Christmas 2019 was a non-traditional affair at HH HQ – Dr HH and I decided to skip our families, the Czech Republic, and the UK and spend the holidays by ourselves in Tromsø. I’m a big fan of Christmas traditions and cooking massive feasts, but I really enjoyed this pared down celebration. And of course, we still ate like royalty!
As always, we started the celebrations in Prague. Dr HH always provides a special homemade advent calendar for me combining vegan treats and a fun daily activity. This year it was spot the difference pictures, which certainly kept me busy!
And as always we enjoyed the Prague vegan Christmas market, mostly for the box of biscuits we treat ourselves to every year from vegan baker extraordinaire Nebeské dortíčky. I had a go at making my own Christmas cookies this year to take into the office, but they weren’t quite so ambitious and varied. I’m already planning to up my game next year!
We didn’t want to lug our presents to Norway with us, so we had a little mini-Christmas in Prague the night before our flight. Dr HH is still fairly new to celebrating Christmas, but he has come a long way in a short time. He put together a festive table, and rustled up some homemade seitan, maple-roasted carrots and parsnips, deliciously crispy roast potatoes, roasted sprouts, and a wonderful mushroom gravy. It was quite the treat!
In one of my favourite Christmas traditions, Dr HH always treats me to a nanoblock version of a place we’ve visited during the year – so far I have a nanoblock Brandenburg Gate, Eiffel Tower, Sagrada Familia (which I have completed – have that, Gaudi!), Neuschwanstein Castle, Vatican, and now Inari temple as well. The first non-European addition to the collection!
And with that, Prague Christmas was over and we were off to Norway! I have a few posts up my sleeve for the eateries we visited in Tromsø, so I’ll limit myself to the general festivities here. It was really wonderful spending the holidays somewhere so snowy and cold. When I was little I used to write a million Christmas stories and poems every year, and this is the kind of place I was always imagining. The only difficult thing was that there were only about two hours per day of anything even close to resembling daylight – the rest of the time it was all dark. It was strange, but actually I think it was really good for me: I slept till 9am every day, couldn’t even rouse myself to check my work emails, and spent most of my time hunkering down with hot drinks, wearing my pyjamas, and watching His Dark Materials. It was precisely the cosy, relaxing break I needed!
Despite being away from home, we managed to put together an excellent day of food for Christmas! Usually Dr HH and I work together on some cinnamon rolls for breakfast, but this time we left it to the professionals – we picked up these beasty buns the day before and heated them up in our Airbnb kitchen, and they made for a very tasty start to the day.
Dr HH put together almost exactly the same Christmas dinner as we’d had in Prague: potatoes, sprouts, parsnips, and seitan. This time the seitan was shop-bought (we brought it over from Prague with us, they sell it in our local supermarket), and the parsnips were cooked in a little sugar water as we didn’t want to pay for a whole bottle of maple syrup. We didn’t have a blender for the gravy, so it was more of a thick mushroom sauce, but it still had all that good, earthy flavour, so we were very satisfied indeed.
And we gave the meal a Norwegian twist by trying this Jule Brus, a festive soft drink that we saw advertised everywhere. It didn’t taste especially Christmassy, but it was a good, fruity, fizzy pop.
We struggled a bit with dessert, but picked up a couple of cartons of Oatly Custard and just had those without any cake – it’s not like we were going hungry anyway!
And we rounded off the day, as one always must, with a cheeseboard! This was some well-travelled cheese – I got it while I was back in the UK in early October, flew it back to Prague and froze it, then defrosted it and flew it over to Norway. It was absolutely worth it. I’d tried all of the cheeses before, so I knew they would be delicious. The za’atar one was my absolutely favourite, of course. I need to make sure there’s more za’atar in my life in 2020! We also brought a salami that we’d picked up at the Prague vegan Christmas market – it was really smoky and delicious – and some crackers from Marks and Spencer. It was quite the spread, and lasted us a good few nights on our travels.
And so that was it! Quite an unusual Christmas, but a really magical one as well. We were sufficiently well-prepared that we managed to have some very good food and a tolerably traditional meal even though we were on the road. I’m a big fan of having less focus on presents, more focus on food and adventures. Maybe Christmas on the road will become its own tradition now! I hope you also had a splendid festive season and are ready for 2020!