Tag Archives: traditions

It’s the Night Before Christmas

and all through the house…

Many creatures are stirring…

And a whole lot of the creatures stirring in my house are memories, memories of my childhood Christmases, memories of the food we ate that I no longer make, the songs we sang which I still sing, the fun we had. It’s still fun, it’s just different.


Christmas – and the traditions that go along with it – change over the years. We certainly didn’t have pizza elves when I was growing up. Turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, dressing, Christmas pudding were the foods on my grandparents’ tables and then for many years on mine. Oh, yeah, and I forgot the brussel sprouts which were often the cause of food fights – because almost no one liked them but we all had to eat at least one.

Christmas used to begin on the weekend before the big day when we put up our Christmas tree and would end precisely after breakfast on New Year’s Day. The season lasts longer for me now.

The pizza elves are from a dinner with friends in Toronto in early December. A week after that, I ate Italian food with a bunch of workmates. I’ll have a vegetarian Christmas with my sister in Victoria where they’ve come to escape the Christmas deep chill in Edmonton. My brother is coming for Christmas dinner and we’ll drink beer and Prosecco, eat a table full of Persian food and nibblies, and laugh until we make ourselves sick. We’re having friends over on Boxing Day for Spanish wine and some more Persian food.

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We’re meeting two different sets of friends the first week in January for two more Christmas dinners. Those ones are likely to be at a restaurant and we’ll drink wine (some of us – not me – will drink vodka, I expect), eat, and share all the things we’ve missed with each other over the past few months.

But for all of us, we somehow maintain the connection to our childhood traditions. We have the chocolates we had as children (always from Purdy’s), we have the Christmas oranges in our red and green stockings (though we no longer have a fireplace on which to hang them), we have the tree and the poinsettias (though this year mine is white rather than red), we still give gifts to our friends and families, we still listen to the same carols, watch the same old movies.


I guess what I’ve learned over the years is that tradition isn’t about the trappings, it’s about the love and the connection and the warmth of the season – and that’s what I wish for all of you.



Traditions, Rituals and Returning Home

“Peaches come from a can,” photo by bcostin, used with permission under a creative commons license.

Tomorrow I’m headed to our local farmers market to pick up a box of peaches. About 25 pounds worth. With any luck, all those peaches will get blanched, cooled, the skins slipped off, the pits removed, the fruit sliced, and put up in glass jars in a light sugar syrup.

I didn’t grow up preserving food or eating locally. I remember wonder-bread and Captain Crunch. Cans meant aluminum cans of terribly mushy green beans, cooked into submission. I’m not exactly sure how and when it happened (and it perplexes my family), but in my adult life, I’ve moved to eating next to no processed foods, having farm shares for vegetables, meat, and winter roots, and putting up for winter eating.

When I started canning, our friend, Gabrielle, gave us the canning jars her grandmother had used for decades. We moved those jars from the apartment in Philadelphia we rented when we first got married to Chicago where we only lived for one year, to Massachusetts where we’ve lived for the past 21. Some years, we would only end up using a handful of those canning jars, other years, we’d fill shelves with tomatoes, peaches, apple sauce, jellies and jams.

There was something magical about the connection with food, with nurturing, with the earth, and across the generations in using Gab’s grandmother’s jars.

The summer of 2010 gave us an especially bountiful harvest. Every week, I’d walk out of the farmers market with another box full of seconds peaches and spend the next few days swearing over the sticky mess, swearing I’d never do it again. Until the next week. I must have canned 30 quarts of peaches that year.

A few months later, we lost much of our house to a terrible fire that started in the basement. Firefighters had to get behind our storage shelves to reach the source of the fire, smashing our canning jars. Later, in the cleanup, we discovered intact jars of peaches in another shelf in the back corner of the basement. They had survived, but we couldn’t risk eating them. Because of the extreme temperature changes they underwent in the fire, there was a chance that the seals had popped and reset, giving bacteria a chance to grow undetected in the food.

Of all the things we lost, I think the peaches hit me hardest.

We weren’t able to move back into our home until the middle of August last year, almost exactly a year ago, today. While peach season was in full swing, we hadn’t yet had a chance to replace our canning jars and equipment. By the time we were ready, peaches had come and gone.

This year, we’re ready. In a few days, we will have a pantry shelf stacked with jars full of sliced peaches. To me, that means we’ve really come home.

LJ Cohen