Posts Tagged ‘decorating’

Christmas Customs From Denmark

September 25, 2014

Cut and Paste Day: Usually in mid-December family and friends gather for “Cut and Paste Day,” a day to make new handmade ornaments.  Hearts, woven heart baskets, Danish flags, paper cones (to be filled with candies and nuts), three-dimensional stars, nisse (made with yarn) pine cone ornaments, little drums, and wooden figures are among the favorite handmade ornaments made on “Cut and Paste Day.”  Most, if not all of these ornaments, will be red and/or white in color just like the Danish flag.

Advent Calendars and Candles:

Like children everywhere Danish children get excited with the anticipation of the Christmas celebration. So, when December 1 rolls around, out comes the advent candle and one or more advent calendars.  Advent candles have marks on them one for each day of December leading up to Christmas.  At some point each day, a family member lights the candle.  The candle is allowed to burn to the next mark but no further until the candle is allowed to burn down to the final mark Christmas morning.

Advent calendars may be homemade or store-bought, simple or elaborate. Some may have only windows to open revealing a verse or saying about Christmas.  Others may include cookies, toys, small gifts, candles, candy, or gum for the child fortunate enough to expose the day’s goodies.  A couple Danish television stations produce a special advent calendar in the form of a Christmas show that is divided into twenty-four episodes.  These shows are like The Cinnamon Bear, Jonathon Thomas And His Christmas On The Moon, and Jump-Jump And The Ice Queen radio shows produced in the United States during the 1930’s and 1940’s.

Christmas Seals: The purchasing of Christmas seals to raise money to treat children with tuberculosis began in Denmark.  In 1903, Danish Postal clerk Einar Holboell looked at all the Christmas cards and mail going through the post office and thought what if people could purchase a Christmas “stamp” to place on their packages.  He designed the first Christmas seal, had them printed, and sold them raising much money for the fight against tuberculosis thus beginning the beloved custom of purchasing Christmas seals.  Norway and Sweden were the first countries to adopt this custom followed by the United States in 1907.

Collectible Christmas plates: In 1895, the porcelain company Bing and Grondahl decided to make a special Christmas plate.  It was to be colored blue and white, involving one of the more complicated processes in plate-making.  On Christmas Eve the company made that plate a true collectible by destroying the mold.  Every Christmas since then Bing and Grondahl has created limited edition Christmas plates breaking the molds for the plates on Christmas Eve.  In 1908 Denmark’s oldest porcelain maker, Royal Copenhagen, started making its own Christmas plates following the same processes used by Bing and Grondahl.  And like Bing and Grondahl, Royal Copenhagen breaks their molds on Christmas Eve.  These plates have become the most sought after plates by plate collectors worldwide.

Learn more about Denmark’s Customs of Christmas here.

Here’s a Christmas cookie from Denmark.

Brune Kager (Brown Christmas cookies)

1 cup butter or lard
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup dark corn syrup
1 tsp cardamom
1 tbsp grated orange peel
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
½ tsp salt
½ tsp allspice
4 ½ cups flour
¼ cup finely chopped almonds

At a low heat, melt the butter (lard), sugar, and syrup. Add the other ingredients and mix well.  Form the dough into rolls as if making refrigerator cookies.  Store the rolled dough in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 weeks.  Aging greatly improves the flavor.  Cut the rolls into very thin cookies and decorate each with half of a blanched almond.  Bake at 375 degrees F until the cookies are crisp (approximately 5 to 7 minutes).  After cookies have cooled, store in a covered jar or tin.

How to have the Christmas you’ve always wanted – part 3

September 7, 2013

Men – the Christmas gopher

Many men just can’t get excited about Christmas. Their women wish they would.
It’s not that they don’t enjoy the Christmas celebration, they do. They enjoy
watching the children opening and playing with their gifts. They enjoy the good
food and the atmosphere, but they still could take Christmas or leave it. On
the other hand there are other men that really enjoy the Christmas season. They
get into all the decorating, the shopping, and the planning involved in
preparing for the Christmas celebration.

