Tuesday, December 22, 2009

mmmmmm chili.

now, let's get this straight: I'm not actually a big fan of chili. I have NEVER made it on my own. I don't really purchase it when I'm at the grocery store. I don't love most beans, and I must slather my chili with cracker bits and cheese to truly enjoy it.


except on Christmas Eve. For as long as I can remember, if I was celebrating with my mom's side of the family, on Christmas Eve we ate chili. We always had our big to-do Christmas Eve--Christmas Day was stockings and the big meal, but Christmas Eve was a time for church, then chili, then sitting in my Grandparent's gigantic living area (which was really both a formal living area and a casual one, one opposite sides of the room) and opening presents. We'd take turns, the kids would sit on the huge tan floor-pillows they had, I'd usually play some Christmas songs on their piano and we'd spend time together.

and my Granny usually sent the kids on a scavenger hunt for something. sometimes on Christmas Day, sometimes on the eve. I can recall clues leading me to my sewing machine and a magenta footlocker/trunk (that I eventually collaged and took to girl scout camp and got rid of last summer), and I know that all sorts of treasures awaited at the end of that trail. It makes me smile thinking of them. :)

but anyway, back to the chili.

so, I've always thought it was a little weird that we had chili on Christmas. I knew exactly NO ONE who had chili on Christmas Eve. Goodsearch tells me that it's a thing people do, so it's not totally whack. But this year I learned how that chili tradition came about. Before I tell you though...let me tell you a little aside.

The chili thing is so a part of our tradition that, for instance, when I have celebrated Christmas at other's homes, I find myself craving chili. I was told that when my Aunt celebrated Christmas with her first husband's family for the first time, she actually brought a can of chili, heated it up and ate it at the dinner table because she missed her family so much. Apparently they thought she was a leeeetle off. But it makes complete sense to me.

So, this year, in telling her stories my Granny shared with Matt and me the tale of why we eat chili on Christmas Eve. As it turns out, this is a tradition that started with my grandparents. It didn't begin long ago and it doesn't have anything to do with the depression, or with my granddaddy's eating habits, or anything like that. Nope, it's time.

As the story goes, one Christmas Eve my Granddad called my Granny, who was working at a department store in Chicago (Marshall Fields, I believe) and said that he had invited some folks from his company over to celebrate Christmas Eve with them. My Granny was only getting home a little bit before the guests were to arrive, and she'd seen a recipe for Texas Jail Chili in the paper, and figured that was the only thing she could cook in time.

So she went by the grocery store, and well, fifty plus years later, here I am, knowing I'll want some chili on Christmas Eve. :)

I do not have the real recipe--I guess it's kind of one of the kinds where there are many variations. But I imagine it's something like this, except that she made it in a big pot.

ps: thanks Maria for having the Holiday Traditions contest!


Jax said...

aww that's cute, lovely. :) and I could definietly do some chili on xmas eve! Holiday traditions abound! :)

Andrea said...

I like your family tradition! For some reason Christmas Eve is not complete for me unless we have a veggie tray with celery stuffed with cream cheese. Weird, I know.

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