Christmas Traditions—Sweets and Treats (holiday snacking at its finest)

Holiday traditions are as wonderfully diverse as the families who practice them. In conjunction with my new release Bear Creek Christmas, allow me to share some of mine!

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The following excerpt is taken from my new release, Bear Creek Christmas.

Knox produced matching holiday aprons from one of the bags, and they got busy. Levi turned on the radio for background music, and they started churning out pan after pan of lightly browned pine trees, stars, bells, and other familiar shapes. The cabin soon filled with the sweet butter and sugar aroma of fresh-baked cookies. Per Knox, any broken or defective ones were immediately eaten as a part of “quality control”.

The delight on Levi’s face was obvious as he relived happy memories of doing this with his family, and they began decorating the cookies with frosting, colored sugar, sprinkles, and nonpareils. They decided to give away the best ones and keep all the boo-boos to eat—though if Knox kept chowing them down like popcorn, there wouldn’t be any left at all. But, it didn’t matter because they were having fun and making memories of their own.

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Aside from store-bought candy, our holiday included cookies and other treats. My mother went all-out for Christmas, providing us with a steady supply of snacks that only showed up in December.

As mentioned in the above quote, sugar cookies were one of the things we got to help make and decorate. The mouthwatering aroma was distinct and provoked memories of warmth, family, and good times. Mom would roll out the dough and bring out a set of well-used aluminum cookie cutters in basic shapes: bells, balls, stars, and pine trees. After they cooled, we slathered on colored powdered-sugar frosting—concerned more about taste than presentation.

Other yummy seasonals appeared, including fudge with walnuts, divinity, snowballs, thumbprint cookies, meringue cookies, glass candy, peanut brittle, and popcorn balls. Despite the long list, I’ve probably forgotten some things. Another classic for us was an extra-large box of Russel Stover candies that included a “map” of what each variety was by its location in the box. The chocolate/caramel turtles always disappeared first, and nobody liked the ones with coconut.

The box I remember was a LOT bigger than this!

Two things come to mind as I reminisce. First, how did my mother find the time to make all this stuff for a household of thirteen? Second, I’m horrified by the amount of white flour, sugar, corn syrup, and margarine we consumed every year. I set aside those unhealthy eating habits long ago, but the dangers weren’t known or discussed back then. Still, the memories are worth savoring, and I lived to tell the tale.

Your turn to share. Please tell me what you and yours do for the holidays!

Christmas Traditions—Stockings (where they go and what to put in them)

Holiday traditions are as wonderfully diverse as the families who practice them. In conjunction with my new release Bear Creek Christmas, allow me to share some of mine!

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Taken from chapter 20 of Bear Creek Christmas

“At length, Knox and Levi got up, turned on all the colored lights, and made a fire in defiance of the still-raging storm. Levi tuned in to some holiday music, and they teamed up to prepare a breakfast featuring banana walnut pancakes. Thus fortified, the giddy lovers returned to the living room to begin their celebration. First, Levi took the filled Christmas stockings from the mantelpiece, handing one to Knox.

“What’s this?”

“Our family has always filled them with candy and small gifts, but you can’t have any until Christmas Day. Next year, you get to decide what goes in them.”

They poured them out on the sofa cushion and began comparing and trading. Knox exchanged some of his licorice for chocolate, while Levi traded a keychain for emoji stickers. The rest went back inside the stockings, which were re-hung on the mantle.”

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I came from a large family, and each of us had our own Christmas stocking emblazoned with our name. (There was less pilfering this way if you were dumb enough to leave it laying around!) They got ratty and soiled through the years but no one seemed to care. If I recall correctly, they were store-bought and made of green or red felt. After we all grew up and moved away from home, my mother began creating beautiful hand-quilted stockings for her grandchildren.

While tradition says you’re suppose to hang them on the mantle (providing the North Pole invader easy access), our home didn’t have a fireplace when I was young. This created two very serious questions in my young mind: how did Santa get inside the house without a chimney, and where were we supposed to hang the stockings? My mother told me in all seriousness that Santa simply used the back door to get in, and no, he did not need a key. She also said he knew exactly where to find our stockings—taped to the shelves of a built-in bookcase in the living room where the tree was set up.

We always hung the stockings on the same day we decorated the tree—December 17th, which was my oldest sister’s birthday. There they remained, empty, until late on Christmas eve when mom filled them with candy of all kinds, along with the largest oranges she could find. Evidently, this was one her own traditions, having grown up during the depression when fruit was a little easier to afford than gifts.

Our stockings were the first things we grabbed after being allowed to go downstairs on Christmas morning; mom’s warning not to eat it all ringing in our ears. I don’t recall much in the way of toys or non-edible things—it was all fuel for the coming sugar rush. My favorite was the round balls of chocolate, about the size of marbles and wrapped in bright colored foil. I never did like the traditional hard candies like ribbons, though peppermint candy canes were a welcome treat. We often traded with our siblings, looking for a better deal or just more chocolate.

Your turn to share! Do you hang stockings? Where? If you fill them, what goes inside?