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DON’T MESS WITH FAMILY CHRISTMAS TRADITION Kate’s Journal


Episode 22 Oakland 1950

If I can ever pass along any words of wisdom to you, they will be: don’t try to mess with your family’s Christmas traditions.

Our first Christmas in our new house if you will remember, was spent holding our new baby girl after drinking Moscow Mules while listening to “Sam’s Song on the record player.

The Rasmussen Family Christmas Breakfast at my mother-in-law’s house was compulsory, but I wanted to do it myself at our new house. Getting past that hurdle meant choosing an impressive menu with a few awe-inspiring decorations thrown in. There is nothing more determined than a young inexperienced married woman trying to register her footprint.

As I was growing up, on Christmas we were often in some other city or state, in temporary lodgings, or part of a larger group of personnel on a Navy base. At Grandma’s on Christmas, I was more interested in grabbing whatever present had my name on it lying under the tree than paying attention to what she had made for breakfast.

In spite of her feelings of disinterest in my dear little Grandpa Jim, he was always invited, though directed to sit at the far end of the table. I was always told that Santa brought the tree on Christmas Eve. My own opinion is that we probably couldn’t afford it before then. Nevertheless, it was beautiful as all Christmas trees of whatever shape are, even if you aren’t a believer in the reason for having one. (I have lots of Jewish friends who just like the looks of them. One family kept one in a playpen so they could whisk it out of the room when their mother-in-law dropped in.)

The tree, fully decorated, stood in our living room in Long Beach, behind the sliding doors of the dining room. We usually had one roomer, Harry Hance, so Grandma’s crowded left-over bedroom was off the living room. I was never allowed in it before Christmas because it was the place where all the Christmas decorations were being prepared. So on the great day, probably at the crack of dawn, the doors slid open, the radio played a Christmas song, and we all piled in destroy the carefully wrapped gifts.

Matt & Brady SolvangRasmussen’s in Solvang

In the Rasmussen family, the Danish tradition prevailed, and one present was allowed to be opened on Christmas Eve, depleting the disgustingly overwhelming pile of gifts not at all. I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

On Christmas morning, breakfast reigned supreme, with the bestowal of gaily wrapped packages following. My mother-in-law was nothing if not energetic, and somehow the Rasmussen Christmas Breakfast was loaded onto the dining room table.

Platters appeared filled with halves of broiled, sectioned grapefruit topped with brown sugar and a cherry, other platters contained ham, bacon, and sausage; accompanied by another platter heaped with hash-browned potatoes. Silky scrambled eggs glowed brightly on another platter, while hot biscuits rested in a basket. A large pitcher held hot country milk gravy for the biscuits, though it was a shame to cover them up because my mother-in-law was a superior biscuit maker. All they needed was the home-made preserves and butter sitting amongst all those platters.

The amazing thing was that we could drag ourselves away from the table to attack the tree, but we did, only after the dishes were washed and put away for the big dinner to follow in the afternoon. Amazingly, these were all skinny people.

The year that I chose to make my mark, I had studied cookbooks, newspapers and magazines, and came up with what I thought would knock their socks off. I had made our own Christmas cards, the house was decorated and filled with good cheer, and I began bringing platters out to the table.
kayti cooking
Making Ableskiver

I don’t really remember what it was I made that year, perhaps something containing chicken livers or creamed something or other. I’m sure it looked beautiful, and I’m just as sure it tasted good, but the entire table, including my lovely husband, turned their collective noses skyward. It wasn’t the Rasmussen Christmas Breakfast.

I’m nothing if not willing to take advice, and I don’t need a Christmas tree to fall on my head. I got their message, and thereafter, a replica of the Rasmussen Christmas Breakfast appeared on my table.

dANISH cHRISTMAS TREE

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20 comments on “DON’T MESS WITH FAMILY CHRISTMAS TRADITION Kate’s Journal

  1. A Christmas tree in a playpen. What a funny idea. On the other hand, it might corral all those needles that fall off. Hmm, now you’ve got me thinking…

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  2. Lovely, I must admit the traditional breakfast sounded delicious. Mind you I don’t really understand what “biscuits” are, bread rolls or scones perhaps? Another great episode, keep them coming x

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  3. The chicken livers finely chopped up mixed with some previously fried pieces of bacon and then quickly pan fried again, would do me for a Christmas breakfast, luch or dinner. Great tale of the legendary Rasmussens.

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  4. I can’t remember the last time I saw chicken livers for sale in the store. I used to love them — fried up, with cream gravy. I always wanted the liver when we had fried chicken.

    Christmas breakfast never was a part of our tradition. Christmas eve was oyster stew, and Christmas dinner was traditional Swedish dishes mixed with American standards. I loved the potatis korv (potato sausage, made with pork,onion and potato), sylta (a jellied meat dish), lingonberries. We always had cardamon seed buns, and the creamiest rice pudding in the world.

    I’m impressed by you making ableskiver. Do you still do that? They’re wonderful!

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    • That potato sausage sounds marvelous! The whole menu is delicious. We started having roast goose on Christmas Eve which always made us think of Tiny Tim for some reason! We were sometimes gifted with a goose from a neighborhood hunter.
      I haven’t made aebleskiver lately. It makes too much for just 2 people, but they are easy and so good. Trader Joe’s now has them frozen and surprisingly they aren’t too bad.

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  5. Well, i must comment on this memory. As the daughter of a Rasmussen, and a niece of the author, I too have been rallied into the Rasmussen breakfast. My children get the Christmas morning family Danish Ableskievers, carefully watched over by their grandmother (my mother) telling me they aren’t quite right, yet I keep persisting because that is what I do. I must admit, some of my favorite memories as a youngster were from being at the Kayti and Sam household for Christmas.
    I always looked forward to something creative and different. Her elves set out about the house, the taller than tall trees that were placed in a barn in their Washington home, to sleeping in the loft of that barn and hearing Santa’s sleigh bells. You never know who is watching, who is listening, or who you make an impression on. Sometimes different is what is remembered.

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    • I went to be with a warm feeling last night when reading your comment. I’m so happy all those early days gave you good memories. It was all so much fun. You are right about never knowing who is listening–it works both ways.

      It’s funny how some people are afraid of different, but wouldn’t the world be poorer if we were all alike? Different is what puts the snap into Life. Happy Christmas Sandy.

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  6. Wonderful detailed and well-written comment, Sandie! Yes, Kayti knew (knows) how to throw a party.

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  7. People don’t like their Christmas rituals being messed about, that’s for sure. Love the photo of you making ableskiver–I’m sure I had that exact same hairdo at one time!

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  8. This made me chuckle as I remembered the year I served something other than my husband’s family’s traditional oyster stew on Christmas Eve. You’d have thought I’d murdered Santa Claus. Thanks for bringing back a memory that wel all laughed about in the following years.

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  9. I’m so glad I wasn’t the only one to try to force a change in tradition. Funny how these rituals are so important to all of us. I made up for my faux paux by cooking what I wanted to on Christmas Eve when we were alone. The other much-loved breakfast remained on Christmas Day. Merry Christmas Janet.

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  10. I hope your Christmas eve and day were festive with Jan and Cori there with you. Very cold in the desert but sunny and bright (with the memories of Hugh and Joan here…alas)

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  11. A fun story, Katy, I can imagine how devastated you were on your first time out. Shame on your family. My wife Peggy has the wisdom to note that our children have the right to develop their own Christmas traditions. And they have. 🙂 I am easy going on such things. Good food is good food. And opening presents is opening presents: fun however it is carried out, especially through the eyes of a child. –Curt

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