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December 25th is the day that is celebrated with lot of joy and religious fervour not just by the Christians but by everyone who believe in goodness of mankind. Christmas day is the day that Jesus Christ, the Saviour of Mankind, was born. Almost the entire world gets decorated with colourful festoons sprinkled with twinkling stars that adorn all homes celebrating the fun filled festival of Christmas.  

The Christian housewives spend hours over hot stoves or ovens baking and making a variety of cakes, cookies and other traditional regional sweets. The midnight mass on Christmas eve is followed by greeting each other and feasting on these goodies. The Christmas dinner is an important affair, where the whole family sits around table heavily laden with a number of delicious dishes which includes the Christmas cake and Christmas pudding, roast turkey or chicken with all the traditional trimmings and many other family favourites.

In India due the diverse regional differences the main dish can be stuffed-chicken or turkey served along with stir fried vegetables and a rich sauce that oozes with the aromas of local spices used in the dish. Other popular items include Chicken and Spinach Casserole, Barbecued Chicken Lasagne, Chicken Cutlets, Vindaloo etc. Chicken or mutton biryani and sometimes the rich turkey biryani is prepared and consumed widely during the Christmas time. While, vegetarian menus include Vegetable and Rice Casserole, Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie, Corn and Cashew Cutlets, Mint Salad, etc. Desserts like home-made Banana-Chocolate Pancakes, Christmas Plum Cake, Chocolate Cups with Chocolate Mousse, Eggless Pineapple Mousse, Frozen Fruit Pudding, Apple Brandy Cheese Cake, Cherry Berry Cheesecake, and Quick Strawberry Cheese Cake, among many others ensure that you wind up the Christmas meal merrily. 

Well,Christmas Dinner Recipes are no longer a challenge to find really. All you have to do is decide what sort of cuisine you would like to focus on. Try a mix. Have some light poultry with a nicely baked potato dish, a cold salad, all finished with creamy hot beverages with cookies or then a luscious decorative dessert! And if it is a snack and dessert party dwell a lot on research of starter recipes. Have at least four or five starters if you are throwing a party. Count at least six-seven pieces per guest and once you know the segregation of vegetarians and non-vegetarians make the appropriate portions or numbers.

As sweet things are doing the rounds in every household how does one serve something that is filling for the kids. Make some visually attractive snack mixes keeping in mind the festive mood. It could be caramel popcorn with nuts, or coated chocolates, or coated peanuts etc. Have a cupcake party where kids can decorate their own! Make Christmas cookies in unique shapes and write their names on it. Go for finger foods, baked, grilled or fried. Chicken fingers, wraps and rolls with sprouts, vegetables, paneer, cheese, egg can be enjoyed. Sandwiches the all time saviours can be made more exciting too by using different breads, different fillings.

Christmas drinks are meant to warm the cockles of the heart, should highlight the holiday theme and flavour including the garnishes and decorated glassware. These add a festive touch as well as a dash of glamour to any gathering. In order to make a Christmas cocktail or mocktail, be innovative.

Feasting and merrymaking takes precedence during Christmas. Though each region has its specialties, it is an exciting opportunity to explore the newer possibilities of a sumptuous array of X’mas goodies this Christmas. Prepare these yummy treats suggested and do not forget to share it with your family!

It’s noel time, family time

The month of December is awaited by many for quite a few reasons. One because this month heralds the end of the old year. Two because it also brings with it winter which is so much more enjoyable than the hot and sweltering summer months. But most importantly this month brings with it a festival that sadly comes only once a year. And that is Christmas or Xmas or Noel. Call it by any name, it still remains a festival of joy and merriment with holly wreathes, carols, cakes, cookies and gifts galore. And that is that all exactly a week later we get to welcome in the New Year which holds promises of health, wealth, happiness, success, contentment and peace.

Feast and festivities
Preparations for Christmas start nearly a month in advance. Ingredients for Christmas cake and Pudding are shopped for from the choicest shops. Dry fruits for both are marinated in rum or brandy so that they are well matured by the time they are to be used, giving the cake and pudding the traditional flavour and taste. The centre pieces that steal the show are the Christmas cakes and baked goodies. Goodies smeared and loaded with the richness of chocolate and whipped cream.

A lot of animated discussions take place while planning menus for the entire week. Lists of gifts are made and hectic shopping sprees are common during month leading to the festival. Some people get their homes painted and new curtains and upholstery are ordered for. Then starts feverish activity in the kitchens when batches of cookies and more than a dozen other sweetmeats are prepared.

And of course, how can one forget the Christmas tree. Standing tall with pride, the trees come in various sizes to suit the budget and space. Adornments for the tree are needed too if previous year’s stock needs replenishment. Then of course the piles of gifts, all done up in shiny paper and crisp bows, create a wonderful sea of excitement and anticipation around the Christmas tree! These will have to wait till Christmas morning to be opened with lot of glee.

The preparations reach a feverish pitch on Christmas Eve. The entire day is spent cooking the feast for the next day. No devout Christian will miss the midnight mass which is held to rejoice the birth of the Lord. The churches resonate with sweet music, prayers, hymns and carols. People come to Church dressed up in their new clothes and other finery and pray with full devotion. Greetings of 'Merry Christmas' reverberate in the air and it is nearly at dawn that they enter their homes for a short nap if at all there is time for it! The children are restless for their gifts and early Christmas morning they rush to where their gifts await. As gifts are exchanged, the cake is cut, vintage wine brought out and members of the family toast each other and wish for happiness and prosperity.

On Christmas morning since medieval times, church bells have been rung to announce to the world the coming of the Saviour. It was customary from the 18th century to wear new clothes and carry a small bell to signify the birth of Christ. The ringing of the bells was to signify the importance of His Birth. 

Some other things that symbolise the Christmas

Burning of Yule log: In Scandinavia, much before Christianity came into being, it was a custom to burn Yule logs as a mark of respect to Gods. This continues till date. It is considered good luck to keep an unburnt part of the log to light the following year. This unburned portion is also believed to protect the home from lightning and fire throughout the year.

Hanging the Christmas stocking: Children are all agog with excitement as to what the Santa will bring for them this Christmas. So they hang up the biggest stocking they can find on their hearth into which it is believed that St. Nicholas, more popularly referred to as Santa Claus, comes in at midnight and puts gifts and sweets for them. This is a custom that goes back about 400 years. It is derived from the custom in Holland where children placed wooden shoes next to the hearth the night before the arrival of Santa Claus. The children would fill their shoes with straw and food for St Nicholas’ donkey that carried the gifts. In exchange he would leave them a small gift such as small cakes, fruits and other gifts. Stockings substituted the shoes in Britain, most of the Europe and in North America.

Exchange of presents on Christmas day: Baby Jesus received the first gifts on Christmas from three wise men. However, the tradition of exchanging gifts picked up in a big way only in the late nineteenth century. Children go to bed on Christmas Eve with unconcealed expectations of finding their gifts stuffed in their stockings and under the Christmas tree. Grownups exchange gifts as a symbol of good will. Hanging gifts on trees is supposed to stem from tree worship of the Druids of the pre-Christian era. They believed that the tree was the giver of all good things.

Christmas carols: Christmas carols are sung in praise of Lord Jesus and well trained choirs in churches rend the air with their soulful devotional songs.

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