• Beth Wagner

The most wonderful time of the year

We are rapidly approaching my very, very favorite time of year. Part of it is the beauty of everything. The rest of it is fond nostalgia.

Years and years ago, when the kids were younger and we were able to spend Christmas all together, we started what became a tradition: making from-scratch lasagna to eat on Christmas Eve (you know, like what they served in the stable, with left-overs for the wise men a couple of days later).

Making the lasagna was a two-day process. Day 1 was for simmering the gigantic pot of sauce. Day 2 was for assembly of what would turn out - EVERY YEAR - as the best lasagna in the land.

We would all meet at our house mid-afternoon Christmas Eve, have cocktails and appetizers, then ease ourselves into a garlic-laced Italian dinner complete with salad, lasagna, wine, and buttered bread. My dining room table was stunning and we all sparkled ... from the wine, the company, and the season. We wore our holiday finery - Christmas sweaters were in vogue then (no debate, please, I swear they were), and we, well, we sparkled.

Then we would trek off to church for the 7:00 (or was it 7:30?) Christmas Eve candlelight service of readings and carols. We reeked of celebration; I felt sorry for those seated within a 10-foot radius of us. We sang with all our might to those favorite holiday hymns. My husband's mother would cry, my mom would cry, the kids would wonder why everyone was crying, and I'd sit there feeling very calm, happy and blessed. It was magic.

Times have changes, and we don't get to break bread all together on Christmas Eve anymore. Moms & dads are gone, children are scattered, and things are ... well, different. But I don't mind, because these changes mean we have grown as a family. Little ones have replaced those who have passed. Schedules have been adjusted so everyone gets to spend some holiday time together. It's all good.

But there's no longer a big alcohol- and garlic-stoked Christmas Eve lasagna dinner at our house. Most times, I'm OK with that.

Over this past weekend, my husband and I made the lasagna anyway, to start ushering in the holiday season. A few years ago I got the idea to, instead of making one or two very large lasagnas, make several smaller ones in loaf pans and freeze them. It's awesome. Now they sit there in the freezer, with their chopped garlic and homemade sauce, waiting to step up when even a few of us can get together for a holiday celebration of food and family.

Seriously, lasagna in loaf pans. Makes about 4 servings/pan. Freezes well. And when you thaw and unwrap them, they are red - the color of Christmas! - and ready to bake and serve.

We kept one of the loaf pans out of the freezer and baked it for dinner tonight. It tasted like it was the finest in the land (because it was). Funny what food can do - here I am, writing this.

Did I say I love this time of year?

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