For the Blessing of Coming Home for the Holidays

Christmas Homecoming by Norman Rockwell

Many of our favorite Christmas carols are all about coming home for the holidays, reliving family traditions, and reinvigorating the rituals that tie together generations over the years.

I’ll be home for Christmas,  you can count on me, I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, here we are as in olden days,  there’s no place like home for the holidays, all I really want for Christmas is a family…

It may be as simple as a certain jello recipe that always shows up at the Christmas dinner table, or a movie that is a particular favorite for everyone to watch together, or a story book that is read before bedtime.  The predictability is the glue that holds a family together, connecting everyone even when separated over months and miles.  It is reassuring and for children, it becomes as readily anticipated (and expected) as the gift giving.

For our family, it is 25 years of a particular egg, bacon, cheese, milk and bread breakfast casserole that is put together on Christmas Eve and then baked early on Christmas day.  It is a Christmas Eve Candlelight Service singing “Silent Night”.  It is watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” together,  and it is singing grace in harmony at the dinner table.   It’s word games and truly bad puns.  I can go on and on.  It is about shared history, identity, and values.

I know there are plenty of families where what is predictable is argument, abuse and unhappiness.   Too often it is fueled by alcohol, or numbed by marijuana smoke.  With the trend toward cohabiting and single parenthood,  a majority of children grow up in homes with so much transition because of changing dynamics and household members, there is less glue to hold those families together.   Some families do survive despite the fractures.  I see this uncertainty in many of the college students I work with who do not have a clear cut “home” to return to during their winter break and must divide time visiting several “homes”.

I am grateful our children still can choose to come home for the holidays.  I am thankful we maintain connections that make our home a place they want to come to.  I’m glad we still have the glue that keeps us together through the years.

I’m sure my children would tell me that as long as I don’t forget the Christmas breakfast casserole recipe, they’ll keep coming home.  Just in case, here it is so I can look it up when I’m too old to simply throw it together any longer:

Christmas Morning Casserole
put together Christmas eve and baked Christmas morning)


One loaf of french bread–cut into cubes and place in greased 10×12″ rectangular baking dish

In a large bowl combine:
12 eggs

4 cups milk

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard powder

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

dash black pepper

Pour egg/milk mixture over bread cubes

On top of the bread/egg/milk place:
2 cups grated cheddar cheese

2 cups sliced mushrooms

1 cup diced tomatoes

1 lb. fried bacon, crumbled

sprinkle with dried parsley

(other ingredients to consider: we sometimes cut up varied colors of fresh sweet peppers to put on top, or you can substitute sausage for the bacon, or go totally meatless)

Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight. Bake at 325 degrees for at least two hours (time may vary a bit), making sure the center is done. Serves 10-12

For a Double Yolk

One of the joys of living on a farm is the ability to walk out the back door and harvest what is needed for a meal right out of the ground, or the orchard, or the berry patch, or from within the hen house.  “Eat local” is nothing compared to “Eat from the Backyard”.

So over the years on the farm, we’ve been through our chicken raising phase–starting with the chicks under a hot lamp, watching the growing pullets start laying little miniature eggs which,  over several months of hen development,  become full size oval jumbo AA eggs, found warm in a cozy nest under a hen’s breast.   There is distinct satisfaction of a “eureka!” moment anytime a new egg is gathered.  It is even more gratifying when the egg is broken in the pan and two yolks pour out instead of one, a symbol of that hen’s special effort that day.

When our hens were free range, the finding of the nest and gathering of the eggs was definitely a greater challenge than simply opening a chicken coop door.  It required investment of time and ingenuity to think like a hen trying to hide her brood.  I would remind myself that a hen’s brain is smaller than a walnut and mine is, well…. bigger, so this should not have been such a difficult task.

Our chicken days ended abruptly a few years ago when a marauder of some sort dug its way into the coop in a stealth operation in the dark of night and,  leaving only feathers behind, took and stole off with every hen from the roost while she slept.   We didn’t have the heart to replace them given the likelihood of that happening again.

So these days our fresh eggs arrive weekly with my husband’s uncle, who graciously shares his plentiful egg crop with us when he comes for Sunday dinner.  I do miss the daily egg hunt, the cackle of a hen as she is about to lay, the musical hum she makes when she is happily brooding on the nest, and the feel of her plump fluffiness as I reach underneath her to wrap my hand around that smooth perfect surface.

It all comes back to me when I break one of those fresh eggs, into the pan, and it is a double yolker.  Some hen made a special effort, just for me.