Friday, December 2, 2011

Advent Calendar - December 2 - Holiday Foods

This post is number 2 in a series of 24 for the 2011 Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories.

On the 23th Day of Christmas, I'm supposed to talk about Holiday Foods

Did your family or ancestors serve traditional dishes for the holidays? Was there one dish that was unusual?

One of the best traditions during the holidays happens in the kitchen.  Food binds us together as human beings.  Handed down recipes, memories of dinners of Christmas Past, baking, cooking ~ these are the things that bring us together as family.

Growing up, there were two things we could count on ~ turkey at Thanksgiving and ham at Christmas.  I cooked a Thanksgiving meal this year that would have made John Howland proud.  I had to pick John Howland as he was an ancestor's brother, no other Pilgrim would do.  The one thing I could not remember, though, was how my mother made dressing.  I vaguely remember toasting a whole loaf of bread and there was cornbread, but other than that, I have no memory of her recipe.  Stove-Top Stuffing took the place of that wonderful homemade concoction.  Her hams, to my child-like mind, were the things of legend.  Cloves, pineapple, scored and doused with a mixture of brown sugar and mustard.  The accompanying dishes were the usual, but that ham!  I believe it helped foster my life-long love affair with pork products.

Traditions in my family haven't strayed too far from what I grew up with.  The only different thing we do is Christmas.  Our large meal comes at breakfast.  Biscuits, gravy, bacon, eggs, pancakes, etc.  This was borne of necessity as my first husband and I divorced when the children were young.  He would take them to visit his family after they opened gifts that morning.  I wanted to cook for them so our traditional Christmas breakfast was born.

So, this year, as you gather with family and friends, ask your mother or grandmother about their traditions.  Ask your father or grandfather what they remember.  I bet one of the things remembered will be food.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Advent Calendar - December 1 - The Christmas Tree

This post is number 1 in a series of 24 for the 2011 Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories.

On the 24th Day of Christmas, I'm supposed to talk about the Christmas Tree.

Did you have a real tree, or was it artificial? How big was the tree? Who decorated the tree?  What types of Christmas trees did your ancestors have?

I honestly do not remember a "real" Christmas tree while growing up.  While friends of mine had the scent of pine filling their houses, we didn't.  We always had an artificial one. My first memory of a Christmas tree was a glorious mix of 1960s tackiness.  White artificial tree, blue balls.  While I don't recall the color of lights on the tree, I do remember my daddy stringing blue lights on the evergreen tree in our yard.

We brought in the '70s with an updated model.  This was green!  It looked like a real tree.  Well, except that it had a metal "trunk" and you could move the "limbs" around, looked like a real tree! While the rest of the world suffered with fragile glass ornaments, we braved the new decade with the most up-to-date in Christmas technology - the satin, unbreakable, ornament.  Yes, there were still strands of that old fashioned tinsel, we wouldn't have to worry about our ornaments breaking!
Once I moved away, I was free to experiment with trees.  Every fall, I wandered the aisles of stores suffering from Shiny Christmas Ornament Syndrome.  Through the years, I've had several different decoration schemes.  Burgundy & gold, purple & gold,  Victorian Santa, even Mardi Gras (colors, not masks) .  I admit that I have an embarrassing amount of bins (somewhat color coordinated) with most of the ornaments I've collected over the past thirty years in my supply closet.

Since we moved to the new house, we have two trees.  Since we have a "fru-fru" living room, there is a tree in front of the window so all can see.  We also have one in our basement den.  That area is "country" in design and, as such, so is the tree. 

And now, we've come full circle.  The Christmas tree in the "fru-fru" living room?  White artificial tree.  Blue balls.