Wednesday, November 30, 2011


 A Brit's guide to Christmas Dinner
I'm sure this is true all across the world. What's on your table at Christmas time is key.
I'm not just talking about the food either.
Typically on a Brit table, it's a more or less given that there WILL be a Cracker for each place setting, along with bright red serviettes and some festive table cloth. Something sparkly will be served to go with the classic Turkey dinner, like Asti Martini (Martini & Rossi) , Babycham, or Snowballs.

What's for dinner?

For starters (appetizer) Brits will usually serve up a prawn cocktail or a soup of some sort.

The main course is made up of Turkey packed to the brim with stuffing (I'm lazy and use PAXO which is ready mixed, just add hot water and butter then stuff to your hearts content. But some clever so-and-sos will make homemade stuffing) Brown gravy galore, and all the trimmings like Brussels sprouts, mashed carrots, peas, coquettes and roast potatoes. And my favorite of all. Mini sausages wrapped in bacon. And if you brought any of that lot of Marks and Spencers, you're well posh! Just to make sure everyone knows you went that extra mile (spent the money), you'll probably leave the packaging poking out the bin for all to see.
Black Forest Ghetto used to be a favorite for desert. But the tradition is Christmas Pudding. Not sure what the fad is now, but it will be a cake of some sort, guaranteed. 
Then comes the Crackers. Fun for the kids, but to make sure it's fun for the adults, too, lots of sparkly stuff has been served by now.

Crackers are a staple MUST for every Christmas table.
And no. I'm not talking cheese and crackers. Although they usually show up at the end of a Christmas meal, too. Aussies refer to them as bon-bons. They're also enjoyed in Canada, New Zealand and across Europe. And they're apart of Russian New Year celebrations although those a little different and are used outside

So what exactly are Christmas Crackers?

A cardboard tube filled with fun trinkets; usually a joke, a prize and a paper hat.
It's then wrapped to look festive.
The cracker is pulled by two people, and, much in the manner of a wishbone, the cracker splits unevenly. The split is accompanied by a small bang or snapping sound produced by the effect of friction on a chemically impregnated card strip (similar to that used in a cap gun).
The person who gets the 'larger' part is the winner and gets to discover the treats inside. They share their joke with everyone at the table, and wear their 'paper crown'. The prize is usually a pile of rubbish, things like mini puzzles, tiny screw drivers, plastic jewelery etc.. unless you brought special ones with a theme. Disney do lots of these.
The Christmas Crackers are thought to date back to 1840s, when Thomas J. Smith came up with some creative ways to boost the sales of his bonbons. Think fortune cookie but for candy. And he added the 'crackle' effect. Soon, the sweeties were replaced with prizes and the rest is history. BUT there is evidence to suggest they were around in France in 1817, because of a letter to  the Duchess of Richmond, which  goes on to describe Cossacks which sound very similar to Christmas Crackers.
Either way, they're one of my favorite things about the Christmas Dinner, and if I could send them in the post, I'd totally offer up a box or two as prizes. But as they have the snappers inside them, I'm sure they'd be illegal to send.
Instead, I'm going to offer up another one of my favorite traditions during this holiday season. I'm going to give you the best gift. No. Really. I've literally got The Best Wendy Markham. I read this a few years back, and adored it. Since then, I try to read it every Christmas. I love my holiday romances. The kids stopped wanting me to read The Christmas Carol and Shush, Santa, so I've got to get my holiday reading kicks somehow!
To be in with a chance to win this paperback, please comment below...what is the WORST gift you could possibly get this year? Oh, and as I'll throw in a digital copy of any book from my Decadent Publishing backlist and some British Choccies...I've not made our Christmas trip to the World Market yet, so I'll pop along and post in the comments which chocolates I've picked up for you when this post goes live.

 The Best Gift:  When Clara wakes up on Christmas morning next to her husband Drew, she's filled with joy because she has the perfect present: she's seven weeks pregnant with their first child.  But no sooner does Clara tell Drew the news than an earthquake strikes in nearby San Francisco. The next thing Clara knows she's waking up in bed-alone-and discovers she's three years in the future. Where is her husband and what has happened to the child she was expecting? Clara is no stranger to unusual occurrences, but the last thing on her Christmas list was to time travel...again.

