A Place at My Table

reddecor

As the festive season approaches, the preparations in homes around the world begin. The making of sweets and in many varities is one of the bigger traditions upheld by millions of people, be they Christians or not. Families gather around the kitchen table in homes each evening (or even in the morning) and the work gets underway.

In my family things begin to happen as early as the first week of November, and that is a tradition which has been handed down for generations.

My earliest memory of Christmas would be that of my maternal grandmother gearing up for the season. She hailed from Goa, and for those of you familiar with the Portugese/Goan Catholic traditions, you’d probably know that these people do not take the season of Christmas from its religious significance to the festivities, lightly. At all.

Before November ended each year, the two and three foot ceramic jars which lined the wall in rooms of our house were filled to brimming with sweets of every flavor and colour. – They were all homemade sweets made mostly by my grandmother.

From scratch.

Were they for us and our guests?

Not really.

We’d get to enjoy what was left. (And, there was always plenty left to last us till February.)

xmastray

The jars would be emptied in the week leading up to Christmas. The goodies would be loaded onto trays and dishes and covered with festive embroidered doilies (also made by my grandmother from August onwards).

The first homes to receive the trays would be ones where there had been a loss that year. Families in mourning were sent Christmas sweets since they would not be making any in their own home. It was to let them know they were in our thoughts, and that they need not worry about their inability to celebrate or come visit.

Their place at our table would not remain empty, it would simply come to them.

After that, the other families living on our street, regardless of race, colour, ethnicity or religion would each receive a tray of sweets as well, but for another reason.

Festivities are meant to be carried forward and shared. The trays were arranged with painstaking care by my grandmother. The items selected for each one corresponded with each neighbor’s (and their families) likes and even dislikes. I realized years later that when she began to make the Christmas sweets, my grandmother kept everyone’s tastes in mind when thinking quantity.

It’s really not a wonder that over twenty five years after her passing, we still receive phone calls and emails (also visits) from a number of our old neighbours at the start of or during the season. Not one of them will ever let the opportunity slide to tell us how Christmas is not really Christmas without Nana’s cakes and sweets, or how when they made a particular one that year themselves with their kids/grandkids, it turned out good, but definitely not as good as she used to make them.

Not that my grandmother would care how anything turned out. But, she’d be as pleased as punch to know tradition was still being carried out decades later in the families she was always so fond of.

Traditions, she never believed in teaching through instruction, but instead inviting people to and sharing it with them in her home and around her table which held a special place for everyone no matter who or what they were.

And, she was not the only one who did it.

Goan homes here where I live were and still are usually filled with immense amounts of activity as the season approaches. Men, women and children are all present and undertaking tasks quite naturally, and in a semblence of order which one can’t really outline. Neighbours drop in unannounced (if they didn’t we’d wonder why), and family however distant is always present.

From which carols play endlessly on the stereo thanks to that one uncle who is too obsessed with Bing Crosby’s Christmas music, to the cousin who never manages to cut the marzipan in the exact shape it should be cut, things still get done. The dough is always formed into whatever it needs to be by that one ace crafter every family has, and on time. The almond toffee starting to get sticky and too tough for just two hands to stir in the huge pot on the stove happens when it should, because you all know there is no way it can get the better of a Mum and Dad team when they attack it together in a silent and determined four handed synchronized stirring. And, the homemade wine always, always turns out perfect, despite it being the first attempt of the family’s new daughter in law, who may or may not have added some of her own twists to her mother in law’s original recipe.

Fun times, laughter, family and friends you don’t really get to enjoy as much throughout the hectic pace of the entire year that’s gone by.

That’s just one part of Christmas for us.

This year, instead of loading mixing bowls and stocking the freezer, I’ll be packing suitcases, and the house will be a lot more quiet as we focus more on our upcoming trip than our usual festivities.

But, in a few weeks we’ll be getting off a plane and heading to my sister’s house to celebrate Christmas with her family. My mother will be there already, and between them all a lot of things will be ready and waiting for us. Although, there will be tons deliberately left over for us to do.

