Snippets of my Memories by Lily-Anne Fernandes-Ringera. Fiction competition sponsored by Between The Lines Bookshop and Shakespear’s Coffee.
‘Mary’s Boychild’ belting out on the car stereo coupled with the anticipation of opening one present instilled an exhilarating high in me after Midnight Mass. ‘T’was a starry night’, filled with hope and promise of abundant tidings that were in store for us over the next twenty-four hours.
The fruit cake took centre stage as we gathered around the coffee table. An heirloom of a different nature, a recipe passed down from my great-grandmother. The ritual involved months of patiently adding Brandy and Rum to perfectly cut dried fruit, frequently opening the large container that was home to this exquisite blend and inhaling the rich aroma that culminated in baking this treasure. This was the moment we had looked forward to, with bated breath I sunk my teeth into the moist, perfectly baked decadence, the burst of flavours filled my mouth and set my senses ablaze with a flurry of sensations – sheer magic! The Christmas spirit filled the air as our cheerful banter lingered on over coffee and cake into the wee hours of the morning.
As we ‘deck the halls’ in our onesies we traipse off to bed rather begrudgingly for all we wanted was for the ‘silent night’ to last forever.
While we were safely tucked in our beds, Santa was whizzed around the world by ‘Rudolf the red nose reindeer’ laden with sacks of presents for those who made it to his list. Out of the shimmering night sky and into the recently cleaned chimneys he ensured that all dreams and wishes came true.
‘Jingle All the Way’ to the Christmas tree, there it was, a sight to behold in all its magnificence – the tastefully wrapped gifts that made the day extra special. Some tore at their wrappers while others gently opened their surprises capturing every moment. The pine scented room was filled with gleeful shrieks of delight, ‘Oohs’ and ‘Aahs!’
As Jim Reeves reminded us of what ‘C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S’ meant we placed the foil wrapped crackers on each plate and expertly folded the table linen into stars, lit the candles and straightened out the pristine linen.
Grace was always started off by the youngest of the clan, giving thanks for the birth of the Messiah followed by a thanksgiving of what we held dearest to our hearts while holding hands to complete our circle.
The first course arrived after the crackers were popped and all the strange riddles were answered. Donning paper hats from the cracker loot we toasted to a splendid Christmas that brought us all together again. Tradition is deeply rooted in this festivity and the ‘Sorpotel and Sannas’ always had the honour of the first course. Another legacy to share – hours of preparation of this treat, boiling, frying, seasoning and simmering with particular attention to ensure that it had just the right quantity of vinegar! Sannas are to Sorpotel as Ugali is to Sukuma wiki, working hand in hand to create a speciality like no other. Now we truly start our feast!
With just the right amount of food sitting in our bellies we take a break from the relishing and engage in a Christmas Carol session – renditions of ‘Feliz Navidad’, ‘I Saw Mummy Kissing Santa Claus’ and Michael Buble’s tracks are butchered, to say the least causing a cacophony of laughter. The beauty of this season is that there are no rules, spontaneity is encouraged and gives rise to the greatest memories that we treasure for years to come.
The traditional roast turkey makes its grand entrance complete with sizzling gammon and caramelized vegetables – this is in keeping with the new traditions which we have assimilated from our surroundings in an attempt to diversify – delightfully delicious. I always loved the diced pattern on the gammon with the clove heads popping out as well as the frilly turkey legs that were garnished to perfection.
Now there certainly is the need to break for a quick game – we regress to our childhood and play musical chairs to ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ much to the delight of the entire family while the young and young at heart edge for a spot under the mistletoe.
Roll out the next course, my absolute favourite part – the tray of sweets … ‘Bebinca’ the seven layers of scrumptious sweetness all rolled into one! The love poured into this titillating dessert is profound, each layer is baked separately in different colours to produce a mouth-watering trinket for the taste-buds. The colourful tray holds an array of treats for those who possess a sweet-tooth but homage must be paid to the Bebinca!
The laughter, chitchat and delectable meal provide the ideal Christmas setting in all Goan homes. We welcome our families and friends with cheer, warmth and hospitality that mark the festivities in a spectacular manner.
A home-made ginger liqueur is served to signify the end of our fabulous meal. As we all gravitate towards the television we are captivated by the magic of Christmas through old movies, song and laughter. Christmas is a holiday steeped in tradition, varying from one home to the next but with one resounding message, hope and love. Treasure your Christmas table moments and revel in the joy of the season, let nostalgia embrace the present and create fond memories.