What types of Christmas meals require little preparation on Christmas Day?
November 26, 2012 10:49 AM   Subscribe

What do you eat on Christmas?

My parents host Christmas for our family every year, and every year my mom stresses out about what to feed us. We generally end up getting catered food (beef sandwiches, fried chicken, pasta, etc.) from some place that is open on Christmas Eve and reheating it. Nobody has ever complained, but my mother feels bad about it anyway and is always looking for a better option.

The trick is, we celebrate Thanksgiving with a turkey and all the works, and nobody feels much like cooking on Christmas. Although I might be able to sell her on things that can be prepared Christmas Eve and reheated, like the catered stuff.

So, I'm looking for suggestions for meal ideas that can either be store-bought or homemade, but require little preparation on the day itself. The more variety in the suggestions, the better-- I think my mother's primary concern is that we have the same stuff all the time, and she wants to make everyone happy.

Assume no dietary restrictions. We do have some picky eaters in the group, but ideally we'd be able to pull 2-3 different things from these suggestions and have that covered.
posted by christie to Food & Drink (59 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
I recommend a rib roast. VERY easy to prepare. Season, apply fire.

While doing that, throw potatoes in the oven and serve with baked potatoes.

Or, buy the Ore Ida steam in bag Mashed Potatoes. Add butter, sour cream, cream, salt, pepper and chives. Delish.

Do a microwave veg, and a salad.


You can farm different parts of the meal out to different family members, pot luck, or buy desserts and sides at the grocery store (because they all do this now.)

Elegant, yummy and very little work required.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:54 AM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

We usually make a spiral cut ham...pretty easy to prepare....cover with foil and toss in the oven for a few hours. Mashed potatoes and/or cooked carrots as sides (neither are too labor intensive) with a salad, some rolls or bread and a bottle or two (or three or four) of wine and you are good to go.
posted by Captain_Science at 10:55 AM on November 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

We're Jews so we have General Tso's Chicken.
posted by DMelanogaster at 10:56 AM on November 26, 2012 [20 favorites]

My family usually goes the turkey route, so I'm going to offer some suggestions of *other* meals we make around the holiday season:

Ham, scalloped potatoes, green beans, salad, bread - reasonably easy to assemble, with two pots in the oven, one on the stove.

Beef roast, mashed potatoes, carrots, broccoli - also similarly easy, although this one takes up three burners on the stove.

Stew. Seriously. We have a family ski day (cross-country, for us), and the rule is, the meal offered at the end of the day is beef stew, with crusty rolls and mulled wine. Dead simple, can be made ahead, and encourages people to get out and enjoy the day outside!

We once did a Christmas Eve meal (after Mass, when no-one wanted to cook) out of hors-d'oeuvres. Hot plates of spanakopita, egg rolls, breaded cheese sticks, pigs-in-a-blanket, etc., and cold plates of crudites, pickles, and salad.
posted by LN at 10:56 AM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

I like prep and bake meat dishes. For pork, I like Eisbein and pulled pork. I also like baked salmon, though that cooks much faster (and is a lot more expensive). For pulled pork, you can also bake it the day ahead (~5 hours of baking) and then just reduce the sauce and add pork the day of (~30 minutes, depending on serving size). They are all unusual and delicious enough that I've cooked them on special occasions.

Just steam, boil, or stir fry veggies on the side. If it doesn't taste good, I try adding the following (one at a time, until it tastes good): salt and pepper, butter, lemon.
posted by ethidda at 10:56 AM on November 26, 2012

What's your budget? Because Christmas call for oysters, shrimp, caviar ...
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 10:57 AM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you want to go really simple, you could make it a diy-sandwich station - cook up a big ham, then get a bunch of different cheeses, a bunch of different breads, mayo, mustard, etc., and put it all out with all the bread and cheese and a bowl of lettuce and some sliced tomato and some pickles or whatever. Then people can make themselves their own customized ham sandwich.

