Each year on Christmas Eve, I’m delighted to share some of the Christmas Eve traditions I’ve experienced with my family in years gone by, as well as a few recipes.
In my childhood, there was just me and my mom and dad. Throughout the season, as well as on Christmas Eve, we would watch Christmas shows and Christmas specials on television. I especially enjoyed the Musical specials–including Andy Williams–and we loved to Sing Along With Mitch! When I was around age 11, we began reading the Christmas story from the Bible and I would place the figures of Mary and Joseph, the baby Jesus, and the shepherd in a diorama I had received at church. Always on Christmas Eve, I was able to select one gift from under the tree to be opened that night. There was a fire in the fireplace, and I remember enjoying the feeling of that special night together.
Many years later, after my marriage and when my children were young and we lived in the Long Beach, Lakewood, Ontario and Palmdale areas of California, we’d go to the home of my in-laws for a celebration. There were varied main dishes and desserts. Each of their three children and I, along with each grandchild, received a Christmas stocking stuffed to the brim with small surprises–which we all opened that evening. Many surprises included items from Avon– for which my mother-in-law was a representative. It is a warm and wonderful memory for us now.
We enjoyed some celebrations with our Murphy side of the family, usually at other times during the season when we were in California.
Later in life, on other Christmas Eves, especially in Arizona while I was raising my children, I simplified. We always had a little spiritual program Christmas Eve night followed by fun, songs or games when we were at our own home. We had a traditional dinner of Enchilada Pie (a tradition that began with Grandma Mary Jane Kilgore), tossed green salad with Ranch dressing, tortilla chips, and Uncle Chuck Murphy’s Salsa most years. Grandma Kilgore’s Lemon Cake drizzled with a lemon glaze usually followed.
A Cherished Memory
I remember the year my mom’s health was rapidly declining, and she was passing away. Her kidneys were failing and she was experiencing congestive heart failure. Mom also had breast cancer. My youngest daughter, Marissa (age 8), was praying that she would be with us until Christmas. When she shared with me her sincere desire, expressed in prayer, I said something like, “Oh no, Sweetheart, we need to let her pass when she’s ready. It’s not good for her to stay with us all that time until Christmas.” I quickly went to the copy shop, in September of the year 2000, and made paper copies of Christmas songs we could sing around my mom’s bedside.
Shortly thereafter, we sang Christmas carols to her and got to pre-celebrate our last Christmas together with song and with love in our hearts for that gentle, kind, loving, other’s-focused soul whom I was privileged to call my mother. I know that that was a very holy time for all of us. Earth and heaven seemed very intertwined.
I’m grateful that Jesus Christ was born, filled His mission on earth, and was resurrected—overcoming both physical and spiritual death and bridging the gap for us between earth and heaven again. Making it possible for us to also return, as He did, to live with our Heavenly Father once more. Because of Him, death will have no sting, and I will be able to see my mom, dad and other friends and family again someday. For me, in Christ, there is both hope and peace. I am very grateful.
Here’s our recipes in case you’d like to try them.
Grandma Mary Jane Kilgore’s recipe from Lawry’s.
We used this on Christmas Eve.
Lawry’s Enchilada Sauce Mix packet Ripe olives
1 pound ground beef or ground turkey 1 can tomato sauce – 8 oz.
1 medium onion, chopped 6 corn tortillas
1 clove garlic, minced 2 cups shredded cheese
2 T. margarine or butter 2/3 cup water
1 tsp. Salt ¼ tsp. pepper
In a saucepan combine Enchilada sauce mix, 1 can (8 oz.), 2 ½ cups water. Blend well. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside.
Sauté ground meat, onion and garlic in the margarine or butter. Stir in Enchilada sauce, olives, salt and pepper.
Butter corn tortillas. Layer in buttered, round Pyrex casserole dish in this order:
Repeat until the 6 tortillas are used, and pour the remaining sauce over all.
Pour 2/3 cup water at the edge of the casserole into the bottom.
Cover the top with the rest of the cheese. (We use Cheddar cheese)
Bake in a 400 degree oven for 40 minutes. Serves at least 6.
UNCLE CHUCK MURPHY’S SALSA
We used this on Christmas Eve, too.
1 packet Italian dressing mix 1 medium can chopped or sliced olives
1 small can diced green chili 3-4 green onions
2 fresh tomatoes, diced cilantro to taste
1 large can diced tomatoes 1-2 cups grated Jack cheese
Empty diced tomatoes into a bowl. Add dry Italian dressing mix, diced green chili (to taste), fresh diced tomatoes, olives, and green onions. This mixture can sit in the refrigerator at least ½ hour or more to blend flavors. Add cilantro and grated cheese just before serving.
I also found myself busy make Ham and Egg Souffle (that sets overnight)
to pop in the oven first thing in the morning.
HAM AND EGG SOUFFLE
1 dozen eggs 2 tsp. Salt
12 slices white bread 3 c. cubed ham
4 c. milk 3 c. Cheddar cheese
1 ½ tsp. Dry mustard
Beat eggs until fluffy. Cut crusts from bread: cube. Place bread in a 9 x 14 inch Pyrex (buttered) dish. Add 4 cups milk to eggs. Dissolve l ½ teaspoons dry mustard in a little water and add to egg mixture. Add salt and chopped ham: mix. Pour over bread. Let set overnight. In the morning, add 3 cups Cheddar cheese as a topping and bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes.
This was started by H. Aileen Calton (my mom) as a traditional Christmas morning breakfast. Many family members now serve this with a cinnamon roll, orange slice, and orange juice, apple juice and/or hot chocolate with marshmallows. Place it in the oven while the gifts are being opened and breakfast is ready at just the right time.
Note: Aileen obtained the recipe when Carolyn was young in a Church Relief Society Visiting Teaching handout which was prepared for delivery to each ward (congregation) member by their Visiting Teachers.
Have a heartwarming and very Merry Christmas!