Why is this? Why is it that some men have such a hard time getting excited
about Christmas? Perhaps it’s because of the limited role they play in the
Christmas preparations. Sure they provide emotional and financial support.
Sure they help run errands. They make some suggestions and take
responsibility for a few parts of the Christmas celebration, but they’re less
involved in the preparations than the women are. Except for dragging out the
decorations, getting the tree, and doing the heavy work the men do little to get
things ready for Christmas. Because of this limited involvement it’s difficult
for men to get excited about Christmas.

Another reason men have trouble getting excited about Christmas is that their
wishes are less represented in the Christmas celebration. Women tend to rely on
their own talents, tastes, and preferences instead of asking the men what they’d
like. Christmas loses the familiar, comfortable aspects that men grew up with.
It’s like breaking in a new pair of shoes. The comfort and familiarity of the
old pair is rarely recaptured.

A third reason men aren’t as excited about Christmas is they feel like they’re
attending another’s party, observing another’s celebration. Because their
decision-making power is limited men feel they are a spectator to their wives
production. Someone on the outside looking in.

The Christmas celebration is definitely not a spectator sport. The next few
exercises, taken from Unplug The Christmas Machine by Jo Robinson and Jean
Coppock Staeheli, are designed to help men move from the spectator to the
participant, from the gopher to a co-planner.

Exercise 1: Rating Your Enjoyment of Last Year’s Christmas Activities
1. Scan the list below and cross off the activities that you weren’t involved
in, adding those that we have overlooked.
Decorating the house
Decorating the tree
Shopping for gifts
Making gifts
Wrapping gifts
Going to parties
Going to Christmas performances
Christmas activities with your children
Christmas activities at work
Religious activities at home
Church activities
Gift-opening rituals
Charitable activities
Family Christmas gathering

2. Beside each of the remaining activities, assign a number from 1 to 10 that
shows how much you enjoyed doing it last year. A 10 shows the most pleasure.
Feel free to add comments.
3. Think about what, overall, gave you the greatest pleasure last Christmas.
4. Which activities or situations gave you the least pleasure?

Exercise 2: Remembering Your Childhood Christmas
1. Think back to your childhood Christmas. Which traditions, activities, or
occasions were particularly pleasurable for you?

2. Of these important childhood memories, which of them are reflected in your
current celebration?

Exercise 3: An Exercise For Married Men – Your Role in Your Current Celebration
1. Which of the following statements most accurately reflects your role in your
A. My wife determines nearly all of the holiday events.
B. My wife determines more of the holiday events than I do.
C. We share the planning fifty-fifty.
D. My influence predominates.
2. How do you feel about this arrangement?

Exercise 4: Drawing Conclusions
1. From everything you know about yourself and Christmas, ideally, what changes
would you like to make in the coming celebration? (For the moment, don’t take
into consideration how realistic or unrealistic these changes may be.)

2. For married men: What do you most want your wife to know about how you feel
about Christmas?

When you complete these exercises, be ready to discuss the results with your

The Christmas Pledge

Believing in the beauty and simplicity of Christmas, I commit myself to the
1. To remember those people who truly need my gifts
2. To express my love for family and friends in more direct ways than presents
3. To rededicate myself to the spiritual growth of my family
4. To examine my holiday activities in light of the true spirit of Christmas
5. To initiate one act of peacemaking within my circle of family and friends

The material presented here was taken from the book Unplug The Christmas Machine
by Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli published by William Morrow and
Company, Inc.

What?! Change Christmas?! . . . Can I?

July 24, 2013

Was Christmas 2012 everything you hoped it would be? Did you do something that once was fun but turned out to be more trouble than it was worth? Has your family situation changed so that the Christmas celebrations that you once knew are no longer practical or even possible?

