Leftovers can be the best part of Christmas.
The best holiday meal of the year is the one I eat the day after Christmas. By the morning of December 26, I’ve been on my feet for at least a week cooking and entertaining, and even the teenager takes pity on me. I announce there are plenty of leftovers and snacks to hold us over for a few days, and my time in the kitchen is over. At least as a cook it’s over. I transform into one who can create a feast out of whatever my hand lands on in the refrigerator.
We all love the hustle and bustle of the holidays with guests, gifts and glowing lights, but the joy of having everyone go home is the true magic of Christmas. After the shepherds, angels, wise men, donkeys, sheep and that blasted little drummer boy all went home, don’t you know Mary put her feet up and said, “I thought they’d never leave. This place looks like a barn!”
This used to be the week we traveled when our boys were little. No school between Christmas and New Year’s meant an entire week to visit relatives or take a quick vacation.
But for the past few years, I’ve hosted Christmas at my house, and the week afterwards is what we look forward to all year. We send the relatives on their merry way with hugs and kisses, and this year, even my two sons had to cut their visit short. One, because he has a real-life grown-up job (thank you, God) and had to return for a huge work project, and the other because he enrolled in a January term class that started right away. I told my husband, “I hate they had to leave so early this year.” “Let’s open a bottle of champagne” he said.
For the next few days, I fixed myself a plate of leftover meats, salad (so as not to feel totally guilty), chex mix that I uncharacteristically did not burn this year, pimento cheese, candy canes, spinach dip, crackers – both square and round in order to have a balanced meal. Oh — and a chocolate kiss, because I didn’t want them to go to waste. And for the record it was all on a Lenox Holiday plate, so as not to destroy the Christmas vibe just yet.
Barely cold enough in Alabama for a fire, we lit one anyway and worked on our computers or read real books that didn’t light up and broke the monotony with an occasional nap.
The overstimulation of Christmas celebrations in years past, coupled with travel with energetic children always left us in a heap. These days, we celebrate big then enjoy the calm after the storm. We’re comfy in new socks and jammies from Santa, and there are always a few new gadgets to play with.
After a few days of eating chocolate covered peanuts for lunch and orange circus peanuts for supper, we’re energized and ready to get back to business as usual. I finally have the energy and clarity of mind to pack up the ornaments (by category and place of origin), remove the mistletoe and scrub everything shiny and clean for the new year.
Hosting Christmas, then chilling and surviving off leftovers for a week is a great new tradition I love. Too bad my parents never thought of it. We’ll never do it any other way. Future daughters in law and grandchildren won’t change a thing, will they?