Lifestyle

Debra DeSage Abi Rashid

Tell us about the Christmas family traditions at the Abi Rashid residence; you have a big family, are there special things that you do every year?
Most of the American traditions (because I grew up in America) are really similar to the Lebanese traditions. We put up the Christmas tree, decorate the house with wreaths, candy canes and bright ornaments, I also have a nativity scene that is almost life-sized that came from Rome, so we put that outside our front door. Christmas Eve is for family; we have the traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings, and the kids put on their fancy clothes.  The family comes over and we open the presents – but not too many, just one to give to each family. It’s kind of a tradition; the kids get to choose which gifts to open. Christmas Eve is a big gathering of around 50 people, because we have seven kids and my husband has his siblings, and whoever is in town comes over for dinner. It’s a formal gathering, we do make jokes and have fun, but it is rather formal. We stay up until midnight and go to mass in the village. My husband and older children play Santa during the night and put out all the presents for the younger kids, but I think this is the first year that all my kids know there is no Santa. However, we still have the tradition of the children getting up early on Christmas morning and running down in their pajamas to rip open the presents. Because my husband doesn’t come to Lebanon so often, we have an open house on Christmas Day; anyone from the village, as well as friends and relatives come over, and we have pastries and coffee for the day.
 
Do you prepare the food for the Christmas Eve dinner yourself or do you hire a caterer?
I like to prepare the food myself. If it’s a gathering of 50 people or less, I will make the food at home, but if it’s going to be a larger dinner of 50 to 100 guests, I would hire a caterer. We have turkey with stuffing which is either rice or the bread stuffing that is popular in America, and cranberries, of course. Dessert consists of decorated cakes, pies and cookies, and anything that a guest might have brought with them. My mother passed down some wonderful cookie recipes including one for gingerbread cookies that the kids make the icing and decorations for.
 
How do you decorate for Christmas? Do the kids help and do you select a different theme every year?
I like to have my tree blend with my living room which is gold, Bordeaux and navy blue – colors that are suitable for Christmas. My tree is three meters high, so the kids get on ladders and decorate, and we usually add something new every year whether it’s gold crosses, angels or animals. I keep the colors traditional. The kids have a floor of their own, and there they can put up a smaller tree and decorate it with anything they want.  So, on that tree they put popcorn and cotton candy, clowns and sometimes they really make it over the top… but that’s their tree so they decorate it with their friends and have a fun time with it.
 
What message would you like to send out about the spirit of Christmas?
Keep joy in the air, have fun, and remember that Christmas is a time to spread peace and love, and make friends with your relatives and neighbors. Christmas should be for giving and joy. Christmas is my birthday, so it’s an even more special day for me with my family!
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