Christmas with Chinti
Whether you celebrate Christmas itself or just the much-needed time off in the depths of winter, everyone has their own 'Christmas' traditions that define the holidays, and which they hold dear. A unique and culturally diverse bunch, here, team Chinti share their favourite Christmas rituals.
In Masserano, where I'm from in Italy, every Christmas Eve there's an incredible bonfire in front of the village church at midnight. Depending on which direction the wind pushes the fire, the upcoming year will be either rich or poor. If the fire goes east, the year ahead will be one of abundance, and full of bread and wine, and if goes west...a year of misery. No!
And then comes the Christmas Day food. Sigh. Things start with a foie gras pate from Belgium (my grandad lived there as a young boy, so we still have foodies connections. Culatello (a special kind of prestigious Parma Ham, which is HEAVEN), dates rolled in Pancetta (Oh, yes) vol-au-vents with Cheese fondue. There are plenty of other things, but these change from year to year. The main dish is turkey stuffed with chestnuts, which is a recipe from my American aunt, so this is not Italian at all, but certainly done to Italian standards.
As we are Australian, it was always a hot sunny Christmas for us growing up, usually at our beach house. We would start the day at the beach for a swim, then open all our presents followed usually by a mixed seafood and cold turkey/ham lunch which goes all afternoon. There's lots of drinking, joking, laughter and the evening usually ends with us all singing around the table into wooden spoons pretending they are microphones!
One reason I love a northern hemisphere Christmas so much now that I'm an adult, is that it's what I had read about in childrens books and what I saw in movies; all cosy and rugged up inside, eating a hot meal - all the Christmas 'stuff' your flooded with makes sense in the cold. Plus, you get to wear all your Chinti woollies.
I should have been a decorator... it's all about dressing the tree for me! My mum's house has lovely high ceilings, so we can get a pretty big Norwegian Spruce in our living room, and ever since I was little, this has been my responsibility. Okay, so I do get some help as I am petite in stature, but the creative's all mine. And by creative, I mean a very eclectic mix of tinsel, bows, lights, and decorations collected over many, many years and thrown together - it's the antithesis of my far stricter creative vision for Chinti, but I feel that Christmas should be, well, Christmas. And when else do you get to embrace kitsch with such wild abandon?
My family Christmas runs like clockwork. All the adults have a job to do and the only thing that changes is the location and the amount of people we cater for. We rotate between a selection of family homes every year with an open house policy, so family and friends are all welcome! So far our highest count is 23, but there's always enough food for 43! We have a traditional Jamaican breakfast on Christmas Day, this is made up of:
Ackee and Saltfish
Fried Dumplings or Festival
Back when I was younger (much younger) we would eat this with "hard food", which would be green banana, boiled dumplings and yam but by the time you ate all this, you were too full to eat Christmas dinner later!