A week ago, the Internet lit with excitement over Thanksgivukkah, a rare confluence of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah that won’t happen again for some 80,000 years. There were turkey-shape menorahs, pumpkin-spiced rugelach and earnest articles about how to handle the meeting of cultures that might happen at your table.
My own family opted to keep the holidays separate, celebrating the first night of Hanukkah with potato latkes on Wednesday, then rising on Thursday morning to bake pies for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. (Rolling pins optional.) But late Wednesday night, between the candle-lighting that was and turkey-carving that would be, we squeezed in a third holiday tradition, one born of my British roots—the ceremonial stirring of the Christmas pudding. The host, my brother in this case, had premeasured all the ingredients. Sticky candied orange peel, beady currants, fresh bread crumbs, bright grated carrot, round brown eggs from a local farm ... one by one, we dumped them in the bowl, everyone taking a stir. And with each turn of the wooden spoon, we made wishes for the New Year. Brandy and citrus zest perfumed the kitchen as my brother scraped the dense, colorful batter into a buttered ceramic bowl, where it would be steamed and then aged in a cold spot. Come Christmas, Mom will warm the pudding on the stove, turn it out black and steaming on a plate, crown it with a sprig of holly and set it aflame with a ladleful of warm brandy.
If you’d like to make a Christmas pud’ yourself, be warned. It’s dark, dense and boozy—fruitcake with a serious attitude. Most recipes call for suet, but we do a vegetarian version with grated butter instead. The truth is, I don’t even like it that much. But I do love the sentiment, the communal act of cooking that kicks off the countdown to Christmas in England in the same way the shared preparation of a Thanksgiving meal has come to herald Yuletide here.
This time of year asks us to hold tight to our own traditions and beliefs even as we open our hearts to those of others. With friends and family old and new, I spent the last weekend awash in light, love and good food. Tonight, without the fanfare of Thanksgivukkah, all eight candles will burn on our menorah. Googly Santa (a holiday tradition most treasured by my 5-year-old daughter) will watch from his dangling perch on our dining room light, giving cockeyed approval to our quiet blessing as we close the book on this year’s Hanukkah and settle in for the rest of the holiday season.