In the hubbub of the past thirty-six hours, I forgot to post my blog, but I can honestly say the events of these hours have further fine-tuned my approach to Christmas.
Christmas in the Wingate family centers around church. Because we’re a ministry family, we have always stayed in town so my husband can lead our church’s Christmas Eve service. Because of that commitment, we’ve had to adapt our traditions around the special programs and services. Yet, I wouldn’t have it any other way, for Christmas Eve services have always been an important part of my celebration.
The holiday season wasn’t always a happy time in my childhood home. Early on, I found solace in the Christmas Eve services at our small church in Arizona. The worship service centers my soul on what is truly important and reminds me of the why behind my celebration.
By the time Christmas Eve service is over, most restaurants are closed and it’s been hard planning meals, so we started going to a small Chinese restaurant several years back. We would take our stack of Christmas cards handed to us by church members after the service and open them while we waited for our food. It was a great time to relax, de-stress and even act silly. I’m surprised we didn’t get thrown out of the restaurant a time or three. One year, another church family happened to be at the restaurant too. From that year on, the two families always went out for Chinese on Christmas Eve together and the Phillips family remain some of our dearest friends.
Worn out from church functions, we learned to keep Christmas Day simple. I fix a breakfast casserole the day before. If I have time or energy, I try to make a special pastry; if not, it’s the one time a year our family will eat Pillsbury cinnamon rolls. We open stocking stuffers, then gather for breakfast. Jack reads the Christmas story from Luke 2. We eat breakfast then open the rest of our presents.
The Wingate family likes to be traditional in our anti-traditions. For years, we had swordfish as our entree, accompanied by mashed potato casserole, Grand’s biscuits, fresh cooked green beans amandine, and strawberry soufflé salad. We set the table for five, put the birthday plate at the empty spot, serve sparkling grape juice and give a toast to Jesus. The girls and I spend the rest of the afternoon making a dessert we had never made before.
This year will be different. We’ve moved and our local Chinese restaurant closes on Christmas Eve. Swordfish is more expensive than my conscience will allow me to spend. One daughter is doing mission work in another country, and my husband’s and my dietary restrictions cut out the strawberries and the grape juice. We’re having to come up with new traditions.
That brings me back to yesterday. Both my husband and I, in separate cars, got caught in a Midwest-style blizzard. Jack spent the night in the town south of us, our daughter had to delay her trip home and I sat in an empty house listening to the wind crack trees around me. I don’t know when I’ll get shopping done for last minute presents or Christmas dinner ingredients.
You know what? At this point, I decided, it doesn’t matter what we eat as long as we can be together. I just want my family with me. And even if I couldn’t have that, that doesn’t change the fact that Jesus still came to earth as a baby to save the world from its sin. He is still the King of Kings however my life circumstances allow me celebrate the Day.
I think I will really enjoy our Christmas Eve service this year.
Warning: This makes a lot, it’s rich and it doesn’t keep very well. But it is wonderful! If you need to feed a large group for Christmas breakfast, this is the recipe for you! You can refrigerate the dough and shape it the next morning; just allow plenty of time for the dough to warm and rise.
Moravian Sugar Cake
1 small potato, peeled and cubed
1 pkg yeast
1/3 c sugar
1/3 c oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 1/2 c flour
2 T butter (not margarine!)
1/2 c packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
whipping cream or canned milk
Cook potato in 1 cup water until tender. Cool to lukewarm. Set aside 1/4 cup cooking liquid. Mash potato in remaining liquid, adding water enough to make one cup potato mixture. Soften yeast in the reserved cooking liquid. Combine potato mixture, yeast mixture, sugar, oil, and salt; mix well.
Stir in 1 cup flour. Beat well. Let rise 30-45 minutes, until spongy. Stir down; add enough flour to make a soft dough. Turn out on floured surface, knead lightly, four minutes. Cover; let rise until double, about 45 minutes. Punch down, turn out on floured surface. Divide in half. Cover, let rest 10 minutes. Roll into two, 8 inch squares. Put into greased 8 x 8 x 2″ baking pan. Cover. Let rise in a warm place until double, about 45 minutes. With finger, make indentations on top at 1 1/2 inch intervals. Dot with butter. Top with brown sugar and cinnamon. Pour a little milk or cream on top. Bake at 375° until golden brown. Cook 20 to 25 minutes.