Stressful, Expensive Christmas Traditions

November 23, 2018

Are some of your Christmas traditions are causing you more stress or are costing you more than you wish to spend?  Early on those traditions were very enjoyable.  You looked forward to doing them.  But now you may be dreading the tradition that you once enjoyed.

If that is the case with you consider modifying the tradition so it will become enjoyable once again, come up with a less expensive version of the tradition, or drop the tradition all together.

Case in point, when my children were younger (and there were fewer of them) I dedicated one Saturday in December to making cookies for Christmas.  Each child would choose a kind of cookies to make, and we would make it together.  I really enjoyed making cookies with my children. But, as our family grew and three kinds of cookies became five or six kinds of cookies, the tradition became a chore; and I dreaded doing it.  So I decided some changes should be made.  My oldest daughter loved Chocolate Mint Snow-tops so I told her if she wanted them she could make them anytime before Christmas.  Also, instead of every child choosing a kind of cookie, we chose as a group what kinds of cookies we would make.

This year I’m planning to make just two kinds of Christmas cookie, frosted sugar cookies and spritz cookies.  I no longer dread Christmas cookie day.

 

Chocolate Mint Snow-top Cookies

1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 10-ounce package mint-flavored, semi-sweet chocolate morsels, divided
6 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs
2/3 cup powdered sugar

In small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt.  In small saucepan over low heat, melt one cup morsels. In large bowl, cream butter and granulated sugar.  Beat in melted morsels and vanilla; beat in eggs.  Gradually beat in dry ingredients.  Stir in remaining morsels.  Wrap in plastic wrap; freeze for 20 minutes or until firm.  Shape dough into 1inch balls; roll in powdered sugar.  Place on ungreased baking sheets.

Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until sides are set but centers are still slightly soft.  Let stand for 2 minutes.  Dust with powdered sugar.  Cool on wire racks.  Makes 3 dozen cookies.

 

 

 

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Anticipation – the Start of the Christmas Season

October 24, 2018

At this time of year I really start looking forward to Christmas.  As Halloween nears I find myself getting excited about Christmas, wanting to listen to Christmas music, and looking forward to putting up Christmas decorations.  In some ways I think Halloween is the beginning of the Christmas holiday season.

The producer of some of my favorite Christmas movies and TV specials is Rankin/Bass.  Here is a Halloween video that Rankin/Bass produced.  I think you will enjoy it.

Christmas Crafts To Make (As Gifts)

September 25, 2018

Here are links to two Christmas crafts.  One of them I have made; the other I hope to make soon along with my children.

Coat Hanger Christmas Treescoathangertree

These are a delightful Christmas craft that makes wonderful Christmas gifts.  I made a number of these several years ago and gave them away.  At least one of them is still being used.

http://customsofchristmas.com/crafts/coathanger_christmas_tree.pdf

 

Marbled Christmas Tree Ornamentsmarbledornaments

Hopefully I will be making some of these with my children this year.  They may be used as Christmas gifts for teachers and friends.

http://customsofchristmas.com/crafts/marble_ornaments.pdf

 Happy crafting for a merry Christmas!

We need a little Christmas…

August 25, 2018

 

Christmas Eve by Laura Hope Wood

The snow began to fall as twilight deepened
And swirling flakes fell far into the night.
A fairyland soon covered hill and valley
As drifts piled high in silence deep and white.
There was no sound to break the evening stillness,
But just the feel of Christmas all around.
Somehow the joy and peace that comes with giving
Came with each snowflake as it settled down.
A tall tree trimmed with bright and shining tinsel,
Through frosted windows such a rosy glow
Of presents wrapped in green and crimson tissue
And firelight dancing on the floor below.
A holly wreath with bright red, frosted berries
To greet me as I near the waiting door.
I seem to hear the sound of sleigh bells ringing;
It’s Christmas Eve, and I am home once more.

 

Oven Caramel Corn

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F.  Divide 15 cups popped popcorn (unsalted) between two 13-by-9-inch baking pans; set aside.  In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine ½ cup butter or margarine, 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar, ¼ cup light corn syrup, and ½ teaspoon salt.  Stirring constantly, bring just to a boil.  Remove from heat.  Stir in ½ teaspoon baking soda.  Slowly pour mixture over popped corn, tossing to coat.  Bake 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.  Makes 15 servings.

 

Poem and recipe from Ideals Christmas magazine 1996

Merry Christmas in July!