 JoAnne Kenrick, an ex-Ghost Tour Guide turned Romance Author, is a Welsh lass who has lived in various countries around the world. She now calls North Carolina her home, where she lives with her husband, two children and a lazy cat. When they aren't demanding her attention, she can most likely be found watching a vampire movie, reading or baking up a British favorite in her N.C. kitchen. That is, when she isn't writing or chatting up a storm on social networking sites.


  1. hi Joanne - well as a Brit, I can entirely empathise about the Paxo. I've just dragged a packet over to the States to use. Yes, I know there's a ton of different stuffings to use here but Paxo.... oh and I've brought mint sauce because we have to have that with turkey. Strange family member insists. And what would Christmas be without sausages wrapped in bacon. I have a problem making those in the States but I HAVE to try.
    My worst gift? Another drill set. I already had one of those a few years back - to go with the leaf blower. Husband wouldn't know a decent present if it bit him on the ass.

  2. Most of the stuff makes no sense to me...except the Asti, I know all about Asti.

    I never heard of the rest of it, but lots of it sounds yummy!

  3. I would love to try your dishes. The worst gift for me to get would be office supplies. I have way too much as it is..LOL

    koonie2888 at yahoo dot com

  4. The worst gift I could get for Christmas is not being around my family!

    Thank you for the giveaway! It's been interesting, so far, hearing of different holiday traditions in different countries!

    books4me67 at ymail dot com

  5. The worst gift I could get this year, would be for someone to buy tickets to fly my folks to my baby sisters in California, but no ticket for me, so I have to stay home alone.

    drainbamaged.gyzmo at

  6. The worst gift would be missing my folks if they get snowed in back East at the wrong time.

    caity_mack at yahoo dot com

  7. I don't even want to think about worst case scenarios! Uh... I'd be very very sad if our trip to Disneyworld got canceled though.

  8. I enjoyed the post; it was a great read. The worst gift I could receive is a book I had read and didn't like! LOL

    Tracey D
    booklover0226 at gmail dot com

  9. Hey, JO! Thanks for sharing your Christmas with us.:) The worst present for me would be if my mom's flight was cancelled.

  10. I love Christmas Crackers! and the kids love them too :)

    The worst gift I could get is kitchen appliances.I want something just for me,not what everyone in the house could use.

  11. I honestly can't really think of a worst gift that I could get I've enjoyed most of Christmas gifts.

    I think the worst gift though would be to find out that my dad couldn't make it home for Christmas, he's usually always there. It's the one holiday that we know we'll get to see him!

  12. Oh, I love Christmas crackers. We used to snap them open every Christmas when I was young, then we got out of the tradition. When I had kids of my own and we started hosting Christmas, I bought them again, one year even making my own.

  13. I have heard of crackers but sadly have not used them - Note to self - purchase for Christmas Eve with family.

    The Best Gift sounds so sad to start - I have to put it on my TBR list so I can find the HEA or at least the HFN - please tell me there is one or the other.

  14. The worst gift I could get this year? I don't get many to begin with, so I would have to say not getting Any!
    The book sounds like it will be great. The food choices....I like chocolate if that matters :) We have a very low key holiday we gather from 10 am till about 10 pm and munch most of the day with real food thrown in at least at dinner time.

    Merry Christmas Joann and best of luck in the New Year!


  15. Your books always capure my attention. The Best Gift sounds sounds great!!! Im so intrigued to find out what happens. Thanks for sharing! Worst Christmas gift?...More family moves in. lol

  16. Thanks for reminding me to get the CRACKERS!! I love 'em. They're a lot of fun!

  17. The worse thing I could get for Christmas would probably be snow! I don't like it do to a bad back (caused from a fall on ice). Now cold, snow, etc makes it hurt worse.
    Hope you have a great Christmas!
    manning_j2004 at yahoo dot com