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December 30, 2023

No Christmas Goose This Year. Even Better, We’re Having Roladen

In previous posts (Naughty or Nice - Memories of Advent Season in Northern Germany) and (Our Christmas Tree was Adorned with Real Candles - What Stress!) I shared with you about our Christmas traditions in Northern Germany. 

Like most families, my parents would decorate our Christmas tree with the ornaments they had collected over the years.  Some of the ornaments had red or white wax drippings on them from the candles (real ones) that adorned our Christmas tree.

Yes, growing up in Germany, I remember real candles on our Christmas tree!  It wasn’t until after my younger brother was born and turned into a wild toddler, that my parents finally broke down and bought electric lights, but still resembling candles!

Christmas Eve (December 24) 

Christmas Eve was typically only celebrated within our immediate family: my parents, grandparents, brothers, and I.  Late afternoon or early evening on Christmas Eve we would have the “Bescherung”, or handing out the Christmas presents.  Unlike in the United States, the Christ Child or Santa Claus would have delivered them, while we children took our afternoon nap.  We children would have to recite a poem before we received our gifts. 

Like most families in Northern Germany, our main, hot meal was around noon time.  In the early evening, we would normally eat open-faced sandwiches.  On Christmas Eve, the sandwiches consisted of more fancy specialties.  They were topped with smoked oysters, pickled herring, smoked salmon, and baby shrimp toasts.

Christmas Day (December 25) 

It was not until Christmas Day, that our relatives consisting of aunts, uncles, and cousins would come over and we would celebrate as a family.  The relatives would bring us children presents, explaining that the Christ Child had accidentally left them for us under the wrong Christmas tree. Once again, we had to recite our poems in front of the relatives to receive the presents.

After the gift exchange, around noon time we would all sit down for the sumptuous Christmas dinner.  The adults would sit at the main table, and we children were relegated to the children’s table.  This celebratory meal consisted of the Christmas goose filled with apples or pears, parsley potatoes, potato dumplings, and sweet and sour red cabbage! 


For dessert, we would enjoy home-baked Christmas cookies, Christstollen (a fruit bread of nuts, spices, and dried or candied fruit, coated with powdered sugar or icing sugar).

and we also would have my favorite Christmas treat: Lebkuchen (similar to gingerbread).


Second Christmas Day (December 26)

And finally, on what is called “the Second Christmas Day” (Boxing Day) in Germany friends and colleagues of my parents would come by the house for more celebrations.  Typically they would come by in the afternoon, for “Kaffee und Kuchen” (coffee and cake, or tea time), and would also share the evening meal of fancy open-faced sandwiches and mulled wine.

Adopting New Traditions in the New World

Once my family relocated to the United States, our family's traditions changed too.  We would still open our Christmas presents on Christmas Eve.  However, a Christmas goose was virtually impossible to find in California, or it was priced way out of the family budget.  So, our family assimilated and adopted a new Christmas tradition: the Christmas turkey and stuffing with all the trimmings of an American Christmas meal.

No Christmas Turkey. Let's have Roladen! 

Once I got married and separated far from my family, I started my own little family’s Christmas tradition.  With just the two, then later, the three of us, I just could not picture preparing and eating turkey for weeks.  So, I substituted my favorite meal with the Christmas dinner.  It was the one I had always requested for my Birthday: Roladen. (Or as my son and husband would jokingly call them: “Rolaids”!) 

Roladen are a typical German meat dish with lots of heavenly gravy that is served with boiled potatoes, potato dumplings or mashed potatoes, and sweet and sour red cabbage. 

So, dear Reader, in the tradition of giving and sharing this Christmas season, my gift to you this year is my recipe for Roladen. 


Beef Roladen


  • 1 ½ lb (700 g) beef flank steak (breakfast steak, top round, boneless round), sliced ¼ (6mm) inch thick
  • Dijon mustard, Goulden's, or your favorite mustard
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 6 slices bacon, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • dill pickles, quartered lengthwise
  • Roladen clamps, toothpicks, turkey pins, or cooking twine
  • olive oil, or cooking oil


  • If you have a European butcher, just ask him for sliced beef for Roladen.   Otherwise, take the beef slices, place them individually between plastic wrap, wax paper, or in a freezer bag, and with a meat mallet or rolling pin, flatten the meat.
  • Spread mustard on one side of the beef (like buttering bread).
  • Sprinkle each slice with salt and pepper (to taste).
  • Sprinkle each slice with bacon and onions.
  • Place pickle on the outer edge of the beef (the shorter side, let’s say the left side), and roll up the meat left to right.
  • Secure the end with Roladen clamps, toothpicks, or twine
  • Heat oil in a skillet, then brown each meat roll on all sides over medium-high heat
    • Place beef rolls in a pressure cooker, cover them with water and cook for 15 minutes.   Turn off heat & let pressure come down on its own.  Or:
    • Place beef rolls in a large pot, cover with water, place lid on the pot, and simmer for 1 ½ hours. Or:
    • Place beef rolls in a baking dish, add water, cover, and bake at 325 degrees F (160 C) for 1 ½ hours or until done.  Or:
    • I’m sure you could also cook them in a crockpot, but since I don’t have one, I can’t give you specifics on that method.
  • Carefully remove Roladen with tongs, from pot or dish, remove skewers or string.
  • Thicken sauce with flour (the gravy is the best part!!!!), adjust seasonings to taste. (i.e. A little tomato paste or catsup, some red wine, feel free to experiment!)
  • Serve with potato dumplings, boiled potatoes, potato pancakes, spaetzle, bow tie pasta, or rice
  • Add a side of your favorite vegetable (sweet and sour red cabbage was our tradition) or green beans.
  • I always double the recipe, and freeze the second half to enjoy another day or share with guests!


Bon Appetit!


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