Or cook up the big ham and have a big salad, and the rest of the family does pot luck with the sides.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:57 AM on November 26, 2012

I'm in the "love cooking on Christmas" camp, but if I weren't, I would go for a slow cooker beef stew with some sides. Maybe a Guinness stew or a goulash. Prepare the whole pot of ingredients the night before and refrigerate, then slow cook starting in the morning.

You could start with a prepared shrimp cocktail appetizer and add some easy make-ahead sides, like mashed potatoes (just nuke the day of), half-baked dinner rolls that you just throw in the oven, and roasted vegetables (prep the day before and just toss with oil and throw in the oven the day of).
posted by beyond_pink at 11:00 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

There are many nice stews which can be cooked in advance and heated up on the day. boeuf bourguignon, for example. Most of them are actually better for having a day or so's rest.

You could round it off with cold plates of vegetables, pickles, cheese, and the like, plus some nice bread.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:01 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

After becoming vegetarian, I convinced my family to eat enchiladas and tamales on Xmas. Both can be made or purchased ahead of time. They all agreed that this was an improvement over ham or whatever meat thing.
posted by MetalFingerz at 11:02 AM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

We usually have lasagna and/or sandwiches. But my mom insists on freaking out and feeling bad about what she serves no matter what (and usually goes overboard and buys/prepares 14 side dishes no one eats). I think it's her way of dealing with holiday/family stress, channeling all her anxiety into freaking out over the food.

But hopefully your mom is not like my mom in this respect.
posted by mskyle at 11:02 AM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Put a ham (with the bone in it) into a crockpot. You might need to cut it up, to get it to fit. Set it up in the morning, and then by the late afternoon you'll have a nice ham. Make some rice in the rice cooker and some baked potatoes in the oven. Easy, filling, tasty, and nutritious.
posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 11:02 AM on November 26, 2012

I was going to say lasagna, but enchiladas sound fabulous. Time to email the family...
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 11:02 AM on November 26, 2012

My mom will make a couple lasagnas, a big salad and/or an antipasto. There is usually a LOT of appetizers/finger food, chocolate, cookies, etc, so the lasagne isn't a big deal and it's open house so everyone eats at different times. My mom makes the lasagne at least a day in advance and has one of us make or get the antipasto. The rest is stuff people bring or cookies, so there's almost no prep day-of.
posted by marimeko at 11:05 AM on November 26, 2012

I feel like Christmas is a little more individual and idiosyncratic than Thanksgiving, foodwise. For example, my parents are divorced, so we do a big Christmas Eve with my dad and Christmas Day dinner with my mom.

My dad has a tradition of doing a standing rib roast, yorkshire pudding, and minty peas. Other foods that are always on the table are country pate and hogshead cheese*. All of the above said, my dad is a serious foodie, and his annual Christmas Eve dinner is where he busts out anything crazy elaborate he's been geeking out on lately. I don't think I'd recommend to anyone who is not a cook that they should make those specific things.

Meanwhile, my mom busts out all those old post-war family recipes that call for cream of mushroom soup and velveeta cheese. Once a year it's really nice to eat Waldorf Salad and green bean casserole with the durkee fried onions on top and just not fucking overthink it (especially after last night's foodie insanity). One year I tried to contribute a side of roast brussels sprouts and they all looked at me like I had nine heads.

Luckily, there is one thing everyone can agree on -- champagne.

*The hogshead cheese dates back to my early childhood, before my dad's general food geekery and before the trend of unusual forcemeats -- he has a patient who gives him one as a Christmas present every year. Even back in the day when hogshead cheese was considered gross ethnic poverty food.
posted by Sara C. at 11:07 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


We have a late and small breakfast and a mid-afternoon casual meal of fancy cheese, fancy coldcuts, fancy crackers (a general theme of fanciness emerges) and cut up vegetables and fruit.

Dinner would be lasagna, tasty bread, a really nice salad and some sort of delicious pudding (lemon custard, persimmon, etc) for dessert...although you could substitute a bought cake from a good bakery.

