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Drive By Blogging

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Posted 01-29-2010 at 08:14 AM by Sapsorrow

No, I haven't forgotten about Christmas and my New Year's resolution, but we broke "quarantine" once for a thirty second errand so now the whole family (but the baby) is sick. No fun at all. I'm left with very little time to write. On the other hand, this cold is being pretty gentle with me and my eldest is almost recovered, so here's to Spring and good health!

When I've had the chance, I've looked at recipes and read up on Old World Christmas traditions, as well as the traditions of my recent ancestors. (On the off chance that someone from the Taste of Home forums where I'm doing my holiday recipe research also reads here: hello! Yes, it's the same Sapsorrow!) The sheer number of "traditional" Christmas cookie recipes to wade through is pretty intimidating, but I now have a short list which includes gingerbread, shortbread, peppernuts, sugar cookies, biscotti, springerle, and speculatus (sp?). I'd also like to make our old standby acorn cookies, my father's favorite butterhorn cookies, classic chocolate chip, and my husband's favorite marzipan rainbow cookies, though that last one intimidates me. And it wouldn't be Christmas without sugar cakes and oatmeal raisin cookies for me. Now to determine which freeze well!

But it's the traditions that are interesting, isn't it? Tradition is my first line of defense against going overboard, spending too much, and focusing entirely on the material things. I admit that, when it's not Christmas season, it's hard for me to think about the beauty and mystery, the quiet and cold, or the clear nights that make Christmas Christmas, so instead I focus on what I can do ahead of time, which is pretty much all material. Tradition helps me put the brakes on that tendency.

I love how simple Christmas in the Old World, or even a few generations back in the New World, was. Most of my reading on this subject has been courtesy of Google Books (wow! what a resource, and free!), and cookbooks have been the biggest help since they tend to paint a whole picture around when a Christmas recipe would be used. Doesn't having people over for a casual, even potluck, Sunday dinner during Advent, then clearing the table for everyone to sit around sipping mulled wine (or tea for the kids) and making little paper basket ornaments for the tree sound wonderful? And I love the idea of making all the decorations each year, mostly out of food, but nothing really comes out for consumption (or viewing, in the case of the tree) until Christmas Eve. Then you enjoy your tree and all the treats you made throughout Advent until Epiphany, which has a cake and traditions of its own. I like the idea of gifts from Santa or Christkindl on Christmas or Christmas Eve, then personal gifts on New Year's, to spread out the fun. I even read about some people who make a gingerbread nativity scene, which is very appealing since I'd rather not buy one this year.

Our own twist on tradition is that we'll be decorating the tree with cookies and garlands of red peppernut cookies, as well as paper cones of candies, nuts, and cookies that don't hang very well. Then all we'll need to be set are a tree stand, some lights, an advent calendar for the year, and the gifts.

On a parting note, I've been considering doing a full Christmas notebook, since I generally [I]love[/I] organizing, and I think I've found the perfect source of binders! Zazzle.com (kind of a cross between CafePress and Vistaprint) sells printed binders. You can either design your own or buy one of the many designs that's already available. I've fallen in love with a few designs that are there and now fantasize about designs for each holiday.
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