I love the holidays. As a matter of fact, I’m a bit holiday obsessed. I love strolling the avenues to look at the Christmas trees, I love seeing all the different takes on holiday décor, I love the cheeriness that is all around, I love the smells and the cold weather. I love everything about Christmas but mostly I love old traditions and creating new ones.
This Christmas marks our first as homeowners, and it’s such a different feeling – almost as if you’re experiencing things for the first time. I have to admit that I’m a bit of a holiday tradition nazi. We have never waivered from our routine, and I always get upset if anyone tries to deviate from the schedule.
For as long as I can remember we go to the Christmas Eve service at our church at 5PM. The candlelight gathering is followed by dinner at my parents’ house, then we all stay up to watch Christmas Vacation for the umpteenth time. We all sleep over (even though my brothers and I are 31, 29 and 26 in age and have spouses and children) and are woken up by our Aunt Barbara on Christmas morning. Each year, she sneaks into each room and gently wakes us up at an hour that most would consider far too early.
She waits on the top of the staircase until we’ve all brushed our teeth and are ready to go downstairs. She used to wait for us because my brothers would always try to run downstairs before I could and I would get super upset because they saw their Santa pile first… but now I think she just does it out of habit.
I love every little detail of our family’s Christmas but things are slowly starting to change. The Christmas Eve dinner will be at our new house this year, and I’m excited to take on the role of holiday host. We usually have shrimp and wild rice (another tradition!), and I’d love to share it with you.
Mom’s Shrimp and Wild Rice
½ cup plain flour
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup thinly sliced onion
2 pounds cooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup melted butter, divided
¼ teaspoon white pepper
1 cup sliced mushrooms
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
4 cups cooked wild rice
Few drops of Tabasco
Gradually add flour to ½ cup melted butter; cook over low heat, stirring constantly until bubbly. Gradually add chicken broth; cook until smooth and thickened, stirring constantly. Add white pepper; simmer 2 to 3 minutes.
Sauté onions and mushrooms in remaining ½ cup butter; drain. Combine white sauce, sautéed vegetables and remaining ingredients. Spoon into 2 greased 2-quart casseroles. Bake at 300 degrees for 45 minutes or until bubbly.
It’s a really elegant meal and is one of those rare casserole dishes that looks quite beautiful in a Pyrex. We usually pair it with green bean bundles, salad and rolls. Our friend Carol Bounds Tillery gave my mom this recipe in 1983. It’s a Rice family tradition, and it’s always a huge hit!
We lost my grandfather in 2008, and we have been slowly losing my grandmother to Alzheimer’s for 10 years. My parents and my aunt are nearing 60, and grandchildren are starting to arrive. Our family is evolving but as we all get older and things start to change, it’s so refreshing to know that traditions, memories and recipes live on forever.
Thank you, Annalee, for sharing the fun traditions you have with your family! I loved seeing all of the old photos and reading about your Christmases.