Good morning! The days are winding down to Christmas and as I keep saying to myself and on this blog I want to slow down and enjoy it. For me Christmas is not about the gifts, its about traditions, family, friends, savoring the spirit of the season, the moments and the memories.
One of my fondest memories is waiting for the JCPenny and Sears catalogs to arrive each year. My siblings and I would pour over the pages making our lists for Santa. In our little world those catalogs were like the Neiman Marcus fantasy catalog, there were so many interesting and exotic things, cars for kids, life sized playhouses, canopy beds(still my dream bed), beautiful princess dresses with matching tiaras and so much more. I smile just thinking about those dog eared pages.
My mother loves Christmas and she always decorates two trees downstairs, one in the living room which is more formal and one in the family room that is filled with all of the ornaments that my siblings and I have made in our lifetime. You know the ones as I am sure that you have a few as well; the ones made from dough and painted garish colors, the ones made with buttons and ribbon from my grandmothers button box, the funny ones we gave to her each year with little characters and our names written one which went from the four of us, to the addition of dogs and grandkids. I never tire of looking at those ornaments and when I do I can see in my minds eye exactly where we were when we made them.
My grandmother came for a family of 14 children and she had 10 herself, in those days people did all of their own baking and at Christmas they upped their game as they say. I savor the memory of my grandmothers cookie closet, filled from floor to ceiling with cookie tins. Each evening for weeks my grandmother made cookies at night and on the weekends; there were spritz cookies, thumbprint cookies with jelly in the center rolled in nuts, chocolate salami, nut horns, chocolate crinkles and so much more. There was never less than 20 different kinds of cookies and then there were the cinnamon rolls, prune rolls, poppy seed rolls and homemade bread. When were were in town I would happily assume my place right next to her perched on a chair with my siblings and we would roll the dough, flour the board and of course be the official taste testers.
In my family my grandparents house was the hub of all holiday activity, every one of her 10 children, their husbands and the kids came over on Christmas Eve before midnight mass, then we all walked the few block, typically in the snow to the church. We are Catholic and our family church is called St. Hedwig, I was baptized there, my sister was married there, and my grandparents were berried there. The church was always beautiful but its true beauty shown on Christmas when it was lit by candle light and decorated with swags of fresh greens, lots of real trees with lights and on the left side of the alter a life sized European creche, with donkeys, cows, the 3 wise men, of course Mary, Joseph and the most beautiful baby Jesus. I would stand there in awe after mass gazing at this magnificent sight and I wished and prayed that I could take home one of the little sheep. I can hear as I type this the melodious voice of the cantor who sang there for most of my life, I am sure that if he had not sung at our church he could have been a professional opera singer his voice was that beautiful.
As for traditions we have a few that we do not deviate from. We always have a gathering on Christmas Eve, and of course we eats lots and lots of scrumptious food. We have a dinner for family and friends and we open the presents from our God parents and God children as well as one other gift, typically it is pajamas. We all sit around the two fireplaces, do puzzles, play dominos or we just sit and talk and listen to my relatives tell stories.
On Christmas morning we always follow the trail of candy from the fireplace in the living room to the family room where all of the kids presents are. Many years if there is snow there are also footprints left by Santa. After opening presents my mom makes cinnamon rolls and other tasty morsels and we all sit around in our pj’s, watch Christmas movies, eat, play games and then eat again.
Although I love each and every tradition that we have my absolute favorite is driving to see the Christmas lights with my mom. This tradition started with my grandfather, he would take us before Midnight mass and we would marvel at the rainbow of colors decorating the neighborhood. Since he passed my mom took over and now every year we get our steaming cups of cocoa and we drive to see the lights while laughing and playing Christmas carols. When I am visiting it is actually something that we do most every night, we drive along Lake Michigan and thru the city to our favorite neighborhoods and we reminisce and tell one another funny stories and recount memories of times past.
Do you have any favorite memories or traditions that you keep each year? If so, please share them, I would love to hear them.
If you are looking for a quick and easy dessert recipe with 5 ingredients than pop over to my other blog Once Upon a Chocolate and check out this No Bake Chocolate Peppermint Tart.
I hope that you have a wonderful day!
Ah, yes, the Christmas cookies. My grandma would make thousands. She had a sunporch that had a huge bed (the cross-ventilation made it the best pre-A/C place to sleep in summer), and she would lay down fresh white sheets across the bed and spread out the cookies, to be packed into elaborate trays that she would give to her favorite butcher, her doctor, her hairdresser….and of course the grandchildren got plenty, too. Thanks for triggering this memory!
Castles Crowns and Cottages says
Dearest Elizabeth, my life is finally slowed down now for two weeks, as my Christmas vacation has finally arrived.
My favorite Christmas memory? They are all living in my mind, my heart, and those are what I open up every year. Yes, my husband always gifts me something very special, and those gifts and moments too are being filed into my memory bank. But the most acute recollections are from childhood, from adolescence, when my entire family would gather around my uncle's table, after having worked TOGETHER in his kitchen, to make a Mexican Christmas meal. Handmade tamales, laughter, dancing, singing, and yes, arguments over how much meat to put into each "package" of masa were always signs of affection. All of these people are gone now, with only a few of us cousins remaining, but split apart by distance and time. Oh, but memories of spices and seasonings and textures will never leave me. Enjoy the flavors of your memories my sweet friend.
William Kendall says
My mother, until late in life, still baked a lot of cookies for Christmas- up to a hundred dozen.