This holiday season, the eAmbassador team is banding together for #fetesgl and sharing their holiday traditions.
Christmas in my family has always been about the food. We exchange gifts, we spend time with our loved ones, we watch festive films — but most of our time is spent in the kitchen. I’m very lucky that I grew up with a family who love food, who love preparing it and sharing it with others. We’ve always been team players in the kitchen, moving like cogs in a well-oiled machine.
I was raised knowing that food is to be shared. If you’ve ever been round mine, you’d know that the first thing I’ll do is put the kettle on. If you’ve ever met my mother or grandmother, they have definitely offered you food. My family is one that believes firmly that there is always enough to go around, even if you have to halve your own plate. During our years spent in England, so far from our extended family, we had to build our own. My childhood and adolescence was punctuated by visitors: friends became chosen family, and we always congregated in the kitchen. It was a natural progression, then, that Christmas round ours would become an open door affair.
This favourite tradition of mine began in my early teens. We put the word out in our small town that anyone celebrating alone was welcome to celebrate with us — and many did. As the years passed, our Christmas dinners expanded to include a family from Malawi, friends from Norway, Kenya, and beyond, an international student from Japan who spoke very little English, a pair of Senegalese musicians and their families. Once, a tall and jovial man wandered in with our neighbour, introduced himself, and then realised that he was my brother’s swimming teacher. Those Christmases are marked by dishes and faces from around the world.
Now that we live closer to our extended family, Christmas is a little different. People, as always, are popping in and out all day. This year, my sister and I both had some friends join us for the day (including our very own Ayse!) as well as my boyfriend, grandmother and uncle.
Various family members stopped by for flying visits, and throughout the day phones rang bearing the voices of further-flung relatives. Often, the people who join us on Christmas will bring a dish — this year, we were treated to homemade biriyani amongst other things.
Some things haven’t changed. I’m still always up earlier than my siblings — some years I’ll make everyone breakfast, others I’ll just relax and enjoy the calm before the storm. We exchange our gifts and listen to some music — a combination of 1960s Calypso, jazz, and Christmas songs — before we start cooking. I’m always anxious to get as much prep done the night before as possible, but we do the bulk of the cooking the day-of. This year, having hosted a pre-Christmas Christmas just a few days before, we didn’t feel much like doing the traditional roast and all the trimmings. Instead, we blended a traditional Christmas dinner with some Trinidadian-style sides. Usually, we’ll make Caribbean black cake and a few other desserts. This year, we made life easier for ourselves and minimised the process by serving a chocolate Pandoro instead.
It’s never a tidy, Instagram-levels-of-polished affair, but it’s ours — a warm welcome and a seat at the table, even if the chairs are all different heights and the napkins don’t match the place settings.
As I get older and the pressure of having the “perfect” holidays becomes less and less appealing, I’m so grateful to have learned early on how to open my heart and home to others. I looked around the table this year and saw some faces I’d never have expected to be there. My introverted soul isn’t prone to parties, but I know how to turn strangers into family. I owe that to our open door Christmases.
This post is considerably shorter than I’d have liked, but I am still dealing with some health issues that make typing very difficult. My apologies! I’ll be back, alive and kicking, as soon as possible. ❤