lights where you are?  We saw more this year than previous years, but still not as much as we used to.  Thank you for reading and commenting!  -Nicole

  4. Deb says:

    Howdy Sister Nicole! You certainly do travel around for the holidays don’t you. I LOVE the addition of black eyed peas to your Christmas menu! They were a favorite around our family table when I was growing up due to the fact my dad was a Texan!I’ve got a big ham hock left over from our Christmas Ham and I’m thinking a nice pot of pinto beans and ham with cornbread and a crisp garden salad on the side.. Oh and biscuits too for New Years, but I bet my hubby brings home lobster to steam too! How’s that for a mix of east west cultures? Your drive through Santa story is a hoot! 🙂
    Thanks for stopping by to see me and Happy New Year to you and yours!
    Hugs, from your bloggin’ sis Deb

    Hey Girl!  You are making my mouth water with the beans and ham and cornbread….I used the last of my ham last night in a ham, onion, broccoli and cheese quiche.  I used MaryJane’s pie crust recipe, of course!  Have a Happy New Year!!  Farmgirl hugs, Nicole

  5. Victoria says:

    Coming from a Norwegian background, my family also had the tradition of having rice pudding with the almond for Christmas eve supper. Whoever got the almond would be blessed with good luck for the coming year. "Christmas Vacation" and "It’s a Wonderful Life" are mainstays. We have watched it so many times we can pretty much recite the dialog verbatim! It is not uncommon for us to start a phone conversation with "heehaw" or finish up with "see you in the funny papers." My daughter gets the biggest kick out of that…lingo she has never heard of before! A rusty, broke down RV lumbering down the road is a "Cousin Eddie!" After all the fun and light heartedness, we gather around the table piled high with awesome food, hold hands and give thanks for all our blessings, for they are many. Even though our country is facing many problems, how blessed we all are to live in our beloved USA. And….living in So. California, tamales and beans will be on our table for New Years! Happy New Year, fellow farm sisters!!!

    Hi Victoria!  Don’t you love re-visiting favorite Christmas movies?  A new favorite of mine is Christmas With The Kranks.  On a serious note, we are all so VERY blessed.  Thank you for reading, and have a wonderful New Year!  -Nicole

  6. Sandy says:

    Love your post! Being half Swede and the rest Danish and German, many of our foods and decorations are similar. We have a few candles on our tree that I bought many years ago in Denmark. At our church we have a Scandinavian Festival every other year which includes aebleskiver, every sort of butter cookie, sausages, lefse, etc.

    It is our tradition to cut our own tree in the woods, an activity we now share with our grandchildren. Our church is a big part of our traditions. Hubby decorates the house outside every year with lights and figures.

    It is our tradition on New Year Day to take the decorations down and put the tree outside for the birds to enjoy for a few weeks before it goes to the recycler.

    We usually spend lots of time out in the snow but alas no snow this year at all. Boo hoo.

    Hi Sandy!  My husband and I love to go to the Danish festival in New York put on by the Seaman’s church, but the one we go to is in the summer.  Would love to go to a Christmas one!  No snow here either…but it was a nice sunny, cold Christmas morning.  Gladelig Jul!  -Nicole

  7. KimberlyD says:

    Happy New Year! Your black eye pea salad is close to my mother’s kidney bean salad. I’m not sure I would buy turkey from that company, I would eat turkey again though. Or maybe by fresh from a farm.
    I take my tree down New Years day. I always make a new craft or two to either give away or add to my Christmas decorations. I had two places to decorate this year, my place and my dad’s room for he is in a medical care facility right now, just had to make his room cheery. So that means two places to take down the decorations! haha! Oh well.

    I just thought of a memory from Christmas past, I remember standing in line to see Santa at the Pontiac Mall in Michigan, and it was long and when it was my turn I cried and wouldn’t sit on his lap! Than a year later we move to Midland Michigan and Santa came right to my house. I answered the door and he picked me up and I didn’t cry, I went to tell my mom in the kitchen and she wouldn’t believe me till I dragged her out to show her.

    Once again…Happy New Year!

    Kimberly, thanks so much for sharing!  What a great story!  My daughter and I waited in line several times, all dressed up to see Santa.  When it was her turn, she would burst into tears.  I couldn’t be mad at her – I totally understood!  Last two years she went right up to him, and had her picture taken. 

    I’m glad you decorated your dad’s room.  What a sweet thing to do (and important, if you ask me).  I’m doing the same thing you are this week – taking down the decorations.  Makes me a little sad, but I guess that means we had a nice holiday, right?

    Thanks again so much for reading and commenting.  Happiest of New Year’s to you and your dad.  -Nicole

  8. Linda says:

    Guess what I used the leftover tulle from decorating for my daughter’s wedding?
    When the first grandchild was born, i used the tulle to wrap around new large sized baby blocks, but let the colorful side show through, then tied pink ribbons around the top. The next grandchild was a boy, so blue ribbon was used. Last year, four grandchildren’s names were spelled with blocks. This year, I didn’t have enough blocks to spell all names, so I just spelled the new baby boy’s name.

    Linda, What an adorable idea!  Thank you for sharing it!  -Nicole

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