Despite all that, the time leading up to Christmas will not slide by for me without its usual festive touch. It is completely impossible for me to ignore the season and everything that goes with it, since there is no time in the whole year that I love more (or participate in without any qualms whatsoever).

I never hold back from celebrating the season as much as I can, and sharing it with as many people as I can. And, my grandmother who till now remains a constant in every part of my Christmas festivities is one of the biggest reasons I love doing so.

This year I get to share it with a few more people, that is, all of you (albeit online). But, it will be as special as I can make it.

So, there are a series of posts coming up under the title Spirit of Christmas, where you all will hopefully get to see how and why the different aspects of this wonderful holiday are so important to not just me, but everyone who truly celebrates, and in whatever way they can in their homes or beyond. Fun, sentimental, funny and even annoying, you’re going to get it all.

I invite you to join in and share whatever you’d like to, or just drop in for some fun, music and cheer.

Because, this year for you, there is also a place at my table.

Much love,

Anne

table

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29 thoughts on “A Place at My Table

  1. “Because, this year for you, there is also a place at my table.” –Thank you Anne! This line touched my heart and filled up my eyes…Is it because I am “ready to cry at the drop of hat?” or because all the love you have packed into this one post – memories, festive atmosphere, spirit of season and a bit of you felt so cherishing and almost equivalent to a bear hug which I needed the most? šŸ™‚

    In the haze of hectic life, I had forgotten what this time of year or this season represented…Thanks for reminding me and yes, the picture at the start of this post was something which caught my eye…beautiful!

    I felt giving a kiss on your grandma’s cheeks…she was really sweet and she did remind me of someone!

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  2. Aweee it was so sweet! Loved reading abt ur grandmother and her love for Christmas. … The most beautiful part was

    The first homes to receive the trays would be
    ones where there had been a loss that year.
    Families in mourning were sent Christmas
    sweets since they would not be making any in
    their own home. It was to let them know they
    were in our thoughts, and that they need not
    worry about their inability to celebrate or
    come visit.
    Their place at our table would not remain
    empty, it would simply come to them.

    Now this is what a celebration is worth for celebrating. Remembering those who can’t and in these kind of gestures giving them a silent support.

    hahaha true it is! when u r going to celebrate with family lots of work would have been left DELIBERATELY till ur arrival. Lolz

    loved reading abt ur childhood Christmas preparations n will love to b a part for more.
    Thank u for making us a part of it.
    Love n Hugs
    xx
    P.S can’t wait for tomorrow. Monday yipii
    P.ps am I first if yes double yipii lol

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  3. The picture itself put me in the spirit. I love Christmas and i am delighted to see that though we live thousands of miles apart the traditions seem the same. The funny thing is i am not even a Christian and jump into it as much gusto as you guys.

    I can just picture your Nana and coming over unannounced with my most angelic smile and pig tails calling out to ‘aunty’ and loitering till she gave me some sweets and sent me off. I have some fond memories of my neighbors who used to make the most divine cakes and cookies and we used to wait with bated breath for the ‘plates’ that used to come on Christmas morning.

    There is something about Christmas regardless of religion cast or creed that immediately brings all those lovely things about families together.

    I love this idea of sharing our experiences. Be back with more.

    Muuah

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  4. The picture at the start was a dream! And the last line made me so sentimental*snif*
    loved your Nana! modayust have been a gem of a person!
    Alas this sense of spirit of celebrating festivals with family, friends,relatives and neighbours is slowly dwindling.
    Looking forward to our X’mas gifts!
    With lots of wishes and love for upcoming festive season!

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  5. Oh, this was simply beautiful. Thanks for sharing with us all and am so happy to read the title of this post!
    Would love to try the sweets too.
    Hope you have a wonderful holiday with your mom and sister .
    Will be here to experience it all.
    Loads of love

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  6. Oh Anne … this is such a beautiful post … and all I can say is Thank you … you are so kind and large hearted …
    The Banner for this post is so heart warming … uplifted my spirits immediately …
    Yes … I can visualise your grandmother starting the celebration of preparations months ahead of the actual festival … don’t we all have such a member in all our homes … but what touched me most was …

