At our house we divided the Christmas days up between the families. In Germany “the big day” is Christmas Eve. That’s when the kids get their presents and the tree is lit (at least back in the days when you still used real candles) and the first years as a family we tried to do right by everybody. Back then my grandparents were still alive and I wanted to spend time with them, but “of course” you couldn’t say “we’ll visit Giliell’s family on Christmas Eve but not you”. The result was lots of unhappiness. My in laws would make very sad eyes at us for leaving early* and my family would complain about us being late. The kids would get so many presents in a short amount of time that they ended up exhausted and crying and unhappy. And then of course they wanted to negotiate about the two other days (in Germany you have two Christmas Days) as well…
At some point we decided to tell them all to gently fuck themselves and set down some rules and if you are ever in such a situation, especially with young kids. On Christmas Eve NOBODY leaves the house or enters the house. We spend the evening together, just the four of us. We have hot stone/raclette for dinner, which is really quick and easy to prepare and then the kids get their presents (and us as well).
The 25th is the day when Mr’s family meets. Out of the 5 siblings 3 of them take turns to host the whole party, although we have taken over from my in laws since they’ re not getting younger and we have more space (and it is less exhausting and more rewarding to do it myself than to listen to my mum in law’s complaints. Sorry if I’m sounding uncharitable towards her. I really love her, there’s just some areas where she’s as exhausting as a toddler). Since that family is already in charge of cooking for about 20 people, the guests bring cake and dessert, which is actually the point of this post.
The 26th we visit my parents and since it’s the time of miracles, for the last few years my sister’s husband has been showing up as well.
But back to dessert. I made a Pavlova. I’ve been wanting to make one since forever and thought that this was the perfect occasion:
Uhm, sorry for the crap image. I’ll do better. But the Pavlova was amazing: I sprinkled roasted pine nuts on the meringue before baking and prepared butter caramel baked apples with raisins and spices a few days in advance. On the 25th I prepared pomegranate seeds only transported the dry meringue “cakes” as well as the fruit and unwhipped cream to my uncle and aunt in law’s place where I whipped the cream and assembled everything there. I even added edible gold leaves.
I looked like a Christmas Dessert is supposed to look: lavish and opulent. It tasted like heaven. The sharpness of the Pomegranate balanced the sweetness of the meringue and the whipped cream was just right. If you’re ever asked to bring a spectacular dessert i can only recommend a Pavlova as you can adapt it to the occasion and don’t need to worry about transporting a fully assembled cake.
*My mum in law is one of those people whose only way to get what she wants is by making others feel bad. Sad comments along the lines of “I would really love if somebody …., but nobody cares enough…”
Andreas Avester says
Don’t people use real candles in Germany anymore?
I mean, I still use them at my home.
To be honest, rarely on the tree. We still used candles when I was a kid, but by now even my parents have switched to fairy lights. Frankly there are still too many fires caused by the combination of pine and open flames.
Candles as such are still being used, but more as in scented candles or festive illumination on tables. Or outdoors. Personally I only have some scented candles in the bathroom for those moments when you really need them and occasionally some outdoor lanterns. I switched to rechargeable battery powered fairy lights and fake candles as soon as the kids came.
As for real candles on trees and glas ornaments: My parents ad them but as my sis and me arrived, they were changed to paper maché, straw and paper decorations.
My mother tells a story of how her parents once accidentally lit the tree together with the candles. This was ca. 1960s.
Nowadays she (my mom) still likes to burn candles on tables, but also prefers (due to her poor eyesight) the room to be otherwise brightly lit. Obviously, in a dimly lit room a live candle would be more eye-catching, which is also very much a safety angle. I only ever burn a single candle on my concrete balcony on dark evenings, and even then hesitate to leave it unsupervised.
chigau (違う) says
What is wrong with the previous post?
Andreas Avester says
Well, that makes sense. There are no children in my household, so I can afford to be less worried about fire.
My mother used real candles on the Christmas tree even back when I was very small. But I was also the only child, and she never left the room with me and the burning candles.
Marcus Ranum says
Cats and candles make christmas exciting!
Oh we always had real candles. And sparklers. One year they set the carpet aflame. Also, for some reason my parents would keep the remains of the candles because there was at least 10 minutes of light in them and some time when I was around primary school age I discovered them. I managed not to burn down the house, but it was a close call. That woman’s children should not have access to candles.
Candles, yes there were real candles. My parents emigrated from Germany to Australia when I was two, and every year we went out and found a suitable pine sapling to decorate with mother’s cherished glass baubles and some hand crafted ornaments. As my brother and I grew up we got the job of making the wire candle holders and twisting them on carefully arranged bare spots on the branches. Dog ends of candles were of course kept and pressed into service when a candle guttered all its wax onto the plastic xmas themed carpet protector. In later years we had a proper fire extinguisher standing nearby too, as well as the bucket of water. Proper lead based tinsel decorated the branches in fine fashion and there was never a crisis despite the Australian summer heat and a series of inquisitive cats.
Then the magic of xmas slowly evaporated as we grew older, father died, mother had a stroke, and our children grew up. When mother finally died I gave up any pretence of decoration and there have not been any candles in our house for a decade. Just the two of us and a peaceful day off with a small present for each other.
johnson catman says
I think almost every family has one of these manipulative people. It is unfortunate that some miserable people love to bring others into their misery.
johnson catman says
chigau @5: You can get to the post from the main page by clicking on “Leave a comment”.
chigau (違う) says
Pavlova is awesome, I’ve been making versions for years, but it must be paired with a nice, juicy, sour fruit, because the sweetness can be overwhelming. I usually do a summer version, when raspberries are available. The toasted nuts are also a briliant addition. If you feel adventutous, you can grind up almonds and hazelnuts and fold them into the meringue before baking, scrumptious!!
I’m glad the holidays went well for you. We’ve inadvertently had single family Christmas for a few years now (one of the kids manages to be sick right on time, this year it’s been Eldest, with a four-week non-stop adventure of high fevers, coughing, a pneumonia scare and antibiotics, can it please end now), and I’ve realized I prefer that to making the trek out country, especially this year with the pre-christmas funeral combinations. On the plus side, the relationship issues seem to have settled. Happy New Year, everyone!
One of my aunts used candles on her Christmas tree when I was young, but there were rules for it.
1) Someone must be in the room with the tree when it was lit
2) The cats and dog were not allowed in the room when the tree was lit.
3) No digging through the presents
4) A bucket of water was kept in the corner
5) We always sang O Tannenbaum while it was being lit -- in German, not English
6) Candles out at 10pm and guests must leave.
I have wonderful memories of those candles on the tree and I’m thankful there was never a real problem. Today, I wouldn’t even consider using them. I light real candles occasionally now, but I don’t have a cat anymore. If/when I get another cat I’ll give up the candles again and use the battery operated kind.
Your pavlova looks incredible. It’s ready to be on a food magazine cover.