My Family’s New Tradition: Small Plates on Christmas Eve

published Dec 13, 2013
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(Image credit: Kathryn Hill)

Every family celebrates Christmas differently. Some hold a big Christmas Eve dinner, others do a brunch with family on Christmas Day, and some (enviably) order Chinese food. Historically, my family has fallen in the first camp, with a more intimate dinner as we hang around the tree and open small presents. Last year, however we tried something different: small plates.

When small plates began to gain popularity many years ago the thing I always loved was the variety and the conversation that a meal of tapas-inspired bites spurred. Discussion extended beyond “Is your thing good? Yes, my thing is great” to an experience where sharing, both food and conversation, is more open and free.

For my food-obsessed family, it’s a perfect Christmas Eve dinner. Not only can all of us be responsible for our own contribution, adding to a few more substantial main items, but it means one less decadent, rich meal in a season already so filled to the brim with those.

Last year, my mother was on a clean-out-the-freezer-before-we-move-houses bender, and the feast varied from cocktail party fare like blue cheese encrusted steak tips to roasted root vegetables to panko crusted haricot vert “fries”and a cheese and charcuterie board.

Without the stress of a big to-do dinner, our entire family enjoyed Christmas Eve without worry that everything would come out perfectly on time. Wasn’t it better for us all to spend an evening together nibbling on delicious cheeses and savory hors d’oeuvres rather than one or two of us frantically timing out the oven schedule? Maybe it’s unconventional, but we are pretty excited to continue the tradition again this year.

What is your Christmas Eve tradition?