Friday, December 26, 2014

Good King Wenceslas Looked Out...

Since I mentioned we were going to be thirty-four for Christmas Dinner, I thought I'd post some pictures of the morning after!

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Today is December 26th. It's the feast day of St. Stephen, Boxing Day in England and Canada, or perhaps you know it as 50% off All Christmas Merchandise Day. By whatever name, it's one of the best days in the whole Christmas season. The presents are already bought, wrapped and unwrapped. If you haven't gotten Christmas cards out yet, you now have a pass until next year. If you hosted Christmas Dinner, like we did, leftovers mean you don't have to cook for another couple of days, and if you didn't, you still likely have enough treats and temptations to graze on. All the work that goes into making Christmas is behind, with nothing but the pleasure of Christmas to look forward to. All right, you do have to bang out those thank-you letters today. But after that...?

For my family, the season between December 25th and Epiphany is a time filled with reading books, playing cutthroat board games, going to the movies and seeing friends. We go swimming at the Y, binge-watch Lord of the Rings and take long walks on snowshoes (this year it'll be with boots. We're having a wet, green Christmas in southern Maine.) We're particularly lucky - because Ross is a teacher, he's off work from before Christmas Day until after New Years. This year, the timing of both holidays means he and Youngest are at home until January 4. Then it'll be Twelfth night on the 5th, time for a second, smaller dinner party with our friends who weren't able to make it for Christmas Day.  

The actual season of Christmas is often lost in the rush of events, pushed aside by retailers and ignored by the 24-hour-a-day Christmas radio stations, who drop "Rockin'  Around the Christmas Tree" well before most people have taken theirs down. It's a shame, because keeping Christmas - the twelve days that brighten the darkest and coldest part of winter - is, in my experience, the best way to enjoy it. It prevents the post-presents hangover and keeps you from feeling like you've spent a month building up a single day and is that really it?

How about you, Reds? Do you keep Christmas after December 25th? What are your pleasures and pursuits between now and the New Year? 

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  Oh, see, I've solved this. I am SO behind that I will spend the day after Christmas (and Day too, most likely) doing my holiday, er, new years cards. It's not procrastination, or overwork, or tight scheduling, right? It's EXTENDING the season. Plus, the revisions of WHAT YOU SEE are due on Jan 2, and --I have to write a short story. And come up with a brilliant synopsis for another book. Or two.  Rum a pum pum. #needanotherweekortwo

RHYS BOWEN: I have fourteen people sleeping over on Christmas night so I'm anticipating Boxing Day (as we still call it) will start with a huge breakfast. If the weather is nice I hope we'll take a hike or play bocce ball. And like Julia, several board games or charades. This year our new game is Selfies. Someone has to take a selfie and the others have to choose the best caption for it.  And the old favorite is Taboo.

John and I are actually invited to a rather swank party in the evening so we'll leave the kids to fend for themselves. Hopefully lots of leftovers.

HALLIE EPHRON: Between Christmas and New Year is a quiet time for us and especially sweet when either of our daughters are visiting. Julia, I'm coming to your house! 

LUCY BURDETTE: I agree Hallie--Julia's post Christmas weeks sound lovely and relaxing! Alas, I'm almost as behind as Hank so I'll be right back to work. I would go to the post-Christmas decoration sales, but  there isn't much of that in Key West. It's the high season and no one wants to slash prices right now.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Julia, I love the quiet week between Christmas and New Year's. I want to watch all those Christmas movies I didn't get to, listen to Christmas music, and enjoy my tree. All the things I somehow didn't find time for BEFORE. But like everyone else I have load of work, so will sneak in what I can.

Julia, I don't know how you manage 34 for dinner. You will tell us, won't you? (We will assume you're still standing!)

JULIA: Still standing, though you'll notice this conversation didn't make it onto the blog until 9:30 in the morning! We have a large old farmhouse, a really big dining room table, and friends with good quality folding tables and chairs. So: 12 at the dining room table, 6 in the table by the Christmas tree (which gets taken down immediately after eating to clear the space for musicians and singers,) 8 20-somthings in the parlour and six college-and high-school youths at the kitchen table. We serve from the library, in the middle of all three rooms.

A festive time was had by all, as you can see from the pictures...

How about you, dear readers? What are your plans for the Feast of Stephen and beyond?


  1. Your dinner arrangements sound absolutely amazing. The most we had around our table at one time was eleven . . . it was family and it was fabulous [and I didn't mind the cooking at all].

    The holidays continue here . . . generally quiet with lots of time for reading. This year, however, the Colorado contingent is here and we will be out and about with the grandbabies . . . a trip to Storybookland is on the schedule.

    Holiday blessings to all . . . .

  2. Would love to see those pix, Julia! I have only one son home for a few days, but we definitely play Scrabble and go for long walks. And last night had great fun playing charades with an eight year old and a five year old after our ham and pasta feast. This morning it's back to work for me, though. 30000 words to write in 20 days...

