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Rum Balls and The Box

December 21, 2009

It took six goes to write this column today. I think part of it was because I wanted to offer up something substantial – or something meaningful. I did try… however, my favourite Christmas traditions, I’m ashamed to admit, have to do with the sweet stuff and television! Anyone who has read any of my Christmas stories will probably be able to recognise at least two of the traditions.

Food

Christmas is about shortbread, compliments of my Scottish heritage carried on down through my Motherline. This afternoon my Mum who is staying with us, made short bread with my son for the first time and the kitchen is still filled with the decadent aroma sugar and butter. I love my short bread straight from the fridge as petticoat triangles (and the bargain hunter in me loves buying it for half-price in the sales post Christmas) – I discovered this the year we camped over Christmas at the beach and my short bread ended up in the esky and made the perfect hang over food on Christmas Morning.

It is also about rum balls. Last year was the first time I made them for myself, which went on to spawn my Christmas short story that year. This year I’m having a go at making rum truffles, with vivid memories of Mum’s from about 25 years ago when we lived on the farm – soft, full of apricot jam, rum and chocolate sprinkles. I can only hope they taste half as good as the memories from my 11-year old self.

Dessert on Christmas Day always felt like a rip off as a kid given I don’t eat Christmas cake or plum pudding. The upsides were, the pudding came with custard and the cake had marzipan icing, though it never solved what to do with the pudding and cake. Then along came the trifle. Yes it had yummy fruit, yes it had whipped cream and cake, yes it had custard AND jelly (not to mention a fair splash of plonk) but for me it all came bundled together in the one bowl (I still won’t eat food together, working around my plate to finish it, section by section – freak I know!) I think the love of trifle came only after I was allowed to drink alcohol and I hoed in after a few glasses of chardonnay when my weird, idiosyncratic eating behaviour slipped for a bit. My favourite has peaches and raspberries, along with port wine jelly and, it is made by my Mum (because it always tastes better if someone else makes it!)

Television and Movies

When I was a kid I loved the shows which came on in the lead up to Christmas. There was Mr Magoo’s Christmas Carol, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (where they have the run in with the Abominable Snow Man), The Drummer Boy and Frosty the Snowman. Gratefully most of these have found their way onto DVD and I’ve been able to buy and share them with my son (OK and to have my own fix of Christmas cartoons!) As a child I only ever got to see these movies once a year,  if we kept an eye on the TV guide, whereas Mr Magoo had a pretty strong audience around April this year. Just today we got The Muppet Christmas Carol and I can’t wait to watch it again.

When Love Actually came out at the movies a few years ago, it immediately became a favourite. There is just something about it which I find both charming, heart warming and tragic (and it has nothing to do with Hugh Grant who I actually don’t find attractive!) While it is not always Christmas Eve, I make sure in the week leading up to Christmas I take time out to watch it on DVD (usually alone because Dave can’t stand it) and get my Christmas fix, shed some tears and piss myself laughing at the idea of the British PM being stuck in the back of a car with a child-sized lobster or caught pashing backstage at a school Christmas concert.

Then there are the inevitable Christmas Specials.

Here in Australia we don’t get the Dr Who Christmas Special until the return of the series in the new year, which is normally mid-April and always feels a bit wrong because Easter has usually just past. They are still my favourite conceptualisation of Christmas though – Cybermen, Giant Spiders, weird looking aliens and a horn section playing Christmas carols will just never be the same again.

We all gather to watch A Very Specky Christmas on the last Sunday before Christmas. It is the Chrissy special of our favourite music quiz show hosted by Adam Hills. On at least one occasion we’ve sat down to watch it with the Evett clan. This year Peter Garret (former front man of Midnight Oil and the current Federal Minister for the Environment) admitted they rocked out a version of Silent Night in a rough pub one Christmas Eve in the 80’s – and I was immediately trying to imagine it with a throbbing, brooding baseline and Garret’s harsh delivery of lyrics.

This year, for the first time I got to see my other favourite music quiz show RocKwiz’s Christmas Special. The highlights were Tex Perkins and Tim Rogers singing The Little Drummer Boy and my favourite 2000 Miles sung by Magic Dirt’s Adalita, along with lots of silly banter, crazy Q &A and a section dedicated to identifying song riffs sung by front men called ‘Chris’.

Finally there are Carols by Candlelight on Christmas Eve. It is something my mother has always watched and now I’m a mother, is a tradition I have embraced (I love the fact I can threaten Dave with Carols OR Love Actually on the festive eve) This year hopefully, with my Mum here for the first time, since I became a Mum, we can all watch and sing along together. I know Dylan will love it.

XXX

…While I will never deny Christmas is all about family and I eagerly anticipate putting up the Christmas Tree, get moderately excited (at the start) about wrapping presents and love the idea of a family cricket game after lunch (this comes from Dave’s family) – Christmas traditions will always have to do with  sweet delicacies and TV for me.

What is your favourite festive fare? What song can you not do without over Christmas? And what is your favourite Christmas movie of TV special?

Jodi Cleghorn‘s Christmas story this year is Bondi and is part of Jim Wisneski’s 12 Days of Christmas project. Other embarrassing Xmas admission include, I haven’t written a single card this year, much less a letter and my shopping is only barely done. Hang out with me over the festive season at Writing in Black and White or on Twitter.
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2 Comments
  1. December 21, 2009 5:32 am

    As far as food is concerned we spread Christmas out. There are far too many good things to put away in just one day. For us kids Christmas began the day we made the ravioli, usually about a week before. Raviolis and zambaglione (a dessert similar to a light pudding with added rum) particularly stand out in my mind. I also remember my father making his French coffee; he used to run the brandy off a spoon onto the cream and watch it slowly descend into the coffee.

    German Christmas fare centres around baking lots of goodies during advent which we get out whenever anyone comes for a visit. We still keep that one up. This year my daughter took on the lion’s share of the baking. The only British culinary tradition we’ve kept up is mince pies. I always take a few to my last classes before Christmas. This evening the rest will disappear as I have the last English club of the year. They go down very well with a Chardonnay.

    Strangely enough, we don’t follow many French culinary traditions. But this year we’re taking a Bresse (traditional for our region) chicken to my mother in law in Germany. And, of course, there will also be a bottle of our very own local white wine – grapes picked by my own hands.

  2. December 21, 2009 8:30 pm

    As far as TV and movies go, it’s always the Grinch Who Stole Christmas when it comes to the kiddies over for the holidays. They lyrical flow to it and the moral lesson behind it too never gets old even for the young and young at heart.

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