Food Traditions, Family Identity & Social Structure
The major ritual meal in my family stands for the Christmas dinner. This meal is highly significant as it collects the majority of family members and extended family together, who live in other states or even abroad. This meal is held in my parent’s house. There is no exact time for the ritual meal, as it depends on quantity of dishes on a basis of collected members. Christmas is the time when the whole family makes the effort to come down on the same day. The approximate time of beginning the preparation of Christmas Dinner stands for midday after unpacking all presents, as everybody feels like talking with each other, discussing missed family events, grazing and snacking on edible gifts. Therefore, my family has a tendency to procrastinate. Practically all family members assist in getting the dinner dished up and the table laid. Ultimately, the family finally sits down to eat an elaborate meal around seven and it stretches late into the night.
Food and Ingredients
My family’s traditional Christmas dinner includes either roast turkey or ham or a standing rib roast (or even all dishes if all extended family members arrive and we feel ambitious), green beans, mashed potatoes, candied yams, a few kinds of salads, and homemade rolls. Our family always prepares lots of different kinds of desserts (pumpkin, cherry, apple, pecan, etc), discrepant kinds of Christmas cookies together with a family tradition of Charlotte Russe (which is also known as Russian Pudding). Moreover, my aunt always tries to bring green or pink goop (this is some kind of jello-salad). Despite the fact that my mother attempted to change things up on us a couple of times, for example traditional desserts, all family members made such a fuss that she promised never to do it again.
Meaning & Participants
Christmas appears to be full of old traditions, similar to eating turkey on Christmas dinner. The traditional menu including turkey was popularized in A Christmas Carol written by Charles Dickens. In fact, a lot of culinary historians assume that the depiction of Christmas turkey as Scrooge's gift to the Cratchit family helped in cementing the turkey’s place at the center of the holiday meal for both affluent and modest households. The facts demonstrate that turkey have historically been affordable and big enough to feed a huge family. Moreover, Americans have always preferred large fowl for celebrations due to the fact that such poultry could be butchered without a large economic sacrifice. Despite the fact that cows are also big enough to feed the huge extended family, they appeared to be more useful alive than dead. Furthermore, the commercial beef was not broadly available until the late 19th century. On the other hand, chicken appeared to be more greatly regarded on contrary to their present state, due to the fact that hens were indispensable for laying eggs, while rooster meat is known to be very tough. In addition, the tradition of Christmas ham derives from the fact that such animals as pigs were butchered before winter in order to save the costly winter food. Ham was perfect for storing and ready available. My mother has a tradition of making Christmas ham every year, which she learned from her parents and attempts to adhere to it, especially when grandparents com to our house. The classic centerpiece of the Christmas dinner is standing beef rib roast. The one, which is prepared in our house, is coated with an herb-garlic crust. In fact, the American history demonstrates that prime rib initially became popular during the Industrial Revolution. This was the period when meat butchering norms and standards enhanced to the point where more families in the United States were capable of enjoying high-caliber beef dinners. The dish is prepared in manner, which allows the meat to be slow-roasted with dry heat doe to the fact that it is actually “standing” on the bone without practically touching the pan itself. Despite the fact that my aunt prefers grilling it, my mother adheres to the traditional cooking method of roasting the meat. Charlotte Russe or Russian Pudding is a traditional Christmas dessert at our house. It has to be very rich but at the same time light. We eat it every year and it appears to be the perfect ending to a big meal. The Christmas dinner would feel unfinished without this dessert even regardless all other pies or cakes. This is my mother’s in-law’s great-grandmother’s traditional dessert recipe.
The participation aspect of Christmas dinner demonstrates that my mother cooks the majority of traditional meals. The majority of other family members do the serving and clearing after the dinner. Therefore, our family appears to be a support system. Christmas dinner is our family ritual, which involves the majority and all (rarely) members of the extended family. This ritual meal occurs episodically on 25th of December and has a symbolic sense for family members. This is a main reason why it is valued by the participants to the highest possible extend, as they all desire this ritual to be carried on in the future (sharing recipes and learning how to cook some traditional meals, including favorite Charlotte Russe). Christmas dinner ritual reflects family traditions and is also connected to cultural and religious practices and perspectives. In fact, Christmas dinner ritual reminds people that communication can be symbolic, while repetition promotes learning and the past is actually embedded in the present. There was one year, when we could not prepare traditional Christmas meals, making sandwiches, lasagna, and tossed salad instead. In fact, it did not resemble Christmas at all, regardless Christmas tree and minor humble presents. Our Christmas rituals are observed widely by the cultural groups and provide an opportunity for larger group identification for the family, as they are highly traditional. Moreover, the constant repetition also contributes to family stability. Nevertheless, there have been some solid traditional Christmas dinner differences between my parents’ family rituals, leading to one considerable conflict around celebration. Nevertheless, after my father’s mother shared recipe of their family’s traditional Charlotte Russe and my mother demonstrated that she can cook it almost as good as their great-grandmother the conflict vanished like smoke. Regardless all other family celebrations, Christmas dinner is a day of making dishes from scratch, which is a way to personalize recipes and express family traditions and culinary skills. The inclusion of family recipes not only expresses individual identities but also asserts personal meaningfulness. Christmas dinner is a highly important ritual meal in the family cycle, which is adequately recognized and celebrated. In fact, rituals are significant and beneficial methods of transmitting values from generation to generation. The effective usage of rituals is one avenue of consolidating families and creating an environment where personal well-being and solid family connections are enhanced.
Thus, our family ritual meal facilitates the transmission of beliefs and values, contributes to a family identity, and facilitates the coordination between family members. In fact, Christmas dinner appears to be more important than Thanksgiving Day, as it actually collects practically all family members, who communicate, help and support each other, and share positive emotions.