The Heartwarming Story Behind My Family’s 47-Year-Old Holiday Food Tradition

Every Christmas Eve, we eat cheese soufflé, tomatoes provençale and green beans in front of the fire. Here's why.

Cheese souffle in white ramekin

Image Credits: Photo: Shutterstock

Sacramental Soufflé

It was Christmas Eve, 1973, in Vancouver. I had two daughters, one 22 months and the other five months. Preparing to celebrate, I told Sybil, the older one, that we would put the baby to bed before dinner and she, Daddy and I would eat in the living room, with the Christmas tree lights ablaze. I can still see her sitting in her pajamas, proud as punch, at a little table in front of the fire.

We ate cheese soufflé from my most sophisticated recipe source—Amy Vanderbilt’s Complete Cookbook—as well as tomatoes provençale and green beans. The menu was neither traditional nor particularly festive, and I have no memory of how I chose it. In fact, I’m impressed that I managed to make even a halfway-nice dinner with two small children. For Sybil, the highlight of the evening seemed to be that Hannah, the baby, was in bed, and she had her parents to herself.

The next Christmas Eve, I forgot all about the cheese soufflé. Then Sybil, almost three, announced, “Tonight Hannah will go to bed, and I will eat in front of the fire with you and Daddy.” I knew that Hannah, at 17 months, was not going to permit that, but before I could speak, Sybil continued, “And we will eat cheese soufflé.” I was stunned. How could someone not yet two when she ate the soufflé remember it for a year?

Of course, we obeyed her. We have been obeying her for 47 years. Every Christmas Eve, we eat cheese soufflé, tomatoes provençale and green beans in front of the fire, except when we run out of floor space and then we eat it at the table. Depending on who is hosting for Christmas, we do this in Vancouver, Toronto or London, U.K.

And Hannah is always invited.

Learn about Noche Buena, the traditional Christmas Eve feast in the Philippines.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada