Keeping It Casual on Christmas Morning

This Nashville stylist preferred formal meals, but her kids wanted a pajama-clad celebration. Could they compromise?

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Katie Jacobs

I do love a fancy celebration, with fine china, crisp table linens, handwritten place cards and a menu to write home about. Flowers, party favors—I’m on it. I was brought up to be a good Southern hostess, who makes every meal a special occasion, and my love for transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary runs deep.

It’s no wonder I make my living as a stylist and a graphic designer. I work hard to share ideas on my lifestyle blog, and I’ve styled shoots for the fashion brand of one of Hollywood’s most put-together actresses—I ran around in my uniform of a starched shirt and pearls with carefully applied red lipstick, just doing my job.

So when I say I love a celebration, I’m not exaggerating. And Christmas? What could be a grander occasion?

Every holiday is an opportunity for someone like me, but when I was younger, nothing came close to Christmas morning, when my family gathered around the table for our first meal of that blessed day. Then I became a mother, and things got real. Really real…really fast.

As soon as my first daughter was verbal, she had one simple request for Christmas: Could we eat breakfast while opening gifts in our pajamas? My laid-back husband turned to me with a look that said, Only you can explain to her why you have to spend Christmas morning making a fuss in the kitchen over a formal celebratory breakfast for the four of us. He’d never completely understood.

It was simply how I was raised. I was expected to wear a dress to the Sunday family dinner. We didn’t go to the table in our pajamas, not even for breakfast. Proper manners were a sign of respect and acknowledgment that we were grateful for the food before us. The family meal was a sacred time. And it was to be enjoyed around a table.

Could I break a long-held tradition—on Christmas morning, no less?

I did spend an awful lot of time working at that stove, scurrying between kitchen and dining room, trying to make what I thought should be a picture-perfect Christmas morning for my husband and our two kids. Meanwhile, all they wanted was for me to finish my preparations so I could join them. Who was I making this elaborate breakfast for, anyway? What if I made something ahead and started the day with the unbridled joy of our little ones? Wasn’t that what Christmas was about? Could I just let go of the fanfare for once? But what would I serve? Christmas or not, breakfast is important.

Then I remembered my great-aunt Dolly’s mouth-watering sausage pinwheels. She’d assemble the dough logs ahead of time and keep them in the freezer until the whole family got together at my grandparents’ lake house. We kids would gobble up the pinwheels warm from the oven before hurrying down to the water, where we’d play till lunchtime.

A couple of weeks before Christmas, I assembled the pinwheels (I gilded the lily and made biscuit dough from scratch—Aunt Dolly always used store-bought). I made extras to offer as gifts to my extended family on Christmas Eve. My older brother and two younger sisters had kids ranging in age from four to eight, so they were thrilled to have Christmas morning breakfast ready to go. I guessed they had been through this before.

On Christmas morning I preheated my oven and thought of my siblings doing the same. It was almost like being at my grandparents’ lake house with them. When the timer dinged, I carried the sausage pinwheels on a platter to the den. My husband and our daughters each helped themselves to one after another, as the mood struck, amid Santa’s surprises. No forks or knives needed, no big mess to clean up.

I savored every minute without having to style a single frame of our picture-perfect morning.

This Christmas, I’ll appreciate the stress-free fun even more holding a newborn in my lap, our third reminder about “getting real.”

And the real truth is, being a good hostess is about making those around you feel comfortable.

And being a good mom on Christmas morning means bringing comfort and joy right into our den—in my pajamas.

Pearls optional.

Try great-aunt Dolly’s recipe for sausage pinwheels!

Try Katie's recipe for sausage cheeseballs!

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