By Raleigh-Elizabeth.

Have you thought about what you’ll be dining on for your Christmas feast? Will it be a repeat of Thanksgiving? Or maybe roast beast?

I’ll confess: We don’t do a big Christmas day dinner. We do invite friends over for a nice meal on Christmas Eve, but we try to keep it relatively simple. Because even I – Santa’s merriest, most devoted helper – have to admit that by Christmas Eve, I’m exhausted. Between the holiday festivities, the wrapping of presents, the sending of cards, and the activities at church, I’m zapped! All I want is a good, comforting dinner that warms my belly and my heart. And doesn’t create eighty dishes along the way.

So we stick to a festive but easy menu. We always start with a soup, because there’s nothing like Christmas to make you want something hot and hearty in your belly. I like to make a classic pasta e fagioli, but some years, I’ve settled for tomato soup with a dollop of creme fraiche on top. (It’s very merry looking!) We usually make cornish game hens, which are easy enough to do and make us feel like we’re eating something fancy, even if the effort wasn’t much at all. And to round it all out, we serve brussel sprouts tossed with a mustard and caper butter and a nice, healthy salad. That’s it, and it’s always delicious.

The highlight of our Christmas meal has always been — and will always be — dessert. Forget the cookies for Santa or the chocolate souffles you’ve been slaving over. We make a birthday cake for Jesus, decorated and lit with birthday candles. This may be among our silliest Christmas traditions, but there’s nothing quite like singing happy birthday at dessert to ready our hearts for the holiday.

Come Christmas day, we take our “easy food” plan and simplify it one step further: breakfast (leftover cake) and snacks aside, we let someone else do the cooking. Someone else called “Anyone Else.” More specifically, someone else called “a beloved local restaurant that’s also open on Christmas.”

My mom, a single parent, used to treat me to Taco Bell and a movie every Christmas Day. We were always the only ones at Taco Bell (happily munching on our mexican pizzas), but the movie was chock-full of compatriots. Half the audience spirited in take-out chinese food, while the rest of us passed pieces of pizza from a box hidden under a coat, or dined on extra-large containers of popcorn we declared “dinner.” It was only when we were with my grandparents that we feigned any sort of holiday decency and got dressed in our Christmas best for a proper Christmas feast… but even then, we let someone else make it. And all dolled up, we’d go out to dinner, come home, and enjoy our time together, not doing the dishes. Dining out has long proved my favorite Christmas tradition.

And even though my husband comes from a family where 30 people gather round the table on Christmas day with belabored, handmade favorites, my mother’s tradition is the one that has made its way into our modern life. It’s our present to each other: food, shopped for and prepared by someone else. The table, set and cleared by someone else. And most delectably, dishes, washed and cleaned by someone else.

We enjoy a delicious meal, return home sated, turn on White Christmas, and spend the rest of the day enjoying Christmas and each other. That restaurants are open on Christmas day remains my favorite Christmas miracle, year after year.

What about you? Do you brave the holiday meal? Do you organize and plan them in advance? Have you ever  thrown in the hat and gone out for dinner or takeout on Christmas? (Would you even admit to it if you had?)