A Country Christmas: Holiday Recipes and Memories

Ellen Frell shares her memories of a country Christmas and her family's Christmas holiday recipes, including roast goose, Danish kringle, and rice pudding.

| November/December 1987

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    A fine roast goose—crisp, juicy and beautifully brown—for a traditional Christmas feast.

  • 108-084-01-im1.jpg

Enjoy these country Christmas holiday recipes handed down from years of family tradition. Recipes include the goose of Christmas past, and Danish kringles that can vary according to the cook's whim. 

A Country Christmas: Holiday Recipes and Memories

The setting: Bloomington, Illinois. Time: the '50s and '60s. This is the very heart of the heartland, and our home. Snow settled over the black cornfields of McLean County in mid-December, and the dark soil disappeared into white. A brick house, fir tree lit up on the front lawn, wreath on the door, sleds leaning against the side of the house.

The ghosts of Christmases past gather outside. Through the windows they see a family, a rough dozen of us, different ages and sizes, assembled here from various origins, from Italy and New York, from Des Moines and Denmark. A volatile mixture, ready to celebrate Christmas.

Through the windows of that house in Bloomington could be seen certain traditional events and foods and even arguments that were carried on from year to year. Discussions about midnight mass or an early one Christmas morning, and Danish kringle for breakfast—these were two of several topics in our household that were as traditional as Santa himself.

On Christmas Eve after dinner we would have our annual debate about midnight mass. Someone would bring up the subject, remark that he had always wanted to go, and discussion would start. Lots of us wanted to go. None of us had ever been. Then we would settle into our conversations and laughter and become fatigued far too early in the evening to make the late-night foray. Every year it was debated and argued.

Every year we agreed to do it. Every year at 11:00 p.m. we'd accept the unspoken group decision: This year we weren't going. It was a required family script, emphatically delivered, with a well-known ending. A real family tradition.

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