My family loves Christmas and love celebrating Christmas. If I had my way we would live in a house with a large living room and dining room decorated with lots of Christmas greens and lights. A large Christmas tree would stand near the fireplace. Guess what! We don’t have a large house or even a large living room. A small apartment-size tree makes our cramped living room even smaller. At this time decorating a large tree is not possible for us, but we don’t dwell on what we can’t have. Instead we gather together as a family and together decorate our tree and enjoy what we did all season long.

When my oldest daughter was younger (she’s 18 now) we set aside one Saturday in December to bake cookies. Everyone in the family picked their favorite cookies (there were only 5 of us then), and we baked. Each child helped me make their favorite cookies. By the end of the day we made double batches of at least 6 or 7 different kinds of cookies. As our family grew (there are 9 of us now) that day became a chore instead of fun. I began dreading baking day. Two years ago I decided we needed to change this tradition a little. We put together a list of cookies we wanted for Christmas. We still made 5 or 6 different kinds of cookies, but we changed how we did them. My daughter loves Choco-Mint Snowtops. She made them during the week while I was at work. We also cut down the amount of cookies we made from 2 batches to just 1 batch. One last change we made was to use … oh, horrors … say it ain’t so … refrigerated, store-bought cookie dough. Now the day that became a dreaded tradition is fun again.
About 3 years ago we decided that we wanted to make our Christmas breakfast a special meal to look forward to in addition to our Christmas dinner. We looked at recipes for breakfast casseroles. My wife made sure they didn’t have a bread base. She doesn’t care for them. We found 2 recipes that looked delicious. The first time we made 1 of each. The next year, since we knew which one we preferred, we made just 1 recipe. That’s one of our newest family Christmas traditions.

For us Christmas is more than music, lights, presents, and food. It is remembering the reason for the season, Jesus, whose birthday we celebrate every Christmas. Several years ago we started gathering a number of advent books to read during Advent. 3 of the books are stories of characters, children, who may have played a part in the Christmas story. They are fiction stories, but we enjoy the stories seeing how the events in the lives of the children in the stories intertwine with the characters we all know of the Biblical Christmas story. The fourth book contains inspirational readings, passages of the Bible to read, and songs to sing as we anticipate and prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus our Savior. This is another family tradition that our children look forward to each Christmas season.

These are just some of the ways our Christmas celebration has changed over the years. What about your Christmas traditions? I would love to hear about your Christmas traditions that changed over the years. Perhaps you no longer use them in your celebrations. Perhaps you added them to enhance your enjoyment of Christmas. Whatever they are I’d love to hear about them. Perhaps I can add them to our Christmas celebration.

Starting next month I’ll be sharing a series of blogs called How to Have the Christmas You Always Wanted based on the book/seminar series Uplug the Christmas Machine by Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli. You won’t want to miss this series. Invite someone read them with you.

Hashbrown Breakfast Casserole
1 lb ground sausage ( “hot” or “sage” flavored)
¼ cup chopped onions
2 ½ cups frozen cubed hash brown potatoes
5 large eggs, lightly beaten
8 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese (2 cups)
1 ¾ cups milk
1 cup baking mix
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
1. Cook sausage and onion in large frying pan over medium-high
heat for 5 minutes or until meat crumbles.
2. Stir in hash browns, and cook for 5 to 7 minutes or until sausage
is no longer pink and hash browns are lightly browned.
3. Drain mixture well on paper towels.
4. Spoon mixture into a lightly greased 13×9-inch baking dish.
5. A stoneware baking dish works really well.
6. Stir together the lightly beaten eggs, shredded cheese, milk,
baking mix, salt, and pepper.
7. Pour evenly over sausage/hashbrown mixture.
8. Stir well.
9. Cover and chill for 8 hours.
10. Bake covered with foil at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
11. Uncover and bake 10 to 15 minutes or until a wooden pick
inserted in the middle comes out clean.
12. Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes.
13. You can also keep the casserole warm until you are ready to eat
by covering it with foil and putting it in a 200 degree oven.
14. Optional toppings: sour cream, favorite sauce of your choice
(picante, hot sauce). You can also garnish it with parsley.

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