Christmas Eve Traditions- No More Oyster Stew

Christmas Eve.  My mother’s tradition (which was her own family’s tradition and so just had to be followed year after year) was Oyster Stew, a milky soup which was topped with blots of butter, bottomed with weird heavy blobs of whole oysters.  We all, except for my Dad, hated it.  The only part my brother and I found edible were the oyster crackers, those little round pale ones, which floated about like puffly, hole-less, life preservers, and,  if eaten fairly quickly, soaked up a little, but not too much, of the soup.   (It was important to use up the soup so that we were not seen to be wasting food.)   My cousin, who was not as well-trained and, in general, was a more dive-in kind of guy, crumbled whole handfuls of crackers into his soup; a little mound of crumbs rose like a pale volcano above the milky sea.

In my own family, that is, the family of my own children, I did not feel compelled to follow the Oyster Stew tradition.  (Parents of my generation probably made a bigger point of reaching a food consensus with children.)  Instead , we have Latkes, our homage to New York City and to my kids’ elementary school which (almost comically) trained them in a gamut of Winter traditions, from Christmas to Hanukkah to Kwanza to Solstace.

I make the Latkes after we go to a Christmas Eve church service, which sports a Christmas pageant, in which small children wear burlap if they are shepherds, velvet hats if they are kings, sheep ears if they are sheep, flower crowns if they are angels, and sing sibilant carols in a beautiful federalist church of white walls, dark wood, and deeply gilded angel statues.

We always go to this service, because we have always gone to this service.  It is beautiful, and early enough to fit in before the Latkes.  But, most importantly, this is the service we have always gone to.  It started when my children were children, a time when they especially liked seeing other children perform.  (Even infants have an eye for the pint-sized.)

Though we don’t go to that church so regularly, we have gone long enough to recognize others there; the woman with the frizzy hair who seems to arrange things,  the guy with the muscles in drag and sleeveless sequins, the woman minister with the divine voice, who, singing all the liturgy, embues it with a beautiful minor-keyed profundity, the devoted-looking gay couple who used to hold an infant and now carry a small girl in a red hat and coat, the very nice looking family with the pretty mother with hennaed hair, glasses,  and bangs, who has a little dark-eyed boy who sometimes studies “Where’s Waldo?”, a little girl with wispier bangs who has at least once fallen completely off the pew, and a little dark-eyed baby, now toddler, who really doesn’t seem to care for church, and who is passed from the mother to the dark-eyed father, and finally carried from the service when he begins to fuss too much.

Latkes are much much better than oyster stew.  Although there are no crackers to chase, there are no grey blobby bits to avoid.  Besides, it’s what we always have; it’s what we eat Christmas Eve.


(I am linking this post to Victoria C. Slotto’s liv2write2day blog about Christmas experiences and imperfect the hush of the moon

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8 Comments on “Christmas Eve Traditions- No More Oyster Stew”

  1. Christmas eve for us has always been rich with tradition (including eating things I didn’t enjoy…I feel ya here!) This will be the first year of my life I don’t spend christmas eve with my parents and brother. I am grown. I have two children, and a husband of my own. yet, I will miss the groaning as “their” traditions are laid out for me, but will smile as I know I am carving out a little piece of my own traditions…the ones my kids will groan about and change when they are older. Merry Christmas to you!

  2. brian miller Says:

    it is cool to have traditions that you can look forward too…i might not have minded taht oyster stew if it replaced the pickled brussle sprouts….that was my moms…

    i hope you have a very merry christmas!

  3. Morning Says:

    nice, you are capable of everything or anything.

  4. i loved the descriptions of the oyster stew, and of the people in church, and the adjectives you chose. a beautiful piece friend. merry christmas!

  5. zongrik Says:

    the song “tradition” in Fiddler on the Roof is respected by all cultures, and that just goes to show how important tradition is to mankind in general.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      It’s a great song. AND if you like musicals, check out my comic novel Nose Dive on Amazon (Karin Gustafson/Jonathan Segal) as it uses a lot of bits and pieces of musicals including Fiddler! K.

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