To my husband’s amazement, there was “nothing” we needed to do the weekend before Christmas this year except to sit back and enjoy a quiet couple of days doing whatever we fancied – mainly eating and sleeping! There was no chance of a white Christmas this year, as temperatures have been particularly mild, the milky winter sun never far away and only now that the actual holidays have passed has it turned wet and windy – what I consider perfect weather for Boxing Day, when you want to get stuck into the books and films that have found their way into your possession!
I’m often asked what is really typical for Swiss Christmas dinner. The answer is that there isn’t any particular meal that people tend to have. Fondue of various kinds is popular, or especially fine cuts of veal or beef, or fish… each family is different and either has their own traditions – or not! Since we are lucky enough to celebrate twice each year, we have two special meals – the Swiss one is usually cold meats and salmon with a couple of typical salads (green, pasta, Waldorf…). After the champagne and “Schinkengipfeli” (our version of sausage rolls!). And before a Panettone… As circumstances have changed a little this time and we were only a very small party, we adjusted to suit: meat and veg from the grill and a beautiful potato salad concocted by my brother-in-law! Our beautiful table setting was very special this year – it featured a tulle stole made from St. Gallen lace that had been part of a dress my mother-in-law wore as a young woman in the early 1960s, and which really set off the elegant look! (She later showed me the belt, broad and of the same tulle, for the very tiny waist she had at the time – aged 20! – that was worn over the black satin dress… breathtaking!)
And the Panettone wasn’t forgotten, either!
Christmas Eve was a lot quieter than in previous years and we were able to spend the evening with our youngest daughter at home, notwithstanding a quick video chat with the rest of the family members abroad! All in all, I think it went down pretty well – Christmas Day dawned quietly, too, and we were able to scoop up our basket of goodies and head out for a family celebration at my eldest daughter’s house – luckily she can easily get 11 people around her table!
This is an English Christmas dinner, nearly always turkey (though we did have goose a couple of times before the family grew quite so large!) and though not with “all” the trimmings, enough of everyone’s favourite side dishes to feel very, very full! So this year, a perfect turkey, wonderful gravy, roast potatoes to die for, sweet roasted parsnips, tangy cranberry relish and my pet hate, Brussel’s sprouts! Ah well… Small children are adorable at Christmas time and we all loved watching them open a couple of presents and then spending the rest of the afternoon playing – grandparents, parents, aunties, we were all down on the floor at one point or other, helping to build something, admiring some construction or simply joining in a game of chase. We also got to admire my grandson’s gift that he’d made in kindergarten, involving forming clay snails that had been painted and fired and strung onto a garland with empty snail shells and pearl beads and finished off with a wire snail made with pliers – what a lot of skills he was showing off in that one great present!
I think this has been the calmest and least fraught Christmas we have ever had, despite the rather unusual run-up this year. Nobody seemed in the least stressed, we were able to see and speak to our loved ones far away thanks to modern media and we have all had time to be together and in smaller groups to join with merriness and laughter to celebrate what really always ought to be just that – a family gathering.