Although in reality now that I am not generally home for Christmas, my friends from other religious and cultural traditions have kindly allowed me to join them for dim sum. I would recommend dim sum above all else, actually, unless you have vegetarians or vegans along. (This is my lone bacchanal of meat-eating during the course of the year, as I am a fortunate vegan who has never lost the ability to digest meat.)
posted by Frowner at 11:11 AM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Fondue! Or a ham or smoked bird of some sort, but fondue would be really easy to throw together.
posted by daikaisho at 11:12 AM on November 26, 2012

Sorry, I meant to add that because of this individuality, I think it's great that you guys do catered fried chicken -- there are no rules, here, and everyone should get whatever makes them happy. If you're a food geek who relishes the opportunity to perform dinner for your family, great! If you're a vegetarian and just want cheese enchiladas, awesome! If you hate cooking and want to order in, fantastic! I hate the idea of guilt over what to serve at Christmas or not measuring up or doing it "right" or whatever.
posted by Sara C. at 11:12 AM on November 26, 2012

Our family tradition is an all-day Christmas breakfast, which is super easy and do-ahead. Your "big" meal doesn't have to be supper! Ours goes something like this:

- put on a pot of coffee, open a bottle of champagne and make mimosas

- put out some baked goods (our fancy favorites, coffee cakes, pain au chocolat, etc) and Christmas cookies

- put out some smoked salmon and cream cheese and bagels (or french bread or whatever)

- warm up previously cooked bacon (or, spread bacon out on broiler pan and bake - so much easier than pan frying)

- warm up quiche or other brunch-type casserole (bought or premade)

- put out the mince pies and chocolates and sweets and everything else on hand

- etc etc etc

This goes on all morning and well into the afternoon. Just a big old breakfast buffet all day. There's enough protein in there to keep everyone happy and buffet-style service keeps the host happy too. It's all 'fancy' stuff we don't normally buy (nova lox, foie gras, etc) so it feels like treats all day.

And if anyone is still hungry by supper, having some lunch meats and cheese around for sandwiches is easy, too.
posted by agentmitten at 11:13 AM on November 26, 2012 [11 favorites]

My SO and I have done a taco buffet for a few years now. We make the tortillas ourselves but even that's super easy and delicious.

Christmas tacos: you know how right that sounds.
posted by Beardman at 11:14 AM on November 26, 2012 [5 favorites]

Christmas day has always been for the lazy grazing foods at our house. Some bagels from our favorite shop next door. A couple pots of our favorite soups, which can simmer on the stove all day and allow people to come and go and help themselves as they please. Usually chili and potato soup. Leaves more time for board games in our PJs, another family tradition.
posted by ninjakins at 11:15 AM on November 26, 2012

Christmas Eve we eat either spaghetti or lasagna with garlic bread. It's a family tradition. Christmas wouldn't be the same without it.

Christmas day it's usually ham. Ham is so easy to make. Glaze it, cover it in foil and bake it for hours. So simple. Throw in some potatoes an hour before it's done and half your meal is cooked. Boil some cranberries in water with sugar until they pop and you have cranberry sauce. Peas in the microwave for a couple of minutes and Bam! Dinner. Easy as pie (which you can buy from the store).

Christmas Dinner doesn't have to be hard or time consuming.
posted by patheral at 11:16 AM on November 26, 2012

We sometimes have ham, and sometimes have lasagne, and sometimes have boeuf bourginon. (I don't like ham, so I am always excited to have lasagne or beef.) But Christmas Fried Chicken sounds awesome to me.

I'm in Los Angeles, so we definitely have tamales at some point, but usually on Christmas eve.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 11:16 AM on November 26, 2012

We often do an array of appetizers rather than a big meal, usually tasty but not complicated:
- cold trays of salami/cheese/crackers, veg/dip, sometimes something "fancy" like cheese-stuffed snow peas
- hot trays of things that can be made ahead, then popped in the oven: bacon-wrapped dates, filo-spinach triangles
- hot dishes that can be put in the crockpot and made all day: meatballs in tomato sauce, pulled/shredded pork/turkey in sauce (bbq or mole or something), chili or stew
- things kids can help make and it keeps "them" (formerly known as "us") occupied: pigs in blankets, puff pastry pinwheels, etc.