    “The first homes to receive the trays would be ones where there had been a loss that year. Families in mourning were sent Christmas sweets since they would not be making any in their own home. It was to let them know they were in our thoughts, and that they need not worry about their inability to celebrate or come visit…” šŸ™‚

    In Hindu customs we do not send any greetings or sweets to homes where a dear one has departed as we feel that we would be hurting the families sentiments … on the contrary it would be so much better to send them sweets even if just to let them know that they have been remembered …

    We being a big family have always decorated a tree and got Christmas goodies – Christmas cake , kakals , cookies , home made wine , rose cookies , etc … I have even tried my hands at soaking dry fruits a month ahead and baking some Christmas cake … would taste quite good šŸ˜‰ …

    Christmas is such a warm festival … welcoming one and all from any part of the world … would love to read more …

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  7. Christmas is all about family, togetherness and making memories. It sounds like you had wonderful memories to last a lifetime with your Nana. For me, it’s the one time I have to be with my family otherwise it’s not Christmas at all, so like you I’ll be flying back to see my sister, mum and dad. And yes, I completely agree with the above comment, there is something about this festival that calls out regardless of religious background: the lights, the good mood that everyone seems to be in knowing they’ll have a holiday, the gifts, the food, the time for introspection now that the year is winding down and a new one is about to begin. It’s a beautiful time….

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  8. There was a content smile and a memory swirling in my head when I finished reading this!

    Christmas is very special for me coz it’s my Grandma’s b’day as well. So to hear about your Nana was such a touching experience.

    The spirit , gifts, sweets, love and happiness , there is something in the air. And what a message , share it all and spread the warmth.

    I so look to celebrate my 1st ever, Christmas and festive time with you Anne and everyone else!

    Lets have loads of fun, blessings and cheer!

    Love you all and the warmest of all hugs!

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  9. I hope you and your wonderful family have an amazing, happiness-filled holiday. All the festivities-related work is loads of fun. I am counting on that seat at the table for the mouth-watering treats. I shall send you some virtual baked goods that my family will (have) be(en) baking.

    I guess is NY is for making goals and complaining about all the calories and weight gains due to these sweets. *woo*

    This post has made me emotional (laa), but has added excitement at the same time.

    Seasons Greetings!
    https://encrypted-tbn3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSUXAyJvZJj0i_N6_mPM8lzKj2TmQZ5xE-9e5H16EltSw7Mv61d2g

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  10. Aww, so sweet! Thank you Anne, for reserving ‘the’ place. I’ve never celebrated Christmas in its true spirit but I want to be a part of it at the first chance. Though I’m not a Christian, I could relate to the festive mood you described and the trays your Nana would send to the people. It’s the same we experience at my home in Diwali. The first one’s to get the sweets are those who have lost the dear one. Then there are friends and family who come to help, taste, ask a recipe, it’s all a funny chaos šŸ™‚ So I realise, regardless the religions and traditions, the basic teaching or motto remains the same, love and be loved šŸ™‚
    And I would like to have a slice of a perfect traditional Christmas cake šŸ™‚ Happy festive times šŸ™‚

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  11. The order of the distribution of the Christmas sweets has left such a deep impression.
    I am a product of a Christian missionary boarding school so I have always felt I too owned it and having had Christian friends always made it special every year. The christmas cake has always been a favourite. The spirit and warmth of the season is so special.
    Looking forward to travelling it with you.

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  12. How nice of you Anne to invite us to celebrate Christmas, thanks.

    Well I know the feeling of getting ready for the celebrations, I grew up with my step mum whose family are all Christian so Christmas In our house was so much more fun, we even had tree decorating and the family dinner following with my step uncle dressed as Santa and distributing gifts n though am Muslim I use to wait for this holiday anxiuosly.
    And the party Nanimaa making all the sweet earling and around the table with all us kids was just amaizing.

    Thanks again for reminding me of those days, I do miss them.

    Happy Holidays to you and your family.

    Mwaaaaaah

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  13. Wishing you a great holiday and Christmas festivities with your family Anne!! Your post put in real mood of celebrating Christmas…I love love love this festival though being a Hindu I only started celebrating it when I was a grown up and had some Christian friends but I love everything about Christmas, the way it is just so festive and happy times that just flows by and everyone’s heart is just filled with love and a feeling of kindness and happiness just being there….