July 25, 2018

Today is Christmas in July.  Here are three Christmas cartoons that I hope you will enjoy.

The Wish That Changed Christmas

Family Circus Animated Christmas 1977

Ziggy’s Gift

Merry Christmas in July!

Canadian Christmas Customs

June 24, 2018

Christmas Lights Across CanadaSettlers from many countries and many cultures contributed to the colorful Christmas customs shared by many Canadians today.  Yet they have all come together to form some traditions that are uniquely Canadian.

Since 1985, at 6:55 P.M. Ottawa-time in every province Christmas lights on every government building in Canada are turned on in a huge show of pomp and circumstance.  Many of the ceremonies are repeated nightly until January 7 and may include caroling, performances by local performers and national celebrities, light shows, fireworks, and Christmas treats.  While each ceremony may be similar in content each province adds its own cultural flare to the festivities.

On Christmas Eve many Canadians attend church services.  Churches of all sizes from the large cathedrals to the small-town churches offer the singing of the carols of Christmas, performances, and teachings on the meaning of Christmas.

Bringing Christmas trees into the house for decorating was introduced to Canada by German immigrants in the late 1700s or mid-1800s.  Now Canada is a major producer of Christmas producing about 6 million trees per year.  Nova Scotia, the Christmas Tree Province, produces over 1.5 million trees each year for sale in eastern Canada and the United States.  The province also ships Christmas trees to Central America, the Caribbean, and Venezuela.  Every year a 70-foot tree is sent to Boston, Massachusetts in appreciation of the help sent to Halifax from Boston in 1917 when a ship with a full cargo of explosives exploded in Halifax Harbour killing 19,00 people and destroying much of the city.

Many French Canadians still attend midnight Mass on Christmas Eve and participate in winter sports on Christmas Day.  Some still save their gift-giving for New Year’s Day, but others give their children presents on both Christmas and New Year’s Day.  On New Year’s Day many enjoy a lavish turkey dinner with family and/or friends.

Christmas cards were and are a favorite way for Canadians to keep in touch with friends and family who lived afar off.  Christmas cards first appeared in Canada in 1876.

In 1905, the Eaton’s department store sponsored the first Santa Claus Parade in Toronto.  The parade has grown in popularity and is now the largest Christmas parade in Canada.  Because of the success of the Toronto parade other cities started having Christmas parades of their own.

For years Canadians of all ages and especially British Canadians have spent Christmas afternoon either watching on TV or listening to the radio as the queen of England gives her annual message to the Commonwealth.

The Christmas season ends for British Canadians on January 6 with the Feast of the Epiphany or Twelfth Night.  A bean and a pea are baked into the Twelfth Night cake.  The people who find them in their piece of cake become the king and queen of the night’s festivities.

The First Nations Peoples of Canada includes all groups of people who lived in what is now North America prior to colonization by the Europeans.  Many of them held festivals during the winter season, such as winter solstice festivals featuring feasting, singing, dancing, drumming, racing competitions, and games of strength such as wrestling. 

Missionaries from the colonies taught these peoples the Christian Christmas customs they held dear.  Many of the First Nations Peoples started celebrating Christmas also mixing the old winter festival customs with the Christmas traditions brought by the missionaries.  Now many of the festivals include giving gifts and good things to children and to others.  Even Santa Claus visits these people with gifts and merry making at their Christmas festivities.

Canada’s Christmas customs have come from a wide variety of cultures.  They have given Canada a set of Christmas traditions unmatched anywhere in the world.  Yet they still have formed their own set of national Christmas customs. 

Merry Christmas!  Joyeux Noel!

Traditional Canadian Christmas Dishes

May 25, 2018

Next month I hope to present Canada’s Christmas customs.  Therefore, I am giving you four recipes from the book Christmas in Canada from World Book that are traditionally found in a Canadian Christmas feast.

Fruit Fool

½ cup sweetened whipping cream
1 cup unsweetened applesauce or other fruit puree
¼ tsp almond extract

Whip cream until stiff.  Fold in fruit puree and almond extract.  Chill mixture in refrigerator.  Serve with fresh fruit or shortcake.

Makes 4 servings

 

Mulled Cider

1 quart apple cider
4 or 5 whole cloves
cinnamon stick

In a medium saucepan, mix together ingredients over medium heat; heat well, but do not allow to boil.

Makes 4 servings.

