Since I can remember (and at times that is no longer that great), when I was a young lad, my mother cooked and prepared the fantastic Christmas dinner. I always smile when I hear various Danish Christmas songs, as many of them celebrate mothers preparing the food to be consumed for Christmas dinner.
My mother mastered the kitchen, the cupboards, the ingredients and commanded my father around. She is the true matriarch of my family, while still looking rather calm during the hourlong ordeal of preparing the meal.
In Denmark, we eat duck, crackling pork, pork sausage, browned potatoes, white potatoes, relishes and of course homemade gravy. For dessert, we have Ris Alamande, which is just a fancy name for Danish rice pudding … but it’s amazing!
My mother always managed to prepare every item of the dinner with precision and kept everything nice and warm. I guess it is years of practice and also learning to cook proper food as a young woman, not all these premade meals.
I feel bad for her, for all the hours she spent in the kitchen preparing the food, only to see it being consumed within 20-30 mins. All her time invested was literally gone in minutes, but I also see that as a compliment as it was awesome meals and we just couldn’t help ourselves.
Since I moved to Ireland and now the US, I’ve been carrying the Danish Christmas meal torch forward, and I’ve been preparing similar dishes for my family abroad.
For my kids, and wife, it is one of the highlights of the year, to sit down and eat duck, pork, sausage, potatoes, and Ris Alamande. They absolutely love it!
I also spend several hours in the kitchen preparing the meal, often with guidance from my mum over Skype, although this has been reduced in recent years as I’ve finally learned the skills needed.
While I prepare the meal, my kids join me in the kitchen to take a sneak peek under the lids, into the oven and perhaps poke a finger in the food to taste it. My wife hugs me gently from behind to share her appreciation for my cooking skills. It warms me tremendously to get this attention and affection for my cooking skills. It makes all the hours I spent preparing the meal worth it.
We sit down, say grace and then dig in. Just as when I was a kid, the meal is consumed in 20-30 minutes, and the family pads their stomachs indicating they are stuffed.
Then we have the dessert, relaxing a little before the kids dive into the presents Santa left them under the tree.
For us, Christmas is much more about family and food, and much less on the size of gifts. I truly enjoy spending this time with my family.
I recognize myself in the way my dad was during our Christmases as a kid. He sat in the armchair, drinking wine, while we kids played with our toys. His smile said it all. He enjoyed these moments tremendously.
Since I had my health scare last year, my appreciation for these moments has grown a lot. I prefer to see how happy the kids and wife are, rather than opening presents. I cherish these moments, and I’m grateful that I made a full recovery.
I’m grateful for my family here, my family in Denmark and my family in heaven. Without all these wonderful people, my life would not be this rich.
There’s more to life than expensive presents.
Next year, I will teach my oldest daughter how to prepare Christmas dinner. It is time for her to learn the tricks so she can help carry this torch forward. It is important that we keep our traditions. It reminds us of where we come from, and it teaches our kids how to care for the family.
I love my mother and have not had many opportunities to show my love in the past decade as we live far apart. In 2020, this will change.