But as it happens, people have said most of that, so the real thing I have to add to your list is, cheese fondue. Yum!! swiss and wine, or cheddar and beer; bread, apples, broccoli, etc.
posted by aimedwander at 11:21 AM on November 26, 2012

Our family special dinner? Pancakes. Assorted sides as you wish which for us as vegetarians is usually fruit salad and maybe hash browns. You may wish to add bacon and/or sausage.

Easy, simple, delicious and what could be more special than pancakes for dinner? Not much, I tell you.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 11:21 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

My family does all-day breakfast, too! It's fantastic. Coffee and pancakes in the morning, bagels and smoked salmon and cream cheese, scrambled eggs, fruit salad, etc. Vegetarians and omnivores are equally happy. Also, don't forget mimosas! Mmmmmm.

My partner's family is a little fancier, and they usually do crab legs, shrimp, and/or scallops with lots of sides at a sit-down meal, with a good wine. When I attended this, we also made a mushroom nut wellington for vegetarians.
posted by Spinneret at 11:25 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

For Christmas in my household we traditionally do rib roast (aka prime rib) with all the fixins: potatoes, creamed spinach, yorkshire pudding, and horseradish sauce and jus on the side. This can be a lot of work, but you can shortcut it by having other people bring sides, or doing rolls instead of yorkshire puddings, and getting the sauces pre-made. Everything also works really well prepared the night before.

In the past we've also done a seafood feast (which we now do on Christmas Eve), an Italian dinner with soup and pasta and salad, a big pot of gumbo, a big pot of chicken pastry (like chicken and dumplings only the dumplings are flat noodles), and (when I lived in the rural south and had a yard where we could have the big grill) half a pig. With the exception of the pig, none of the above actually take much more effort than a normal family dinner. Heck, for the seafood feast we just throw crab and oysters and shrimp on the table, melt some butter, make some cocktail sauce, and dig in.

I've also really enjoyed Christmas/holiday meals that were just a big spread of hot and cold appetizers/nibbles/snacks.
posted by rhiannonstone at 11:29 AM on November 26, 2012

A Honey-Baked ham, you don't have to cook it or anything. Just take it out of the fridge and let it warm up to room-temp.

Add in some mac & cheese (Stouffers) works great and some canned veggies reheated and you've got a fabulous Christmas dinner and you've done next to no work.
posted by teleri025 at 11:30 AM on November 26, 2012

Similar to the crabs above, my mom does lobster (quick!) and artichokes (steamed in the microwave). Both take a long time to eat, so we get a nice long conversation, and are awesome with lemon butter.
posted by ldthomps at 11:31 AM on November 26, 2012

We do crab for the same reasons as jamaro! Usually served for late lunch (pick out your own crabmeat, big salad lots of bread and butter) with chips and dip and salami and cheese and cut fruit out for snacking.
posted by Swisstine at 11:46 AM on November 26, 2012

We do messes of Italian food. Sometimes a big lasagne, sometimes I make a great red sauce with sausage and peppers a couple days in advance and store it in the fridge in a clean 5 gallon bucket. It's usually 14-16 of us, and someone brings good bread, someone brings a salad, we all bring wine, my mom does desserts. We usually do a big antipasto plate or plates, too - meat, cheese, olives, stuff like that. It's super laid back and no one ever feels like they had to bust their butt to get it done.
posted by ersatzkat at 11:50 AM on November 26, 2012

We do one of two things.

Either we hit up the antipasto bars at local delis and end up with bread, assorted cheeses, cured meats, pickled veg, etc, or we order Chinese food. Both of these have been pretty successful, and are reasonably cost-effective, especially when compared to what one might otherwise spend on Large Cut Of Meat Plus Sides, you know?