 

Maple Syrup Pie

Pastry for a 9-inch single-crust pie
¼ cup flour
½ cup water
1 cup maple syrup
1 egg, slightly beaten
2 tbsp butter whipped cream

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Line 9-inch pie pan with pastry; prick several times with a fork.  Bake pie shell for 10 minutes or until lightly browned.  Allow pie shell to cool.  Mix flour and water until smooth.

In a medium saucepan, stir together flour mixture and maple syrup.  Stir in egg.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thick.  Add butter and stir until melted.

Pour mixture into cooled pie shell.  Allow pie to cool at room temperature until set.  Serve topped with whipped cream.

Makes 8 servings.

 

Molasses Taffy

1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups molasses
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup water
¼ cup butter

In a large saucepan, mix together sugar, molasses, corn syrup, and water.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until temperature on a candy thermometer reaches just below the soft crack stage (268 degrees F) or until sugar is dissolved.

Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until a small amount of mixture threads when dropped into cold water.  Remove from heat and stir in butter.  Pour slowly onto a buttered slab or buttered cookie sheet on a cooling rack.  Allow to cool slightly, then pull with your fingertips, allowing a spread of about 18 inches between your hands.  Fold mixture back on itself.  Repeat this motion rhythmically until the mixture forms a glistening ribbon and the ridges on the twist begin to hold their shape.  Roll mixture into long, thin strips.  Cut into pieces and place on buttered wax paper.

Makes about 2 pounds.

The Hope of Easter

March 31, 2018

Happy Easter!

March 25, 2018

life-of-jesusWe are in the middle of the Easter season. Both Easter and Christmas are similar in that they begin with the same 40-day season of preparation and they celebrate the same person. Christmas begins with Advent preparing for the coming of the Christ child. Easter begins with Lent preparing for the death and resurrection of Christ. Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus, the Christ. Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

All of this was a plan put in place by God to redeem His magnum opus, His prize creation, mankind. God created the earth and all the plants and animals in it for mankind, and it was “very good.” God enjoyed intimate fellowship with His masterpiece. Then the man and woman, God’s favorite creation, turned their backs on God. God was not willing to leave them in that condition. He desired the intimate fellowship He once enjoyed with mankind, but there was a penalty to be paid for mankind’s rejection of God, for mankind’s sin. No man or woman, even if he or she lived a thousand lives, could ever pay that penalty.

So God made a plan. He would send His Son, Jesus, to be born of a virgin, live a perfect, sinless life, die a horrible death, and rise from the dead thereby securing the payment for the penalty for the sin of all mankind.

Now God offers this payment for the penalty of sin to every man, woman, and child who will turn from their sin and accept this payment. This is the ultimate celebration of both Christmas and Easter.

Resurrection Rolls

Ingredients:

1 can refrigerated crescent roll dough
8 large marshmallows
Melted butter
Cinnamon
Sugar

Instructions:

  • Give each child one triangle shaped section of crescent roll. This represents the tomb.
  • Each child takes one marshmallow which represents the body of Christ.
  • Dip the marshmallow in the butter and roll in cinnamon and sugar mixture. This represents the oils and spices the body was anointed with upon burial.
  • Lay the marshmallow on the dough and carefully wrap it around the marshmallow.
  • Make sure all seams are pinched together well. (Otherwise the marshmallow will “ooze” out of the seams)
  • Bake according to package directions.
  • Cool.
  • Break open the tomb and the body of Christ is no longer there!!
  • Celebrate God’s love!

 

Russian Christmas Customs

February 25, 2018

GrandfatherFrostChristmas customs enjoyed in Russia have evolved in three phases.  These phases are Russia before Communism, Communist Russia, and Russia after the fall of Communism.

Old Russia  Christmas was a religious time before the Communists took over Russia.  The Russian Orthodox Church held services every day during the twelve days of Christmas.  Nearly everyone in the town and surrounding countryside attended the local church making the services standing room only.

Many people followed a form of Advent.  For thirty-nine days before Christmas they would abstain from eating certain foods like meat.  No food was eaten on Christmas Eve until the first star was seen in the sky.  Many a Christmas Eve found the children of the house peering out the window watching for that first star so the Christmas Eve feast could begin.

The Christmas Eve feast comprised of a twelve-course meal.  Fish was a staple of the meal instead of meat which they still abstained from eating.  The soup course most likely was borscht, a soup made with cabbage, onions, potatoes, beets, and carrots.  Two other popular dishes were kutyala, a rich, sweet porridge made of wheat berries, poppy seeds, and honey, and kissel, a mousse-like berry dessert.

