Posts Tagged ‘oyster stew’

The conversation came up on an online support group I am a moderator for. One of the members was ruing her new-found singleness and the fact that her kids will be with their dad for Christmas – again. She mentioned that she didn’t feel like she was making any traditions with her children (although, from the list of things they do together leading up to the holiday, she’d be wrong). Many people replied and told her that she *was* making traditions, but one person wisely said: “just try removing one of the things you do”.

I have poured my heart into Christmas partly because I want my children to have traditions and to have the impetus to start their own traditions with their families as they leave the nest. I brought a lot of tradition into Christmas from my childhood, and my husband brought a lot into it from his childhood, too.

For instance, my family always hung stockings and that was the first item we got to go to on Christmas morning. Generally, we got a chocolate Santa, a tangerine, and a few little odds and ends. My husband’s family did not do stockings. Conversely, my family didn’t do a big spread of food on Christmas Day while his family traditionally had ham or turkey and a formal sit-down dinner. My family’s food tradition centered around oyster stew on Christmas Eve.

My family opened one present on Christmas Eve: the brand new pajamas that my mother had been sewing for us. We were always so thrilled to get new homemade jammies!

Once I was married, we merged stockings into “our” traditions, and the big sit-down meal. We shaved off the homemade pajamas (mostly because I don’t sew) and the one-present-on-Christmas-Eve tradition.

My family’s celebrations always centered around the Nativity. My husband’s family did not display one. Both families embraced Santa Claus.

But there’s that darn oyster stew. My mom would spend hours preparing it from some old family recipe. Steamed mild and green floating pieces of meat (the oysters). The only redeeming feature of this Christmas Eve feast was the little round oyster crackers. We three kids would put as many of those into our bowl of steamed milk and floaty green meat in the hopes that the crackers would absorb the taste. My dad would get mad at us for putting too many crackers into the stew. My mom would frown at us when we refused seconds.

I left for college in 1974. My brother was already on his own. Only my sister remained at home. I remember that first Christmas Eve back home.My parents ordered pizza. PIZZA!??Terry and I were dumbfounded. Where was the oyster stew? We’d dreamed of oyster stew. We expected oyster stew. It’s not Christmas Eve without oyster stew: steamed mild and green floaty meat punctuated with as many oyster crackers as possible. You can’t have Christmas without the stew!

Our parents were flummoxed. “You hate oyster stew. You always complain about oyster stew. You have never liked oyster stew.”

“But it’s TRADITION!”

They never did reinstate the tradition of oyster stew.

I still miss oyster stew on Christmas Eve. It is the only time I miss oyster stew.


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