In England, the week before Christmas is traditionally spent entertaining friends rather than relatives. Large, elaborate parties are given throughout the week.
During the Christmas holidays, carols and hymns fill the air. Churches, village clubs, schools, and families organize carol singing.
Carols are sung in groups; door to door; and, perhaps, most of all, in choirs at the many churches.
On Christmas Eve, the most lavish parties of the holiday are held. Friends wish each other a happy holiday season, and hot punch, fruit, nuts, and mince tarts are served.
At midnight on Christmas Eve, the local church holds a carol sing, and the parties disperse so that each family may attend. With the exception of the very small children, who are left at home, this is usually the first time family members gather during the holiday.
On Christmas Day, family members gather for the traditional dinner. Served at midday, dinner is an elaborate affair with several courses, and it usually lasts a couple of hours.
Roast turkey with stuffing, bread sauce, roast potatoes, and several vegetables are served.
After dinner the entire family may take a walk along the village lanes or through the woods.
Weather is less severe in England than in parts of the United States, and the cool temperatures make walking an enjoyable afternoon pastime.
Upon returning home, afternoon tea is served. This is another meal in itself, consisting of Christmas cake, mince pies, and large amounts of fruit - traditionally mandarin oranges and Cox's apples.
Nuts, dates, and figs are also served, a custom dating back to the 11th and 12th centuries, when the crusaders returned from the Holy Land with these foods aboard their ships.
Here are some recipes for dishes typical of an English Christmas dinner.
Turkey Stuffing 1 to 1 1/2 pounds sausage 1 1/2 large brown loaves of bread, dry 1/2 pound cashew nuts 1/2 pound sultanas and raisins, mixed 2 large chopped onions 2 tablespoons thyme 2 tablespoons oregano 1/2 cup soy sauce 1 6-ounce can tomato paste 1/2 teaspoon chili powder 1 large teaspoon garlic salt 1 teaspoon black pepper Tomato juice
Mix together all ingredients except tomato juice. Add enough tomato juice to thoroughly moisten mixture, but don't let mixture become soggy.
Stuff turkey cavity with mixture. Makes enough stuffing for a 15- to 18-pound turkey.
If there is any left over, place in a baking dish. Cover with foil, and cook in oven along with turkey for the last hour of baking.
Roast Potatoes 6 to 8 large potatoes, cut up 1/2 cup flour 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt 1/2 teaspoon white pepper Oil, enough to cover frying pan
Parboil potatoes, and drain. Mix together flour, garlic salt, and pepper. Mix potatoes in flour mixture until coated.
In large frying pan, covered with about 1/4 inch of oil, roast potatoes, turning frequently. When all sides are lightly coated with oil, place in casserole and cook in 425 degree F. oven 1 hour, or until brown. Serves 8.
Bread Sauce 1 1/2 large loaves white bread, crusts removed Milk 1 onion, chopped 1/2 cup butter 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon white pepper 1 dozen cloves 1 whole onion
Crumble bread. Place in large mixing bowl and add milk until bread is wet and soft. Add chopped onion, butter, salt, pepper, and cloves, mixing well. Use enough milk to keep mixture moist.
Put mixture in top half of double boiler. Add whole onion. Simmer gently about 1 hour. If sauce becomes thick, add more milk, stirring in gently. Remove whole onion; serve. Makes 4 to 5 cups.
TMint Peas 1 pound peas 1 cup water 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 cup chopped fresh mint 2 or 3 mint leaves
Boil peas in water, salt, and mint until tender. Drain, and serve garnished with fresh mint leaves. Serves 8.
TBrussels Sprouts With Almonds and Bacon 1 pound Brussels sprouts 4 strips bacon 1/2 cups ground almonds
Place Brussels sprouts in pan of cold water and bring to boil. Cook bacon until crisp; cool and crumble.
When Brussels sprouts are tender, remove from pan and drain. Sprinkle with bacon and almonds. Serves 8.
Carrots in Orange Sauce 1 pound carrots 1 cup orange juice 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 tablespoons honey 4 thin orange slices
Boil carrots in orange juice and salt until soft. Add honey and cook until thickened slightly. Drain, reserving orange juice for use in gravy. Serve garnished with orange slices. Serves 8.
Gravy Orange juice left over from carrots 2 cups water Drippings from roast turkey 5 bouillon cubes 1/4 cup soy sauce 1 tablespoon orange marmalade Flour
Add orange juice and water to drippings from turkey. Bring to boil over medium heat. Mix in bouillon cubes, soy sauce, and marmalade, stirring constantly.
Add small amounts of flour, beating between additions, until gravy is desired consistency. Makes 5 to 8 cups, depending on amount of turkey drippings.
Rolled Bacon and Sausage 1 pound small sausages 1 pound bacon 1 tablespoon butter Cut sausages in half. Wrap each piece of sausage with half strip of bacon. Secure bacon with toothpick.
Grease medium bake pan with butter. Cook sausage rolls about 45 minutes in 350 degrees F. oven. Serves 8.
Mince Tarts 2 1/2 cups flour 1/2 teaspoon salt 3/4 cup lard 6 to 7 tablespoons cold water Mincemeat Filling, recipe below 1 egg, beaten Icing sugar
Mix flour and salt. Cut lard into small pieces and cut into flour. Combine lightly until mixture resembles coarse meal.
Add water to flour mixture, a tablespoon at a time. Mix lightly with fork. Pastry should hold together when gently pressed into a ball.
Divide into two balls. Roll out to between 1/8- and 1/4-inch thick. Cut into circles large enough to fit into individual tart pans. Cut slightly smaller circles for tops.
Add 1 heaping tablespoon mincemeat to each tin; cover with a pastry top. Pinch pastry together. Make vents in top crust of each tart. Brush with beaten egg.
Bake 30 minutes in 350 degrees F. oven. Sprinkle with icing sugar. Serve hot. Makes 24 tarts.
Mincemeat Filling 1 pound small raisins 1 pound currants 1 pound sultanas 1 pound brown sugar 2 lemons, grated and juiced 1 1/2 cups cooking apples 1 pound green grapes, skinned and seeded 3/4 pound candied peel, finely chopped 1/2 pound grated nutmeg 1 egg, beaten
Mix together all ingredients. Store in airtight jar until ready for use.