I don’t know a whole lot of Christmas traditions, just the ones we use in our family. But I’m always interested in learning and sharing ideas for making the most of the holiday season. Listed here are some of the ways we bring tradition into our holiday.
Decorating: I have always loved Christmas decorating though I try to keep it pretty simple. Many years ago I started making popcorn garland for the Christmas tree. Very delicate, very pretty. It takes about 2 hours to make everything I need for our medium sized tree. So it’s not a big time issue, nor does it require a lot of expense. A little work and you have something very special, that cannot be easily found in a store . I use a hot air popper and fishing line, and I turn the country Christmas tunes on satellite. Before you know it, I’m putting it on the tree. You end up with something very, very pretty and unique. Glenn and his sister share this memory from childhood. They always strung popcorn garland with their mother and other siblings, and they added cranberries here and there. That sounds lovely, I never tried cranberries. But I think I will add them next year. And perhaps my grandchildren can get in on the fun! When the season is past, and it is time to put things away, I cut the line. The popcorn slides right off to feed the birds, out in the yard.
Cooking: I am always asked to make the dressing for the family Christmas dinner. I enjoy doing it because I have been trying for 20 years to learn how to make good dressing. It’s difficult when you only make it once a year. Though dryness can be a problem, mine seemed to always to be a bit on the wet side. A couple of years ago I stumbled across 2 techniques that have enabled me to make good dressing, reliably. These are very simple tips worth sharing.
- I used to make up the cornbread several days in advance and let it dry out on the counter, but this presents some problems. One year it molded before I got the dressing made, so it was a total flop before I could even get started. Also, it is always possible that a little mouse could get in the house or a roach and they would make a beeline for that cornbread. I now prefer to make it the night before, cutting it into 1 inch squares and keeping it overnight in a sealed container. This is safer and more sanitary. On the morning before the meal, I pile it all on a broiler pan and dry it out in a 225 degree oven, along with the white breads, stirring every hour. The white breads (placed on bare oven racks) only take an hour and they are like croutons. The cornbread takes about 3 hours. It’s fresher! And since all the moisture which will go back into that bread is made of broth, rather than just water, this method makes a richer, tastier dressing.
- Estimate the amount of broth you think you will need, add it to the dried out breads and the rest of your recipe, and stir it all up. Allow it to sit for 20 minutes. Afterwards, inspect your raw dressing and use clean paper towels to soak up any excess liquid (puddles), before dumping everything in the dish for baking. This is a fail-proof method for eliminating the problem of heavy, soggy dressing. And since I have been doing this I have been able to produce a much better result. It may also work well to dip out the dressing into the baking dish, using a slotted spoon. This might eliminate any hidden puddles and I am going to try it this year.
Family Socializing: A few years ago, my sister began a really nice tradition for our family Christmas gathering. Early in the year, she solicited our help through email, asking us to send her our family stories. When Christmas came, she had compiled them and made a game with them. She presented a sketchy event and we all guessed who it was about. After we found out, that person told the full story and we all learned a lot about each other. We have played this game several years now and it is a lovely tradition. The first year was absolutely magical!
New Years Reflection: I never plan to, but the last 10 days or so, of each year, I find myself thinking a lot about the year to come. What are my hopes for the new year? Where do I want to be, this time, next year? I don’t try to figure out how to make any of it happen at this point, but I spend time thinking about my hopes and dreams. I may even make a list, so that when the new year does arrive, I have something to look at and start working on. It helps me decide my direction for the next twelve months; it keeps me in a positive, forward-looking frame of mind; it inspires me toward the coming year.
I am having fun with my new blog and I want to thank you for reading and commenting. Wishing you a merry, merry Christmas and a joyous, new year!