Meat could be eaten on Christmas day.  Duck, ham, goose, pig, and other roast meats were the centerpiece of the Christmas dinner.  Other dishes included borscht, jellied sturgeon, blini (light buckwheat pancakes rolled with caviar and served with sour cream), pelmeni (mini-dumplings filled with beef and pork), and piroshke (savory, filled pastries).

Christmas trees were popular in the 1800s.  They were procured three days before Christmas and decorated with apples, tangerines, dolls made of dried fruit and candy, walnuts wrapped in gold foil, wooden ornaments, paper lanterns, and topped by a shining star.

Instead of Santa Claus, Grandfather Frost delivered toys door-to-door.  He did not go down chimneys.  He wore a red coat trimmed with white fur and had a long, snow-white, bushy beard.  Some children opened the gifts they received from Grandfather Frost on Christmas Eve; others waited until Christmas morning.

Communist Russia  When the Communists came into power, Christmas was replaced with a Festival of Winter.  They also changed from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar.  The Russian Orthodox Church, however, continued to use the Julian calendar.  The churches that were allowed by the Communist Party to stay open held Christmas services on January 6 and 7, the date of Christmas using the Julian calendar.  Churches would be decorated with Christmas trees, icons of saints, and colored lights.  Congregations would sing Christmas hymns, but elsewhere there was no Christmas.

Many Christmas traditions were transferred to New Year’s, and Grandfather Frost arrived on New Year’s Day.  Christmas trees were banned by the Communists; but because the people wanted to keep the tradition, Joseph Stalin, in 1935, lifted the ban calling them New Year’s trees.

Many people put up their New Year’s trees on December 31 and left them up until January 13, Old New Year’s Eve).  The trees were decorated with toys, little dolls, colored lights, garlands, and topped with the red star of the Soviets instead of the star of the Magi.

Grandfather Frost remained the gift giver, but he arrived on New Year’s Eve instead of Christmas or Christmas Eve.  Instead of a red robe he wore a blue one.  Instead of some of the more fun and frivolous gifts Grandfather Frost brought more practical gifts like clothing, shoes, and books though small toys did appear on occasion.

Grandfather Frost was also joined by Snegurochka, the Snow Maiden. The Snow Maiden also dressed in a blue robe or coat and knee-high boots.  They would be seen together in parades and many New Year’s events.

Post-Communist Russia  In 1991 with the arrival of Glasnost and Perestroika the Russian people were once again free to celebrate Christmas.  Russian Christians were once again able to worship without fear of persecution or death.

The big celebration still occurs on New Year’s Day with extravagant fireworks and organized games.  Grandfather Frost still delivers gifts on New Year’s Eve and is still accompanied by the Snow Maiden.  The big feast still includes such foods as borscht, blini, sturgeon, halibut, or herring, fresh fruits and vegetables (when available), bread, and sweets such as baba or kissel.

Without the fear of persecution many Russians are returning to church especially at Christmas and Easter.  Christmas services in Russian Orthodox Churches are well-known for their sacred music, and many who cannot make it to the services are able to watch them on Russian television.

Today’s Russian Christmas customs are still being developed.  Some are trying to bring back some of the old customs while others are creating new traditions.

Baba Romovaya cake recipe

Ingredients:
3 ea eggs
5 oz flour
5 oz sugar
–Icing:
5 oz cherry juice
2 tbsp rum
–Sauce:
4 tbsp rum
2 ea yolks
8 oz cream
1 tbsp starch

Method:
Beat up eggs with sugar with the mixer until there is foam. Stir in flour very gradually and make dough very quickly. Fill in the form half (the dough will rise twice) with dough very very carefully. Grease the form abundantly with butter and sprinkle with flour. Close all windows and doors to avoid draughts otherwise “baba” will catch a cold”. Put in a warm place, don’t move it. As soon as the dough rise up to the top, bake in the oven (180C) until it is golden. It is very important to keep the form of “baba” after baking. Put upside “baba” in the form down on the paper until it is cold. Don’t take it out of the form until it is cold. Mix rum with cherry juice in a large bowl and sink “baba” in this syrup. Beat up yolks with cream and starch, pour in rum. Put the mass on a “steam bath” (put a smaller pan with cream mass in a large pan with water) and bring to thickening. Pour the sauce over “Baba” before serving.

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