Last year we started a Christmas tradition that fulfilled something I’ve been missing and I finally realized it tonight…on our second annual Roast Beast Day. Yes, a roast beast dinner is really just a nice cut of beef with potatoes, vegetables, Yorkshires and gravy. Last year, it was a rib eye roast and this year, a prime rib roast. It’s a simple meal with a nostalgic name and it brought back what I was looking for, even though I didn’t really know I was looking for it.
Since I met my husband, our family Christmas traditions have been quite straightforward. We go to my parents on Christmas Eve and then his on Christmas Day. Interestingly enough, this was quite an adjustment for me. All my life, my family celebrated Christmas Eve and then Christmas Day was a day of rest. On Christmas Day, as kids, we played with our toys and we ate leftovers for dinner…giving my mom a break from cooking.
My family is Czech, so like a lot of Europeans, Christmas Eve is the evening of celebration. In Czech tradition, our gifts are delivered by Baby Jesus (Jezisek) right after dinner and we open them before bed and we still continue that tradition today. Each Christmas Eve, my family and my sister’s gather at my parents’ house for a dinner of fish and traditional potato salad (there are pork chops too, but shhh don’t tell anyone about that since the traditional meal is fish). The amount of people that gather around the table has certainly grown over the years. In fact, we spread across two tables now with our blossoming families.
You see, when I was a young kid, our Christmas table always the same. It was me, Mom, Dad and my sister. Just the four of us. My parents actually fled from Russian occupied Czechoslovakia with my sister who was just a little baby, so we had no other family in Canada. Because they had escaped, they weren’t allowed to go back until 1990, but we had a few visits from family – none at Christmas however. In all those years, my grandparents visited just twice. I also met one Aunt and a couple of my Dad’s cousins, one of which was living in Germany. So while it’s a little bit sad that I didn’t get to meet most of my family until 1990, when I visited the Czech Republic myself, I really was accustomed to the quiet family Christmas of just the four of us.
But that all changed when I met my husband and the children started coming. First we had our son, then my sister her daughter, then another son for me and she followed with a son herself. And then we had a little girl of our own and soon my parents house seemed full to the brim on Christmas Eve. Don’t get me wrong, I love it and wouldn’t change any of it…but the holidays did start to seem overwhelming and well, a little noisy.
Now, we had a full house at my parents and instead of the usual day of rest after, we’d go to my husband’s family’s house the next day. And what happens there is a little unpredictable. He has quite a large family, but it’s never the same each year. I never know which Uncles are coming, if the grandparents will be there or who else might come by. As someone who was used to the same thing over and over again, it was definitely an adjustment, but a worthwhile one.
Then on December 23, 2011, Roast Beast Day makes it’s way into our lives. Because we don’t actually cook a Christmas dinner because we go to our parents’ houses, I thought we should have a quiet family dinner the night before all the chaos starts. Of course, the name of our beef roast comes from the a story we all love…How the Grinch Stole Christmas and we were sure to watch the original program right after dinner last night. Once again, we have the quiet Christmas dinner with just Mom, Dad and the kids.
It’s funny how traditions can mean so much to us, but as life changes we adapt…yet, there are still simple things we can do to preserve what means so much. Merry Christmas to you and your family and all the best for the new year.