What you choose to make for Christmas dinner can be the start of a delightful holiday tradition, give you a chance to experiment with new ideas, or continue an honored family custom. For those who enjoy cooking, creating a Christmas dinner is a welcome departure from the 30-minute after-work supper. For those who don't cook as much, a little creativity can still make for a delightful repast.
Christmas Dinner Can Be Anything You Want
There really aren't any set rules for Christmas dinner. Some gather at noon, while others enjoy the day in full before sitting down to an evening meal. Some travel from house to house, snacking all the way, while others host large meals at a big dining table and the ubiquitous "kid's table". So have fun, get everyone involved, and enjoy the gift of family and friends.
If you want to morph into Julia Child, there are some fantastic cookbooks and Web sites that help you make those visions of sugarplums dancing in your head a reality.
- Bon Appetit The Christmas Season has more than 100 holiday recipes both traditional and contemporary.
- Epicurious has an extensive holiday recipe selection, not only for Christmas dinner, but also for Kwanzaa celebrations, Hanukkah, New Year's Day and more.
- Williams-Sonoma Christmas has a bounty of seasonal recipes for the experienced cook through this book and on their Web site.
- Nigella Lawson's book Feast: Food to Celebrate Life allows the host to make special holiday dishes and still have quality time with the family.
Be A Little Different
Sometimes, the best Christmas dinners shake up tradition a bit.In our family, my sister-in-law and I like to try new recipes for holiday get-togethers, but these dishes don't always go over well with some of the children. So one year, I formed homemade pizza dough into the shape of Christmas trees for the kids. They had a lot of fun "decorating" their pizza tree with flavorful ornaments while the adults enjoyed more grownup fare.
A potluck Christmas dinner is a great way for everyone to contribute to the main meal. It saves the host a lot of prep time and adds diversity to the table. A potluck is also a great way to make visiting family and other guests feel needed and special. Ask Aunt Emily to bring her red velvet cake, Cousin Fred for his green bean casserole, and beg Grandma Maria for her tamales. You won't be sweating in the kitchen all by yourself, everyone will be assured of a favorite dish, and this mix-and-match meal makes for great conversation around the table.
Try a Theme Dinner
A theme dinner adds another level of celebration to the event and the host can ask dinner attendees to help research and cook different recipes.
Historic dinners are a hot new way to entertain.
- Your Christmas dinner can be fun and educational with some of the cookbooks from History Cooks. Make meals that Lewis and Clark might have had, or cowboys, or American Indians.
- Marie Kimball's Thomas Jefferson's Cookbook is another great resource for a themed Christmas dinner.
- For a more spiritual approach to the feast, try the What Would Jesus Eat cookbook. No gimmicks - just spirituality combined with healthful recipes good for any time of the year.
- Share the traditions of great chefs by using Christmas Memories with Recipes. Memories include Betty Fussell's childhood Depression-era Christmas and Marcella Hazan's bittersweet recollection of the first Christmas in Italy after WWII.
No matter what the occasion might be, regional cooking is a great adventure and a fun departure from the standard holiday cuisine. Pick any region, from southern Italy to the American Southwest, New England to the Deep South, and take a trip without ever leaving the table.
Some families enjoy trying to make dinners from different movies, such as How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The DVD of the feature film, starring Jim Carrey as the Grinch, has an interactive section with a few recipes. So start with the Roast Beast - reproduced as roast beef, perhaps? - and progress from there.
Research Family History
Celebrate your special culture and heritage by serving family recipes and dishes your ancestors used to eat. Plan ahead and get the whole family involved by thumbing through old cookbooks and doing a little research. It's a wonderful way to give Christmas dinner more meaning, and if you don't cook ethnic dishes very often, you might discover a new delight as you reconnect with traditions long forgotten.
Find More Christmas Dinner Ideas
Click over to our recipe site for more ideas to make your Christmas dinner a memorable and delectable feast.