    Will be looking forward to reading your posts..Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas!

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  14. That was such a lovely post Anne! šŸ™‚
    This time round, I am actually going to be home with my family over Christmas and am really looking forward to it.
    I hope you have a wonderful Christmas! šŸ™‚

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  15. In our family, Dad was always working, and my Nani isn’t really the holiday type, but Papa never stopped us from doing whatever we wanted to our heart’s content. It was always me making the cookies, and anything else I could, cheesecake, apple pie, and obviously suji ke tukre and what not. But agreed, holidays are a time to be cherished, and that should be regardless of race, color, or creed.

    Beautiful post, babe.

    Happy Holidays to you and your family, and just a heads up, I don’t sit in one place patiently, so I’m the one bouncing around, incessantly chattering, and poking my head into everything šŸ˜€

    Love you!

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  16. Thanks for the invite and for sharing the traditions and customs followed by your family.
    The beauty of the festivals and the action they bring to our otherwise routine dull lives.
    Looking forward to the celebrations.

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  17. Oh this is a beautiful post..the pictures are so pretty..they take me back to my school days..where as it was a catholic school that i was in..we used to prepare for Christmas..in the entire month of December….I still feel like a kid when i see those sweets and goodies..Reminds me of Christmas tree that we used to decorate..the carols that we used to practice for days..The gifts that we used to give to each other..the hand made greeting cards..the cake ,the chocolates..How beautiful and fun life used to be in those days..your post made me all nostalgic..
    It was great to read about your childhood memories during Christmas Anne :).. And thank you for giving all of us a place at your table and your heart this Christmas..You surely have a place at ours too this year.. šŸ™‚
    Although there is still some time left to Christmas..and I will wish you again..But still..I wish u and your family a Merry Christmas.. šŸ™‚

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  18. “Because, this year for you, there is also a place at my table” -aww!Thanks Anne!
    I need it ,especially,this year because I moved away to a different county and still trying to adjust to life here…& I know it’s gonna be a lonely X-mas cum New Year for me since my new friends rather work on holidays as they don’t celebrate X-mas…saddest part is that I miss cold White Christmas and New Year šŸ˜¦
    Loved the talk about Christmas cookies,cakes and goodies*sigh*

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  19. Such a beautiful post. I am in love with ur grandma and she reminded me of my nanu. Nanu also passed away around three months ago……Missing u Nanu so much.
    Even though, I am not Christian, but my family do celebrate Christmas. Here in the United States, November and December is celebration months. Thanksgiving ( infect today I am having thanksgiving party in my house:-)) Christmas and New year eve parties are best way to be with long distance reletives, family and perfect holiday feast to eat. Cant wait for winter recess to buy new clothes, visit cousin house and celebrate Christmas.

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  20. Thank you for the invitation to join you for your Christmas celebrations Anne. Yes the spirit of Christmas is indeed all encompassing. I’m not Christian but I live in a predominantly Christian area and my kids have grown up very comfortable with their traditions and rituals. Christmas sweets from Aunty X or Aunty Y are eagerly awaited every year šŸ™‚ All our friends are busy with the preparations that go with the festive season and our own home is incomplete without a Christmas tree. Thankfully we’re way past the Santa stage now šŸ™‚ so we can get by with just putting up the tree!!
    You have a good holiday. Looking forward to joining you for the Spirit of Christmas.

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  21. :)) You’re such a beautiful person A sweetheart! Thank you for sharing your wonderful memories with us (: It all def brought forth my sweet dear memories of with nana n my other childhood memories (X Such posts always refresh me n remind me to stop n breathe n live n love n oh so many other soothing emotions tht I don’t get time for…. thank youuuu!!! Wish you a comfortable colorful and chirpy holiday n Christmasss
    :*

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  22. Because, this year for you, there is also a place at my table.
    Awww that line touched my heart Anne. It is a humbling experience to be here on this blog and read such masterpieces let alone get to have a seat at your Christmas table:) Wishing you and your family (especially your tiny tots) a wonderful season of love, togetherness and celeberation šŸ™‚

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