’TWAS the night before Christmas, when all through the house;
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
Clement Clarke Moore’s poem definitely wasn’t written with my family in mind.
Christmas Eve is the biggest night of the year for the Jensen clan.
It used to be New Year’s Eve but after leaving our 20s and 30s (for some) behind and enjoying the fatigue-like side effects of having children, we’re lucky to make it to 11pm, let alone midnight nowadays.
So Christmas Eve is our big night of the year because that’s when Europeans celebrate with the hot Christmas dinner.
And Christmas Day is all about cold meats and salads.
In the lead-up to Christmas Eve, Mum starts preparing for our Danish-inspired dinner, complete with roast pork and crackle, fried potatoes, vegetables, and Mum’s famous warm beetroot salad with apple sauce and her to-die-for gravy.
And if that wasn’t enough, we have to squeeze in dessert.
Which is called Risalamande — a Danish almond rice pudding, topped with warm cherry sauce.
This delicious and creamy dessert is made by boiling rice, milk and vanilla into a rice pudding and then adding sugar, whipped cream and chopped almonds.
And that’s where the fun starts.
In our tradition, the person who makes the dessert leaves one almond unchopped and mixed into the Risalamande.
Whoever gets the whole almond in his/her serving (without biting it) wins a prize. Which is harder than it sounds. Because Mum usually leaves a few almonds that are almost perfectly whole, so everyone looks like they’re gargling mouthwash while eating so they don’t accidentally bite the almond.
When we were kids, we all hated the dessert but would still devour it because it was a competition!
We always hoped Dad wouldn’t get the winning nut, because he would hide it inside one of his cavities until everyone was finished, forcing everyone else to get a second helping before he would whip it out with a surprised look.
Making us all feel disgustingly full and unable to move for the next hour.
So that’s what will be on the agenda tonight, followed by a night of searching for the best Christmas lights display, playing Billionaire — the loudest and most exhilarating card game ever invented and watching A Muppet Christmas Carol before futilely trying to get six hyperactive children to sleep.
Not exactly the quietest of nights, but one of the best nonetheless.
And so, in the words of Moore, Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!