  3. Ah, and the pictures arrive! Looks lovely.

  4. Sorry, Edith - I fluffed my first go at posting the pictures. I suspect I'm not in any better shape this morning than my house!

  5. Yes, but Julia, I want to know how you FED 34 people!

    And your house looks lovely!

  6. Oh, I see..those are all tables at YOUR house???

  7. It has to be a potluck, right???

    Edith, 30,000 words in 20 days? is that legal?

  8. I had a full house this year - 12. Actually had to set up a table in the living room. And now, at not quite noon the next day, most of them are gone. Best kind of visitors? Not sure. No leftovers this year, just a little bit of roast and more cookies than I thought I'd have.

    I took today off, but usually I have to go back to work. I have to be at work bright and early Monday morning. I could probably get away with working at home next week, but the kids are off so I'd get nothing done.

    Have to drive The Girl to swim practice in about twenty minutes - she's got practice every day next week except New Year's Day.

  9. So, how the Christmas dinner works: Ross and I supply soup, turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes and at least one side dish. We also stock in some wine and we always have a signature cocktail for before dinner. (This year The Boy, who is our mixologist, made a punch that was VERY well received. I'll post the recipe next year on JRW before the holidays.)

    All our guests bring a dish, a dessert, or a bottle to add to the mix. We have a friend who makes wonderful hors d'oeurve platters, for instance, so I don't have to worry about that, and another who always brings a buche de noel. Two or three special angels usually pitch in doing the last-minute food prep: gravy, mashing potatoes, carving the turkey (and this year, a ham as well.)

    It's very much a collaborative effort. The sum is great than the individual parts.

  10. I'm enjoying a quiet day with my parents today. Tomorrow will be visit with some family friends and more time with my niece and nephew before I head home on Sunday. Sadly, I must return to work on Monday since fiscal year end is coming up on New Year's Eve. Accountants don't get much time off for the holidays.

  11. As to cards---remember, before the 25th is Advent. From the 25th until Twelfth Night is actually Christmas. So you still have time to get those cards out!
    And, please. If this is the only time of the year you are in touch with people, please do more than just sign it. Or worse yet, have your name printed on the card. Add a note, however short, or skip it I say!

  12. The week between Christmas and New Year's is a birthday week for us. For 31 years the day after Christmas has meant the celebration of a beautiful daughter being born. My husband and I had lots of fertility issues, and bringing this angel into the world was the miracle of miracles for us. With my husband's birthday on December 30th (actually my due date), we have a special week following Christmas. We're going to combine a birthday dinner this year, so today, after seeing our son and his fiancee off (a visit that did my soul a mighty lot of good), I am kicking back and looking at all of my great books I got for Christmas and reading. Also, tonight my son and I, he in his home and I in mine, will start watching Dr. Who together. I can't believe that neither of us has picked up this obsession yet, but we will start to rectify that egregious error tonight.

    I love hearing about all of your after Christmas plans. It seems like a more restful time for all. I will have house work starting back after New Year's, so I am going to take advantage of the quiet. Have a lovely day today, Reds.

  13. The most I've had at one table (actually, three tables, end to end, in the cleared-out living room) was 22, and I cooked everything, for my father-in-law's 90th birthday. I made prime rib, potatoes Dauphinois, Brussels sprouts, green salad, and hors d'oevres, but bought the dessert. I wasn't that crazy! Luckily, three grandkids were here, to help serve, and to clean up afterwards, plus our niece's then-boyfriend (now husband). He scrubbed pots until midnight, bless him.

    On the 23rd we had 12 here, and I made the whole meal, with the proviso that my sister-in-law would cook yesterday. She had lots of help, and people brought desserts. But usually we have some kind of potluck for family meals.

    The most I've ever cooked everything for was our once-every-couple-years Halloween party, where I always serve a late supper. We've had as many as 50 here, and I always try to do something quirky. One time, black squid ink pasta, another time orange pepper soup. Another time was two kinds of lasagna. Plus, lots of crazy extras. But I might be getting too worn out for that kind of thing any more!

    It sure helps to have additional and willing hands. It's such a great tradition, Julia, and one your kids will no doubt continue as they get older, in some fashion.

  14. Roberta, it might not be legal, but it has to happen. It's only 1500 words each day...

  15. I should say Ross made Rhys's parsnip soup:

    and our guests loved it. We had two tureens full, and there wasn't more than a tablespoon left after dinner. AND I found it using our new search engine function! It works!

  16. Leftovers, BPL soccer, a major gym workout, a stack of new books and DVD's, and after a week of gray skies, sunshine. And major plotting and dialogue practice walking the dogs. It doesn't get much better.

  17. Sometimes my favorite time is this week after Christmas. Like Julia said, everything that HAD to be done is done and what wasn't doesn't matter quite so much. The decorations stay up, I continue to read Christmas-themed books, listen to the music and watch the movies, and write the letter I didn't have time to include in each Christmas card. And of course I get to play with all the goodies I received as gifts!

  18. Judging by the photos alone Christmas at your house was a blast. And isn't it wonderful to have eleven more days of Christmastide to enjoy with family and friends!