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Christmas Plans

Winter Sunrise. Lithuania | www.myfoododyssey.com

What are you doing for Christmas? It’s a question that most people in the western world can answer from about mid September, perhaps even earlier if you have family living overseas. By this stage, December 21st, you will have ordered the turkey, made the cake or pudding, put up the decorations, done most of your gift shopping, sent cards, scoured cookbooks for alternatives to the dreaded mushy sprouts and are wondering how you ever allowed yourself to buy such a small fridge – will the smoked salmon survive in the cold of the pantry?

So most of you will probably be horrified when I say I still have no plans for Christmas. I don’t know where I’ll be or who I’ll be with. I have no idea what I’ll be eating. I have made no cake or pudding, no trifle or mince pies. My fridge is not stuffed to capacity with cheeses, chocolates, cans of beer and an oversized ham. I have sent no (physical) cards. Because Christmas is just different here.

Lithuanians are incredibly relaxed about Christmas. Ask anyone what their plans are before December 20th and they’ll say “Christmas?! Sure, that’s weeks away!”. As I mentioned in this post from last year, the main celebration here in Lithuania is on Christmas Eve. This tends to be a rather solemn affair and is generally limited to immediate family only. As Arūnas’s brother and his fiancée are abroad this means there will be just three of us for dinner – myself, Arūnas and his sister. The tradition is to make twelve dishes, none of which can contain meat. Twelve dishes for three people. Hmm.

Then there’s Christmas Day itself. Although I come from a small family there was always a gang of us together on Christmas morning, handing out presents and making a racket. No matter how merry we might be, three people just aren’t going to create the kind of clamour that I’m used to.

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So, what to do?

With the loss of both matriarchs in the past few years, Christmas has lost some of its lustre. Mothers are Christmas linchpins – gravitational forces that bring families back together no matter how widely dispersed around the globe they might be. Their loss not only brings a sadness but also a slight lack of motivation.

Not that I haven’t been trying. I’ve been asking Arūnas for weeks what we can do to surround ourselves with more people for the festivities. We’ve invited people over for Christmas dinner but, for genuine reasons, they haven’t been able to confirm yet. We’ve considered going away – back to Ireland, over to Australia where my sister lives with her family, even just to Vilnius to soak in the city lights and atmosphere. Being that we’re on a tight budget travelling overseas is not really an option this year. My plan for today is to check last-minute rates for hotels in Vilnius. As many hotels are geared towards Business travellers, who tend to be few and far between at Christmas, I’m hoping that there might be some great deals. That said, I’m not sure that I want to wake up in a treeless hotel room on Christmas morning.

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So here I sit, drinking my coffee with a Danish flødebolle instead of a mince pie, which unfortunately cannot be sourced her for love nor money. I’ve considered making my own but I’d actually have to start with making the mincemeat as that’s not available either. Perhaps I’ll busy myself with that today. My sole attempt at creating traditional Christmas foods ended in disaster. We bought some beautiful cranberries at the Farmers’ Market and I put them on the stove with some sugar and water to make cranberry sauce. I went upstairs to get something, promptly got distracted and forgot all about them until Arūnas called up the stairs to tell me there was a strong smell of burnt sugar. I rushed down to find a blackened mass cemented to the saucepan. There it remains as, short of using a hammer and chisel, it just won’t budge. (If anyone has tips on how to remove burnt sugar & fruit from a saucepan, please do let me know.) Despite our lack of plans I am remaining calm (for the most part) and indulging myself in traditions from Christmases past. Think I’ll go and watch “Home Alone”…

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10 Comments Post a comment
  1. That sounds like my kind of Christmas. Don’t get me wrong, I love to get little gifts sorted and decorate the house and do some baking but so many people put themselves under so much pressure (whether financially, mentally or physically) they completely forget what it’s all about. Whatever you do (or don’t) and whereever you end up, I’m sure you’ll have a fab time!

    Like

    December 24, 2013
    • Thanks Sonja. It’s actually been wonderful so far, and looking forward to a nice, simple day today. Happy Christmas!

      Like

      December 25, 2013
  2. Gorgeous photos of what Christmas should look like (as I type we are being blown to Kingdom come here in Dublin…) Lovely to read about Christmas elsewhere – your description of the 12 course feast last year was enchanting! Hope you and Arunas have a wonderful time wherever you end up. Mam sends you her best. L.

    Like

    December 24, 2013
    • Thanks Lyn. Wishing all the Carrolls and extended family a very Happy Christmas and wonderful things for 2014.

      Like

      December 25, 2013
  3. I added equal parts of vinegar and cream of tartar to a pan with burnt something (I don’t remember what it was, but at the time it was a great tragedy), heated the concoction for a while then let it cool. The pan was clean after soaking a bit.

    Like

    December 23, 2013
    • Thanks Ceci – I’ll give that a go!

      Like

      December 24, 2013
  4. Sorry – I meant Riga! Isn’t it called the Paris of the East? Mixing it up with Vilnius…Don’t tell Arunas.

    Like

    December 21, 2013
    • Hadn’t heard that term before. I just googled it and it can mean various cities, including Riga. People are always asking me about Riga! To be honest, both Vilnius and Riga are about the same distance from where we live, so we don’t mind.

      Like

      December 21, 2013
  5. Still sounds so romantic to me, with snow and fir trees and…hey, WT….? I didn’t know you were thinking of coming here for Christmas!!! Only kidding – you would be most welcome (although I must say, hotel deal in Paris of the East does sound most appealing). Re sugar burnt onto saucepan: 1 scoop biological laundry detergent (preferably the one you soak stuff in to remove stains – you’re after the oxy-action variety). Ours is called Preen or Napisan. God knows what it’s called there. Add to saucepan and half fill with cold water. Bring to boil and simmer for 10 minutes (can be quite frothy). Hasn’t failed to bring a pot back from the dead yet! Especially good on Le Creuset. Good luck! Aud x

    Like

    December 21, 2013
    • Thanks Audie! I tried boiling salt and baking soda, neither of which made a damn bit of difference. I’ll get some “Vanish” and give it a whirl.
      Paris is a bit of a hike from here. Vilnius, Riga, Warsaw, Minsk and even Berlin or St. Petersburg are all driveable. Google, here I come!

      Like

      December 21, 2013

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