After moving from Scotland at age 3, I began my world culture immersion in Rhodesia (modern day Zimbabwe). Since then, I’ve lived in South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Kenya, Canada, Haiti and the United States. However, when Christmastime arrives each year, I revert back to my Scottish roots.
I can attribute this mostly to the fact that my father never abandoned his Scottish heritage just because we were living in another country. In Rhodesia, we still ate haggis at Christmas, even though it meant my dad had to “make it” instead of buying it in the store.
Our Christmas meals contained plenty of uniquely Scottish delicacies such as the Scottish national dish Haggis, ‘neeps and tatties’ (mashed turnips and potatoes) and Athol Brose, salmon pate, minced fruit and ecclefechan tarts with custard, scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam. We would top it off with the Scottish delight of cranachan, a scrumptious dessert comprised of whipped cream, toasted oats, wild raspberries, honey and some other tasty flavors. Of course what would a cup of tea be without the accompaniment of a delicious piece of homemade shortbread
Though I am years and miles removed from Scotland, my wife Tanya does an incredible job of maintaining the traditions for our family by baking all of these delicious treats. Living in the United States requires a bit more planning since some ingredients used in Scottish cuisine are not readily available in local supermarkets. But Tanya manages to get everything she needs to create this delectable food each year. Our Christmas fare features a unique blend of her South African heritage and mine.
Since moving to the U.S., we have seen a few American Christmas traditions sneak into our home, mostly in the form of decorating. In Scotland, Christmas decorations are quite modest. Although our house looks more festive now, fortunately I am not in danger of becoming anything like American cultural icon Clark Griswold when it comes to the art of Christmas decorations, much to the dismay of our children who have grandiose plans for the exterior of our home.
Throughout the years, I have enjoyed observing the different traditions Christians have to celebrate Christmas in various countries. Yet no matter the culture, the focus always remains where it should at Christmas: on Christ, the greatest gift our world has ever known and on enjoying the blessings of family.