Festive Lights and Leftovers

For the spirit of Christmas fulfills the greatest hunger of mankind. Loring A. Schuler

I love traditions that are started by sheer accident.

As it happened, several years ago, I had started working full time. Our oldest two children were in school all day, and so working outside of the house seemed like a great idea.

I was pretty excited with my new job, though, admittedly, it was really difficult to juggle career and home, but with the help of my husband, we made it work.

One of the first things I bought was a crock pot, and I was pretty diligent about meal-planning and using my new appliance. I would usually prep a few nights worth of meals over the weekend, making dinner time an easier transition in the evenings.

Not too long into our new normal, we had the surprise of our lives – I was pregnant with baby number three. Once I was over the morning sickness, things started to resume to a quasi-normal.

Until Christmas time.

Let’s just say that the combination of pregnancy brain, holiday-hyped kids and the rush of the season started to take its toll on me. I started to forget things in my morning rush, like school papers and such. One of those forgetful morning moments started a brand new tradition known to this day as, “Mom’s Kitchen.”

A crock pot is great when you remember to use it. And ground beef cooks quickly when it isn’t a solid block of ice in the freezer. So one evening, when my husband was working late, and everyone was starving and my feet were swollen and my back was aching, I realized that I had completely forgotten to make any arrangements for dinner.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and as I scanned the refrigerator, I saw one portion of chili, and some roast beef and gravy. There was a container of chicken and rice and a few slices of pizza. Not enough of one item to feed us all. Plus, the kids grumbled over leftovers.

A light bulb went off in my head, and I grabbed a pen and a pad of paper. Quickly I set the table with the festive holiday paper plates and napkins. Then, I put on the Christmas music CDs and lit some candles on the kitchen table.  Except for the flicker of the candles and the glow of the Christmas tree, all the lights were off. I called my children to the table, offered them a seat and a soda (which only happened on rare occasions) and read to them what was on the menu at “Mom’s Kitchen.”

As they ordered, I would pop their dinner into the microwave, bring it to them, and head back for the next order. The three of us sat down, said grace, and began to eat. I served the “can’t eat until Christmas Eve” cookies for dessert, and had a couple of very happy “diners” that evening.

Later that night, when I tucked them into bed, I was asked, “Can we do Mom’s Kitchen again?” I never in my wildest dreams imagined that leftovers  and festive lights would turn into a Christmas tradition, and yet, they did. For many years, during the hustle and bustle of the season, we would use the holiday tableware, light candles, and eat leftovers by the glow of the Christmas tree. It was a nice respite from the hectic season – a memorable way to feed both body and soul and connect as a family.

© Lynne Cobb – 2015

What holiday traditions have you started by accident? Feel free to share, and Merry Christmas!

Lynne is a freelance journalist and writer, with essays published in print and online. Feel free to check out her blog, where she shares snippets of her life, her faith, a little humor and more at LynneCobb.com

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