Monday, December 13, 2010

International Christmas

When I was a child, my mother always served oyster stew on Christmas Eve.  She hated the oysters, but loved the flavor they gave to the milky stock.  My father’s family introduced me to oyster dressing and eating them raw on a saltine with a sprinkling of pepper.

My husband’s family immigrated to the US from Sweden and Norway in the late 19th century.  Since I have been married, Christmas Eve has meant baked ham, Swedish meatballs, potato sausage and various accompaniments, including pickled herring. I learned to make my own potato sausage using my husband’s grandmother’s recipe when we lived in South Africa.  The local butcher graciously stuffed it for me.  I spent an evening last week making lefse, a thin potato bread something like a tortilla.  We spread it with butter and sprinkle with sugar and roll it like a cigar.

Most Americans would be surprised to learn that Brussels sprouts are a Christmas tradition in England.  Most Americans can’t stand Brussels sprouts, but then most Americans have never eaten them fresh.  In South Africa our neighbors celebrate with a braai or potjie.  Our New Zealand friends go to the beach.

When we were living in Brazil, we asked our young adult Sunday school class to share their most memorable Christmas.  Every Brazilian talked about the best church Christmas program.  Only Americans like us shared family memories.  But then, our Brazilian friends were generally the only believers in their families.  The church was their family, and their most precious Christmas memories were of fellowship in the house of God.

In Mozambique we spent Christmas afternoons reading our new books or playing new games in our closed-up living room while the antique air conditioner rattled away on the wall in an effort to keep the temperature down in the low eighties.

No matter where you live or how you choose to celebrate, may you rejoice this season in the Lord of all the earth who was born as a human child to redeem for himself people of every tongue and nation.

Ascribe to the LORD, all you families of nations,

   ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. 

Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; 

   bring an offering and come into his courts. 

Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness; 

   tremble before him, all the earth. 
Say among the nations, “The LORD reigns.” Psalm 96:7-10a

Where do you live and how do you celebrate Christmas?


LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books for young people come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will impact lives. Visit her at or find out more about her recent trip to Kenya on her blog.


  1. So interesting! It's fun to hear about the different traditions across the world. In Bermuda, we celebrate pretty much the English way - our main meal will be served in the early afternoon - turkey, ham, potatoes, squash, beans and yes, Brussell Sprouts! Yum. It's the only time of year we eat them and everybody has to have at least one! We always serve Christmas Pudding as well, with Brandy Butter or Custard. In Bermuda our traditional dish is Cassava Pie, which is a sweet/savory mix of delectable delight. I'll be posting a recipe on my blog this coming week. It's one of those things you either love or hate. Depending on the weather, we're either inside around the fire or outside enjoying the sunshine. No telling yet what this year will bring!

  2. I'm a Canadian with the usual Christmas dinner, turkey with all the trimmings. My husband is of Norwegian background and his family celebrates on Christmas Eve with lamb. The meat is purchased a month in advance, hung to dry, then steamed for hours on the 24th before being served around five o'clock. Sour cabbabe is a must accompaniment with the meal.

  3. Interesting how food is such a big part or our celebrations. For those of us who are descended from immigrants, it is often the one time of year when we pull out recipes from the old country. Alice, I assume reconstituted lamb is not a staple of your regular diet. Catherine, I would love to try that cassava pie.

  4. In Canada, the usual Christmas dinner is a full-on turkey spread. My mom-in-law always does Brussels sprouts though less than half the family will eat them, but there's always plenty of other food.

    Growing up, all the families (8) gathered at my grandparents' home on Boxing Day (the 26th) for a big feast, a gift exchange (names drawn earlier) and a program put on by all us kids (33).

    This year is my granddaughter's first Christmas and I'm so blessed that we can share this with her and her parents. Her other grandparents are missionaries in Chile so I don't take my blessings for granted.

  5. I love the kid's Christmas program idea, Valerie. We have long done a Christmas Eve reading and carols service in which the kids participate. I think it makes them feel like a significant part of the family instead of just 'the children.'

  6. i am so late here but in Australia some go to the beach also. when I was younger we had the roast turkey and some roast lamb (I hated turkey) and hot vegetables and then plum pudding. later we changed to cold meats mum would cook them the day before and salad and then ice creams for desert sometimes a pavlova.
    Church on Christmas day was a must and alot do go on Christmas day here. then home for lunch you will often find someone playing backyard cricket.

  7. Thank you for joining in, Jenny. I'm not surprised the Aussies are beach Christmas celebrators, too. I like the cook ahead and eat it cold idea, especially at that this time of year.