Anyhow, either way, it's delicious food that does well when spread on a buffet table, which is, in my opinion, the best option for big holiday stuff. Good luck!
posted by MeghanC at 11:55 AM on November 26, 2012

Whatever management decides to gift us while we work that day. In my case I work the overnight so all the food is picked over and cold.
posted by tsaraczar at 11:55 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

If no one feels like cooking, take out seems like a good idea.

That said, if take-out is out, British-style roast beef or roast pork is very easy. I don't do all the steps in those recipes - I just salt the roast and put it on a pan and it turns out very well. The trick is starting the roast in a really hot oven to sear it, and then turning the temperature down. Then I come back when it's done and carve (no basting, or anything else is necessary).

But if you want the traditional side-dishes (mashed potatoes, gravy, vegs, etc), they can be a fair bit of work. Maybe you could pair a roast with baked potatoes (just need to wash), roast potatoes (peeling is optional, can leave the skin on - roll in vegetable oil and roast with the meat) or rice (rice cookers, yay!), and some frozen vegs or easily cooked vegs (microwaved green beans - just top & tail and nuke with a bit of water).
posted by jb at 12:09 PM on November 26, 2012

My wife's family has a long tradition of making a gigantic pot of chili. We eat chips and dip and cheese and crackers as appetizers, but the meal itself is chili and macaroni noodles. Both can be made ahead of time (chili is better that way, even) and just heated up.

They've now done it for 30+ years so everyone looks forward to it.
posted by AgentRocket at 12:14 PM on November 26, 2012

everything on here.
posted by chasles at 12:16 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

We invite everyone over to our house for breakfast to get all the family gathering out of the way and then as everyone scatters to various events in the afternoon with in-laws and such, those of us who are left eat Chinese food takeout.
posted by chiababe at 12:31 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Collard greens
Macaroni and Cheese
Roasted honey ham
Bread pudding
Roast chicken
Tomato cobbler
Biscuits/corn bread

But we're a really really big Southern family soooooooo.... we take the food seriously.
posted by spunweb at 12:36 PM on November 26, 2012

I make beef tenderloin with this recipe every Christmas. All the prep happens ahead of time, including making the sauce, so on Christmas I just have to throw the pan in the oven. I get sides from the local fancy-pants deli, and we eat in our pajamas. And it is DELICIOUS.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 12:44 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've always equated Tamales as a New Year's thing, and we put a black olive in the center for good luck.

But that may be an Arizona thing.

Tamales, an excellent source of vitamin YUM!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:55 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

My family usually does an appetizer meal for one of the two days of our Christmas celebrations. We'll hand-make an antipasta plate with meats, cheeses, etc, and then we'll do a massive run to BJ's or Costco and buy all the frozen or pre-made appetizers that catch our fancy. Dinner is served in stages, as each thing comes out of the oven, and can often take hours to get through (all the more excuse for us to continue consuming wine while we wait!). We started doing this because my aunt was just too exhausted at the notion of making TWO Christmas dinners, and the whole thing has grown on us since then. It's sort of a refreshing break from formality and hand-cooking.
posted by badgermushroomSNAKE at 1:14 PM on November 26, 2012

My mom has been favoring beef tenderloin or standing rib roast lately, and lasagna or meatballs/sauce/pasta in some iteration on Xmas eve. I'm hosting "mini Xmas" this year and I'm doing osso bucco since it gets better after a day in the fridge. Really any braised meat is going to work well if she wants to be able to cook a day or two before and have it reheat well. Brisket would be nice, or pulled pork, or short ribs. Each of these would dictate the appropriate sides - brisket or pulled pork with cornbread or corn muffins, collard greens, maybe mac and cheese, short ribs depend on the flavor direction you choose.

On preview: looks like beef tenderloin is popular, and it sure is easy. Have a wonderful holiday whatever you decide!
posted by hungrybruno at 1:20 PM on November 26, 2012

Tamales are very traditional and all you have to do on the day-of is steam them.

