Celebrating Christmas Eve is usually entrenched in family tradition and seems to vary more than the holiday meal the next day. When my siblings and I were young and still at home, we gathered around the Christmas tree and exchanged presents on Christmas Eve. I remember this being a wonderful, magical time as we enjoyed the warmth of family love and excitement of a fast approaching visit from Santa. We usually ended the evening gathered around the piano singing Christmas carols, accompanied by my sister, our resident musician. Christmas Eve supper was nothing fancy, but merely a casual family meal. Mother kept this meal simple by preparing a pot of homemade vegetable soup and cornbread in anticipation of our big Christmas dinner the next day.
As time moves forward, my holiday traditions have evolved to include new in-laws and a new generation of extended family. Many folks attend a church service, go caroling, watch a favorite movie, make cookies for Santa or volunteer to feed the homeless. Others enjoy a festive holiday party with friends. For a warm relaxing Christmas Eve, a good friend of mine has begun a family tradition of giving new Christmas PJ’s which are to be donned for the evening.
If your Christmas Eve is a casual “at home” family affair, you might like to follow my mother’s lead with a hearty soup, stew or main dish. Try warm, comforting Turkey and Smoked Sausage Stew with Corn Meal Sage Dumplings, Creamed Chicken on Corn Meal Waffles or Tuscan White bean Soup with Hot Water Hoecakes to calm the Christmas Eve excitement.