A Minimalist’s Approach to Christmas Dinner

Growing up with a Swedish heritage, we had a smorgasbord on Christmas Eve with my mom’s side of the family. If you don’t know what a smorgasbord looks like, it’s basically finger foods- cold meat, sausages, cheese, canned sardines, oysters, clams, vegetable trays and it would always end with the traditional lutefisk and rice pudding. I love it, and that’s what I always want for Christmas dinner (minus the lutefisk…), but my children and husband aren’t so keen on it, so we always end up with turkey and mashed potatoes.
But the Swedes really have something good going with a smorgasbord.
For one, it’s easy to make it a potluck- some people bring cheese, some sausage, some rice pudding, some canned fish. It’s easy to transport, much of it doesn’t require refrigeration until after it’s opened. Everything was made well ahead of time, which means very few dishes to wash up after the meal.
If that sounds like something your family would like, it’s probably the easiest way to have a festive meal and simplify at the same time.
Even if it’s just cold cuts and crackers
If you can’t convince your family to have a simple meal of finger foods for Christmas, prioritize what foods make your family feel like it’s Christmas. Some people eat Homemade Macaroni and Cheese, lasagna or ham and au gratin potatoes.
It doesn’t matter what you serve, as long as your family feels like it’s Christmas.
If you have the elements that “feel” like Christmas, you can skip other time-consuming dishes. As long as you get the important dishes, your family will feel like the holidays were here and special.
Allow yourself to cut corners on things. Pick out the traditional foods that absolutely have to be homemade and then think through the rest- are there good quality options that you buy pre-made or pre-prepped (i.e. cut veggies, cut fruit)?
Enlist the family to help. This might be chopping veggies for relish trays, gathering ingredients for cranberry sauce, and putting it all into a ziplock bag- or making it 3 or 4 days ahead of time. Chop all the onions and celery for your stuffing, have everything ready in containers so all you have to do is cook it on that day.
Delegate. Some of us grew up being taught that the host does EVERYTHING. So, accept help. Assign dishes to others who are coming. If visitors are coming several days ahead of time, let them know that you need some help doing prep work for the main meal. Sit together and chop veggies. Make it a fun event in itself- listen to music and visit.

 A Simple Smorgasbord Menu:

Various Cheeses: Cheddar, Swiss, Havarti, Monterey Jack, Colby, etc.
Various Crackers and bread: sourdough, rye crisps, crispbread, etc.
Canned fish: kippered snacks, sardines, smoked oysters and clams, pickled herring, etc.
Meats: Summer Sausage, smoked sausage, salami, smoked turkey, ham, roast beef, etc.
Relish trays: Pickles, sweet and dill pickles, pickled beets, pickled carrots, olives, vegetables & dip.
Desserts: Whatever you enjoy. Pudding, fruit crisp, chocolate mousse, cake, or pie.

About Rachel Jones

Hi there! I’m Rachel Jones, and I founded Nourishing Minimalism in 2012 at the beginning of my minimalist journey. If you're looking for encouragement in your journey, I created a FREE Facebook Group - feel free to join me there: Nourishing Minimalism Facebook Group and I share videos each week on YouTube


  1. Karen on 12/27/2014 at 9:46 am

    We have a Swedish heritage, and try to have a little smorgasbord for brunch on Christmas day…at least some Swedish Meatballs, Rice Pudding, etc. I miss the days when my mom would make Korv, and we’d have Glogg, etc. My mom still makes Cardamon Braid…

  2. Jen on 12/27/2014 at 10:33 am

    We have always had “scooby snacks” for Christmas Eve. We typically have spinach dip, hot artichoke dip, cold cheese fondue, a cheese ball, sweet and sour meatballs, cream cheese with pepper jelly, summer sausage, sopresetta, a variety of cheeses, wassail, Glühwein, crackers, breads, and what ever holiday baked goods are still left by then. The one or two years we did not make it home for Christmas Eve, was very awkward and did not feel like it was Christmas.

  3. Tammy on 12/15/2018 at 1:18 am

    We are not Swedish, but we do a similar a meal of finger foods, and make your own sandwiches on Christmas Eve when everyone goes to Grandma and pa”s. Takk, watch Christmas movies, play game, the little ones get their gifts. Then lots of desserts! 🙂

    • Bonnie Engel on 12/15/2019 at 2:49 am

      We did the smorgasbord for many years. Now, the family prefers taco bar as it works for those who need to eat gluten free, my vegetarian daughter-in-law, the keto people, and the regular eaters! I always have taco salad, others use tortillas or tortilla chips for their base. We make pulled pork and ground beef. My daughter-in-law makes the beans. I provide all the toppings along with the meat. It’s fairly easy and everyone enjoys it.

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