But yeah... Dungeness Crab!!!
posted by small_ruminant at 1:29 PM on November 26, 2012

Funny you mention this. I had this same discussion with my mother this past weekend. I recommended a nice beef stew to my mother (either the aforementioned boeuf bourguignon or how about a Carbonade Flamande. These are both delicious reheated the day after.
posted by mmascolino at 1:42 PM on November 26, 2012

N-thing Christmas tacos. Everything could be prepped ahead of time, even taco meat then reheated. Include beans for any vegetarians and let everyone assemble their own. This way every picky eater is satisfied (unless they're so picky as to not like tacos).

We've also done a baked potato bar accompanied by a big green salad. Again, all the toppings can be prepped ahead of time along with the salad. Bake potatoes the day of and let everyone serve themselves.

These aren't fancy but they are lighthearted, easy and satisfying.
posted by purple_bird at 1:46 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

My Dad often makes his famous spaghetti & meatballs. He generally cooks the sauce and the meatballs the day before.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:32 PM on November 26, 2012

Breakfast: coffee or tea and toast or bagels or something, then stocking candy. We've made breakfast breads before, too.

Lunch/dinner: we put out a sideboard of random food that we all enjoy, usually a fruit salad, mac and cheese, fruitcake, maybe a ham, and some bowls of random chips or snack foods. Nobody really sits to eat, they just graze.

Pudding: after dark, as our last thing, we eat the Christmas pudding that has been steaming all day. It's a big dark steamed pudding that you set on fire and then douse with brandy sauce.

If anyone is still hungry they can make themselves a sandwich.
posted by blnkfrnk at 3:34 PM on November 26, 2012

We did the traditional thing for a long time, but as the family moved away (fewer people in the area) the meals changed. We've done Mexican food (tacos, enchiladas, refried beans), lasagna and fancy cold cut sandwiches (nice breads, fixings, etc.). Mexican food is the one we keep coming back to.
posted by deborah at 4:00 PM on November 26, 2012

Lasagna, previously made as part of a large batch and frozen. Or rib roast.
posted by sgrass at 4:16 PM on November 26, 2012

My Grandma's present to the fam is to buy everyone a steak for Christmas dinner (that side of the family is only 12, so its not too unreasonable. As a vegetarian, this sucks. But whatever! We also always have salad, rolls, some form of potatoes, creamed spinach from a grocery store, annnd as a tradition, canned pineapple. And wine.

Also, Portillo's cake for dessert and usually expensive boxed chocolate that we pass around the table eating them one by one usually being grossed out and laughing.
posted by fuzzysoft at 4:27 PM on November 26, 2012

It's not Christmas morning without eggnog, and the whipped egg whites and cream folded into this nog make it an airy, cloudy and delectable iron fist in a velvet glove. The linked recipe makes a punchbowl size amount; I recommend quartering the recipe for a more reasonable amount (6-8 servings) of nog. If you don't like it straight, it's also incredible in coffee.
posted by Mendl at 4:47 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Christmas Eve: crab cakes (a local Maryland delicacy), salad, a cold side dish (usually pasta-based), champagne. Easy enough to pull together before or after a Christmas Eve church service.

Christmas morning: my wife's late grandfather's famous Jewish Christmas breakfast! Bagels, lox, red onion slices and whole black olives, complemented by scrambled eggs mixed with mayonnaise and curry powder, gently scrambled over super-low heat. I don't know how authentically Jewish it is, but it lets my wife's grandmother remember her now-departed husband in an ecumenically satisfying and utterly delicious way.

Christmas dinner: turkey and all the trimmings, a la Thanksgiving. We supplement the meal with Christmas Cosmos, which are made with 4 parts homemade cranberry-infused vodka (aka "the hooch"), 2 parts Cointreau or Grand Marnier, and 1 part fresh lime juice. Scrumptious and borderline incapacitating after about 5 sips, which I need after several days with my wife's entire extended family around. It isn't Christmas until my mother looks at my motley crew of in-laws, sighs audibly, and says, "Son, break out the hooch."
posted by cheapskatebay at 5:01 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

My husband's family is Swedish, so when we celebrate together there is pickled herring and flatbread as a starter (requires no preparation at all, unless you pickle the herring yourself!), then meatballs (can pre-prepare or buy at Ikea and freeze until Xmas) with gravy and lingon jam (Ikea), Janssons Frestelse (a sort of grated potato casserole with anchovies and cream), which gets better if cooked the day before and reheated on Xmas, and a variety of cakes and other desserts (rice pudding with berry sauce is always present).

