Why My Family Will Always Prefer Our “Tiny Feast” Over Christmas Dinner

The party of biggest cheer and littlest portions.

Cranberry Baked Brie Bites
Photo: Victor Protasio; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis

During Christmas, the biggest gift of all is getting to spend quality time with loved ones. Well, and the food, particularly if you’re from the South. My family loves casseroles and towering cakes and cranberry molds as much as the next Southern brood, but we’ve now traded in the big, fancy, heavy Christmas dinner for something decidedly more, well, tiny. Since appetizers are hands-down the best part of any party anyway, my grandmother decided to switch up our usual spread one year to instead throw a party with the biggest cheer and littlest portions, which we now dub “The Tiny Feast.”

The only rule is that nothing can be bigger than the size of a bite. Luckily for me, that includes most of my favorite holiday dishes, such as cheese straws, deviled eggs, cranberry-Brie mini pastries, and the bacon-wrapped ‘lil smokies that my dad always hilariously complains that he “cannot get himself to stop eating.” Even the plates are required to be miniature, so we use Christmas-themed dessert plates as our vessels for all the snacks. And the glassware—heirloom teacups and tiny silver goblets! Christmas music plays loud, people stand around munching, and we end the night with a fierce game of White Elephant that would often end in tears when we were all children.

Each person must bring a dish and is commended for being as inventive as possible. Casseroles can be made in the “tiny spirit” by being baked in the miniature ramekins. My crowd-favorite Christmas Tree Pull-Apart Bread can be plucked off bite by cheesy bite and popped into your mouth. Still counts. Desserts can be pre-cut into morsel-sized snippets, even pie if you’re savvy enough. These Miniature Chocolate-Pecan Pies would be perfect.

The rules aren’t to limit, but inspire. The crazier concoction, the better. The more piled-high your petite plate, the more impressive. My grandmother’s intention was to put a little touch of extra whimsy and magic into the holiday season, which stayed well into when many of us grandkids became adults. It’s one of the traditions that we all still get most excited about, and the dishes keep getting tinier and more creative each year.

For anyone looking to change up your family holiday meal this year, “The Tiny Feast” might be your biggest little Christmas celebration ever.

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