Tuesday, February 19, 2013


WHERE ARE THE CHESTNUTS ROASTING ON AN OPEN FIRE? The formal 1914 Christmas dinner for the members of the 2nd Field Artillery Regiment featured a range of delectable dishes--from roasted turkey and salads to glorious desserts. Personal Collection,

What’s Christmas dinner like for hundreds of American servicemen and their families, in a tropical Asian country thousands of miles from home? This Christmas Day menu for the officers and men of “Battery F” 2nd Field Artillery stationed at Camp Stotsenburg (now Clark Field) in Pampanga, gives us a glimpse of the holiday fare specially prepared to give everyone a taste of home.

At that time, living conditions at the Camp were still not exactly up to par, and the troops were experiencing low morale. In fact, a Lt. Bentley Mott, who served in the 2nd Field Artillery Regiment, had packed up and left the year before, complaining of boredom and the abject lack of available amusements. Determine to improve the service, a special Christmas menu was prepared for the regiment, which was actually copied from a selection served the previous year for the officers of the Jefferson Barracks .

Americans who pined for the flavors of home started their own version of “noche buena” with a piping-hot soup made from pureed green peas. There was also fresh celery stalks, olives and pickles to munch, in preparation for the piece de resistance: Roast Turkey laced with Oyster Oyster Dressing and Cranberry Sauce. The succulent fowl was enjoyed with sidings of Mashed Potatoes,Candied Sweet Potatos and Succotash. The turkey meal could also be slathered with Giblet Gravy for a different taste experience. Also for one’s delectation are Cold Sliced Hams and Cole Slaw with French Dressing.

The Christmas desserts featured your choice of Mince Pie, Peach Pie and Fruit Cake—all-American holiday staples, not readily seen on Filipino tables. An assortment of Cheese and Crackers rounded off the heartwarming dinner. As a fitting finale, hot cups of Coffee were served and fine Cigars were distributed to partakers of the Christmas meal.

The sumptuous Christmas Dinner of 1914 would have certainly warmed not just the tummies but also the hearts and minds of these soldiers, rekindling memories of Christmasses past in the mainland, and of their own Yuletide traditions totally unknown in this alien country. By the 1920s, with the Americanization process effectively in full swing in the colony, the Philippine—even without Turkey dinners, snows and mistletoes-- had become the top choice of most officers wanting to be assigned overseas.

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