DO you start when you are planning a Christmas dinner and your friends
and relatives include a diverse group of cultures and ethnic backgrounds?
From Christian to Moslem,
Hindu to Krishna, Atheist to "I don't care who God is, just give
me the pressies", catering for Christmas can take on new dimensions
and provide some interesting challenges.
What will they all eat?
This is generally the first
question and probably the biggest headache, especially for the culinary
challenged - I'm sure we all know someone who roasted the turkey with
the plastic bag of giblets still inside! Perhaps you were that person
- but don't worry, you probably didn't do much worse to it than most
manufacturers had already done to get it to be "oven ready"!
What customs and rituals
should be observed?
This is another killer question
ready to trip up the unprepared host. some people get very detailed
about THEIR rituals - and I'm not talking God related one's here. What
time does Santa come? Exactly how many mince pies are left out for him
on Christmas eve? Which grandparents get to host Christmas dinner this
year and who has to make do with Boxing day instead? When is the Christmas
tree set up and decorated and whose turn is it to put the angel/fairy/star
on top of the tree? And, the list goes on - no matter what the religious
beliefs are, there is a whole raft of rituals and traditions associated
with Christmas time and upon which the entire success of the occasion
Now, add in the occasional
vegetarian or vegan (what, you didn't know there was a difference!),
jew, hindu, moslem (you can't NOT invite your in-laws because they pray
differently), fadist (I only eat white bread toast with peanut butter
and it has to have the crusts cut off and cut into triangles), plus
a few toddlers (I'm making a castle with my mashed potatoes and this
is the moat full of gravy...), alcoholic (I don't eat), very old person
("only a tiny bit for me dear", but who you know is saving
room for 7 helpings of sherry trifle) and so on...
In case, you are starting
to get just a tiny bit terrified with the prospects of coping with this
festive season, here are a few ideas to get you started and to ensure
a happy Christmas time for all.
1) Invite everyone.
No matter what denomination
and don't get hung up on belief systems - Christmas time was a celebration
before Christ came along - it just had a different name then. Call it
Yuletide if it helps with denominational barriers - but you don't have
to ditch your own beliefs because you have in-laws coming who are of
a different faith. You can all enjoy the "community" of the
occasion, which is what the spirit of Christmas is all about anyway.
2) Food - variety is the
Either check for any big
NO-NO's on the food front beforehand or have "options" - like
lots of different veggies, and hold back the sauces and dressings for
self serve in case there are hidden ingredients on someone's NO-NO list.
Variety is the key here - there is bound to be something for everyone
although not everyone necessarily has the same "something".
And, unless you're a proficient cook/chef don't try and impress someone
with THEIR national dish - THEY know what it should taste like! As a
final check - pretend that you're a diabetic vegan, with a wheat intolerance
and a nut allergy and see what's left on your planned menu that you
3) Set a new trend.
Break the mould of last Christmas
and do something different - dare to be creative and set your own style
for this Christmas. Rituals can sometimes turn into ruts and a lot of
Christmas rituals are largely about recapturing the excitement that
we felt as kids, with all the glitter and sparkle, presents, sweets,
Santa, eating till we were sick! You can't turn back the clock, but
perhaps you're reliving it through the eyes of your own children or
trying very, very, very hard to pretend that there really is a Santa
Claus and he could just pop down your central heating flue or air conditioning
duct at any moment!
4) Your space.
It is also OK if you would
just like to be on your own at Christmas, in a quiet space and self
indulge in whatever way you enjoy. There is no law that says you have
to be jolly and merry, join in a crowd or be crawled over by small offspring
of friends or relatives. The spirit of love needs to start with yourself
first, such as the self respect for your own space. After all, you can
only give to others what you have within yourself, to give.
5) Make it happen.
Nor do you have to feel left
out - if you want to party, look for one to join in with or host your
own. No point moping about and waiting for an invite - be proactive
- see what's going on in your neighbourhood, see if there are any others
in your area that are looking to connect. However, walking around with
mistletoe glued to your head may be a bit confronting to many and anyway,
they may not know it's significance if they belong to a different ethnicity,
so it could be lost on them entirely.
6) Respect EVERYONE'S
Be relaxed about spirituality
and religion - in general adopt an open style and encourage people to
celebrate and participate within the framework of their own cultural
beliefs. If they don't drink alcohol or eat meat respect their choice
- and don't feel that you need to convert them in order to validate
your own beliefs and lifestyle. However, don't be hypocritical about
the God thing either - if you don't usually say grace before a meal
- why do it now? Who are you really trying to impress? You certainly
wouldn't be fooling God, nor your family! Or, are you that shallow that
you need to impress strangers? Essentially - respect yourself, your
beliefs, your way and respect other people's choices too.
7) A quiet haven.
Set aside a room or a quiet
space away from the festivities, should some guests have a need for
prayer or certain ceremonies as part of their own religious beliefs.
However, a sure sign that the festivities are starting to get too raucous
is when guests start "disappearing" and there is standing
room only in the refuge!
8) CHILL OUT!
Relax - enjoy the day and
each moment. Don't get your knickers in a knot trying to do everything
AND make social chit-chat. Decide whether you want to be - the chef,
the waitress, the socialite or the "not present" and plan
accordingly. If you want to just party, then hire in caterers or arrange
a BYO function, where everyone brings a plate of food and some drink
- you get plenty of variety with this approach and everyone gets to
do their bit. If you have different cultural backgrounds, you also get
to try some new tastes too.
9) Communicate, communicate,
Communicate - especially
BEFORE the event - and let people know what they can expect. Let them
know if they should bring anything - food/drink/presents - or NOT. Give
them the comfort of knowing that they are prepared for whatever they
will be joining in with.
ONE FINAL BIT OF ADVICE:
The biggest stress build
up at Christmas is on those who try and DO IT ALL and expect to have
a happy time while they're doing it.
Decide in advance -
1) What you CAN do,
2) What is THE most IMPORTANT thing to you on this occasion,
3) What you can DELEGATE
4) What can be left out if you run out of steam.
Then you can put your energy
into ACHIEVING the thing that is most important to you. And, if you
don't do everything - you're also already prepared to accept what you
couldn't fit in without feeling that you failed - because you already
decided it was optional.
ENJOY THE MOMENT. ENJOY
THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS.
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