My mother in law does basically NO food preparation on Christmas day at all, and it's very relaxing.

Being New Zealanders and Australians, my side of the family, when left to their own devices, do seafood on the BBQ and a variety of salads, which are all either easy to prepare on the day, or can be pre-made. But I imagine that is harder to co-opt for the Northern Hemisphere.
posted by lollusc at 6:35 PM on November 26, 2012

I love eggnog and even if I am on my own for the holidays, I enjoy a glass or two on Christmas Eve, so that I can use the leftover amount for Eggnog French toast Christmas morning. Easy peasy, just dip bread slices (both sides) in shallow bowl of eggnog instead and fry in butter. Serve with maple syrup, bacon, and a mimosa if you're so inclined.
posted by kaybdc at 9:21 PM on November 26, 2012

We've been through a few things, and the routine is now down to something like this:

Christmas Eve: Thin spaghetti and sauce with awesome Italian sausage from a nearby salumeria, and garlic bread.

Christmas morning: Coffee, OJ, scrambled eggs, bacon, and my mom's overnight-rising cinnamon bread. Mix it up the night before, pop it in oven in the morning, open presents, and then it's done. And it's amazing.

Christmas dinner: Either ham or standing rib roast. Both are very easy to prepare - basically, stick 'em in the oven and heat - you can put a glaze on both to be fancy, but by "glaze" I mean something like orange marmalade or pepper jelly. And both are festive and look really important on the table. Also, both can be accompanied with very very simple side dishes that minimize fussing: cole slaw or salad, dinner rolls, a green vegetable, potatoes of some kind. \

Dessert: pecan pie.

One year I got really into this idea of making tamales, and I did, and they were delish, but man that was a lot of work on Christmas Eve. And for years we've toyed with the thought of making beef wellington, but we keep backing out.
posted by Miko at 10:09 PM on November 26, 2012

We aren't Jews, but we spend the morning gorging ourselves on bagels and step out in the late afternoon to pick up a huge order of Chinese takeout. Christmas ain't Christmas without Peking duck.
posted by town of cats at 10:44 PM on November 26, 2012

(Also) growing up in the Midwest, in a very food-loving family, Christmas Day featured tons of eating. All of my holiday memories are tied to a table -- and in a good way!

Now I live on the East Coast. When we wake up we have baked goods while the kids open presents. We meet more family at my BIL's house for an early dinner, where he & his wife slave over a jaw-dropping meal of beef and giant lobsters, while the kids have homemade mac & cheese and some kind of chicken, plus tons of sides. I always feel slightly guilty about enjoying this, since there is no way I would entertain guests *and* spend so much time cooking on one of my favorite holidays.

So if you love food, then cook up a storm. If you love the day, then just bake a lasagna and serve a salad. :7)
posted by wenestvedt at 12:54 PM on November 27, 2012

Have an Aussie Christmas.

For starters, a big-arsed bag of prawns. Garlic mayo. Crusty bread. Chilled white and a couple of beers.

Next, cold chook and ham. A mixed salad loaded with mango and pine nuts.

Buy a Christmas pudding. Crumble it up in bowl. Slosh over some Bundy and let it soak it all up. Soften a tub of good vanilla ice cream. Stir the boozy pudding through the ice cream. Tip into a mould and refreeze. Slice and serve with more rum.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 1:54 AM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I want to thank everyone for all of the amazing ideas! I shared this thread with my mother, and she was delighted. We're already kicking around some ideas for this year, and I think we'll be set for years to come. Much appreciated!

Also, maybe I'm a big mushball, but I loved reading everyone's responses and getting a sense for how they enjoy this day with their families. So thank you for that as well.
posted by christie at 8:36 AM on November 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

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