The Christmas Eve Dinner, Gabon afaria, is a ritual considered to be the quintessential family meal. All the people at the meal are usually members of the family and the married children return to the paternal home with their respective families. Nowadays, the married couples usually alternate by celebrating Christmas Eve with one set of parents and New Year’s Eve with the parents of the other spouse. In the past, the offspring who were servants in other houses were given leave by their masters to go to the dinner, along with the gift of a salted cod to take home. Those offspring would also sometimes take a bream, along with the salted cod, to the family meal.



Ziortza Artabe Etxebarria. Labayru Fundazioa Photographic Archive.

Christmas would not be Christmas without walnut sauce, intxaur-saltsea. My grandmother Juli from Larrabetzu (Bizkaia) used to make it year in year out. I vividly remember entering the farmhouse and finding her cracking walnuts open. Her memory shall always remain with me.

Walnut sauce was a popular staple for many households, especially in Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa, where walnut trees abounded in forests and woodlands. A hearty, warming seasonal dish, perfect for the cold winter and as satiating as it is invigorating. (more…)