My family is a blend of Scottish, Irish, German and Native American. Our Christmas Eve tradition? A Nordic feast featuring Swedish meatballs and lefse at my Aunt and Uncle’s house. While most meatballs are known to sit on top of spaghetti, these meatballs are piled high onto a hearty serving of mashed potatoes. Lefse is a traditional soft Norwegian flatbread made of potatoes and flour… best served with copious amounts of butter! For the past 20 years, the table has been set with Spode Christmas china, poinsettias, candles and these two staple dishes.
I think the table was originally set for 6 with a piano bench pulled to the end for my cousin and me to make a table for 8. With my grandparents living next door to us, it was easy to pack my little family into the car for the Christmas Eve trip. Chairs were pulled in and place settings were added depending on who needed somewhere to go that night, but most things stayed the same from year to year. As much as my cousin and I hated that tiny piano bench, we’d be lying to say we weren’t sad to learn we no longer needed it. Having our own chairs at the table didn’t just mean we had outgrown the bench, it meant that other spots had opened up as Uncles got married and grandparents passed away. While some years were harder and perhaps felt emptier than others, it makes me smile to think about the amount of love packed into our little Christmas Eve.
As we get older and begin to start our own families in far away states, it saddens me to think that this tradition won’t live on in the comfort of my Aunt and Uncles home, but I know that I’ll take parts of this tradition and make them my own. I’ll blend these Norwegian dishes into my Italian fiancé’s favorite spreads and we’ll create our own holiday nights packed full of warm fires, extra place settings and infinite love!
While I’d love to share my family’s secret recipes with you, Alton Brown’s Swedish meatballs and the kitchn’s lefse recipes will have to work for now. It took my Uncle years to perfect the lefse even with the help of his wife’s parents, so don’t give up if you can’t get it right the first time!