The magic of Christmas is all about family traditions, and for me, it’s a delightful mix of South African and Italian heritage. Having spent Christmas in both the southern hemisphere and now in the chilly UK, my festive meals have taken on a unique character that brings together the best of both worlds.
A twist on Christmas traditions
Since moving to the UK, I’ve come to enjoy the traditional English roast. These once-unfamiliar dishes have become a special part of my holiday season. The festive atmosphere in the UK, with sparkling lights, chilly air and comforting meals, has added to my love for this special season.
But growing up in South Africa meant Christmas under the summer sun. Unlike the traditional English fare, our celebration kicks off with a surprising twist – a comforting bowl of traditional tomato pasta. Yes, you read that right! It’s a nod to my Italian roots and sets the tone for a meal that mixes the familiar and the unexpected.
Moving on from the pasta, we have a variety of colourful salads and roasted vegetables. Picture this: rocket, spinach, mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, chickpeas and toasted almonds drizzled with balsamic vinegar. Steamed green beans with a squeeze of fresh lemon. Roasted potatoes, carrots, onions and summer squash, alongside a selection of meats including turkey and beef. As a vegetarian, I find the salads and roasted vegetables hearty and satisfying. And don’t forget the freshly baked breads!
A variety of choices are offered for dessert, including the classic Italian tiramisu, the favourite South African malva pudding and the traditional English trifle. Given the warm weather, a scoop of ice cream is a must, providing a cool contrast to the festive flavours.
For the feast, many prefer white wine, but since I don’t drink much, I go for a light white wine spritzer with soda water – a fizzy addition to the celebration.
A nutritionist’s tips for Christmas Day
To make sure I avoid that too-full feeling from feasting, here is what I do on Christmas Day:
- I always try to add light exercise into my day, either before or after the main meal. It’s a great way to get my body moving or helps to digest all the food I’ve eaten. On Christmas morning, my family usually takes a brisk walk together with the dogs to set a lively tone for the rest of the day.
- I begin my day with fruit and yoghurt, overnight oats or toast with cottage cheese and cucumber. This helps me to avoid getting too hungry before the main feast. I never forget my cup of coffee either, but that’s just me!
- I love to indulge in all the delicious aspects of a Christmas meal, but I won’t forget to add some colour to my plate with vegetables to make sure that I am also getting some vitamins, minerals and fibre.
- If I find myself feeling overly full after the Christmas feast, I soothe my stomach with a cup of tea or hot water with lemon. It’s a great way to ease that post-feast fullness.
After a day of feasting and festivities, my family and I relax to music, card games, laughter and the joy of being together. It’s a time for family members from around the world to create shared memories.
For me, Christmas is more than a meal – it’s a celebration of heritage, a mix of flavours and a heart-warming reunion. Whether it’s enjoying the southern hemisphere sun or embracing the UK’s wintry charm, my Christmas meal reflects a mix of traditions and the happiness of being together.