Are you enjoying this special season? It's time to make the candy and cookies, finalize the menu for Christmas dinner, mail the cards you are sending, finish up any gift shopping, and enjoy the music and magic of this time of year. Most of us have to keep our credit cards in ice in the freezer to keep from "impulsive buying". It is so tempting. We see things that we think our family would like and give in to the temptation of indulgence. This is especially true when it comes to grandchildren. We want to give them everything we could not give their parents years ago. The season isn't about getting gifts but it is difficult to teach our young ones that when they see their friends get those expensive high tech items and the TV commercials make those items look like a "needed" thing to have.It was simpler when I was a child, but we don't live in a simple world anymore. Of course, there was a war going on then, and unlike today, everyone worked on the war effort. Money went for necessaries and EVERYONE worked at something.
I wouldn't want to relive those scary years, but the camaraderie among people was so much stronger than now. We might not have had "things", but we had closer families and friends. And, you know what? We didn't miss the "things". One gift from those days was a baby pig, the same gift as my cousins and brother got. Of course, they went back to the barn after we tired of playing with them and ended up on the family's tables that next fall, but we thought that was a great gift. We didn't realize, or even care, that those baby pigs were all our grandfather had to give us. It was a true "love" gift. Those piglets were like the boxes the little ones would rather play with instead of the toys that came in them for us. It shouldn't take lots of "things" to show love for our family members.
It doesn't cost a lot of money to make Christmas memories and the memories are what stay with us always. Making cookies with the little ones might make a mess in the kitchen but the pride they feel showing off their masterpieces and the happy smiles when giving them to folks last forever. The kitchen is cleaned up in short time. Be sure to take some pictures of them having fun in the kitchen mess. Those tangible tokens of yours will give you smiles and happy feelings long after the little ones grow up and have kitchens of their own.
Kids like to make candy, too. They should have help with that, though. What aunt, uncle, grandparent, teacher, or even neighbor, wouldn't like a gift the child has made over something that Mom picked out for them to give. It is so hard to go beyond the commercialism of this season and show the young ones what lessons we all should learn from it and then to practice those lessons.
One of the customs I noticed in Europe when I lived there forty years ago was the celebration of St. Nicholas Day, the sixth of December. The children would leave their shoes outside the door and, if they had been good, they would find an orange or apple and maybe a small gift in their shoe. If they had not been good, they might find coal. Christmas, although some gifts were given, was mainly a religious celebration. One of the things, that I still miss, was the ringing of all the church bells at midnight. The Advent Calendar was another thing each child had. One window would be opened each day from the start of Advent until the final one, a picture of the Manger, was opened on Christmas. The more elaborate ones had a piece of candy behind each little door in addition to the picture they all had for each day.
The Christmas parade was similar to ones we have now, but less commercial than ours. The kids all laughed and clapped the most for the last float in the parade, one with colored lights and a brown-cloaked monk who was bundling up switches and coal and shaking the switches at the children along the parade route. But the star of the parade was always the float in front of him that carried St. Nicholas, and that is the one the grown-ups applauded most. It would be all in white and gold, with white lights and St. Nicholas attired in a white and gold Bishop's robes and MITRE on his head.
It is so pleasant to be able to see how differently other groups, and countries, celebrate the same holidays that we do. It is the same with families - each one has its' own way to commemorate the holidays and there is no one way that is perfect for everyone else. Just hope that all with whom you come into contact are joyful and peaceful so they don't throw a shadow on your own celebration. Not everyone in anyone's world is nice - there are many who are downright nasty. If you know anyone like that, just try to stay away from them, especially during this season when we all should find peace and joy. Smile and say a cheery greeting to everyone because you never know if that person has just been blasted by a Scrooge. This season is hard on many folks and some are tempted to take out their dissatisfaction in life on the next person they see. Just don't be one of the grumpy ones.
Put the holiday music on, bake some goodies and think happy thoughts. That is the memory you want your family and friends to have of you and this Christmas season. Here are some holiday recipes to give you some ideas for this season. Help someone less fortunate than you and God bless you all.
MILLION DOLLAR FUDGE
(I have been using this recipe myself for at least fifty years. Easy and good.)
Five cups sugar
One can (12 oz.) evaporated milk
One jar marshmallow (large one is better)
Three packages (6 oz. each) chocolate chips
Two teaspoons vanilla extract
Nutmeats - optional
Combine sugar and milk in large heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil, and boil four and one-half minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add marshmallow cream and chocolate chips. Stir until creamy (and all the chips have melted). Add vanilla, and nutmeats if using, and combine. Pour into a buttered pan.
NOTE: When I make this, I line the pan with foil with the foil extending well over the sides of the pan, and then butter that. When the candy is cooled and set, just lift the fudge out by lifting the foil out. It is easier to cut this way. This candy looks nice if you put pecans halves on the fudge as soon as it is poured into the pan, placing them so each piece of fudge has a pecan half on it.
(An old-fashioned recipe.)
One-half cup mashed potatoes
One-eighth teaspoon salt
Four cups sifted powdered sugar
One-half teaspoon vanilla
Mix together potatoes, salt and vanilla. (Use mashed potatoes only - no butter or milk in them.) You can add food coloring at this point if you want a colored candy. Add sugar, a little at a time, until stiff enough to roll. Put powdered sugar on a baking sheet and roll out mixture like pie dough. Spread peanut butter on this, and then roll up like a jelly roll. Cut in slices - you will have pinwheels. Cut about one-fourth- to one-third-inch slices,
One cup butter
Three-fourths cup sugar
One egg, unbeaten
One teaspoon almond extract
Two and one-half cups flour
One-half teaspoon baking powder
One-eighth teaspoon salt
Candied cherries, cut in half
Cream butter well, add sugar and cream until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat well. Add flavoring. Sift dry ingredients together and add to creamed mixture, slowly (or you will have flour all over the kitchen.). Dough will b stiff. Press through a cookie press with the rosette disc onto ungreased cookie sheet. Press a cherry, cut side down, on each cookie. Bake in preheated 400-degree oven for ten to twelve minutes.
NOTE: Use this basic recipe and add green food coloring. Use star disc to make wreaths and tree disc to make Christmas trees. Red Hots (candy) can be used to make holly berries on the wreaths and sprinkles or colored sugar will decorate the trees.
Two tablespoons butter
Two cups brown sugar
One cup white sugar
One cup cream
One-eighth teaspoon soda
Melt butter, add sugars and mix. Add soda and cook to softball stage, 237-degrees on a candy thermometer (don't stir.). After boiling starts, wipe crystals off side of pan with a wet pastry brush, or a dampened cloth wrapped around the tines of a fork. Don't let this touch the boiling liquid. When the candy reaches the softball stage, remove from heat and set in a larger pan of cold water, making sure no water gets into the candy. When fairly cool, beat until stiff. Pour into a buttered eight-inch square pan and cut into squares when firm. (Line pan with foil and butter that and you can lift the entire batch of candy out and cut it easier.) Nuts can be added before beating, or you can place nut halves on top of candy so that each piece will have a piece of nut on it when cut. This fudge can also be molded and dipped in chocolate for bonbons or candy bars.
SPICED PUMPKIN FUDGE
(Anna Dean's recipe)
Three cups sugar
Twelve ounces butterscotch morsels
Three-fourths cup butter
Two-thirds cup evaporated milk
One-half cup solid pack pumpkin
One-half teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
One teaspoon vanilla
One (7-ounce) jar marshmallow cream
In saucepan, combine sugar, butter, milk, pumpkin and spice. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Continue to boil over medium heat about fifteen minutes. Remove from heat, stir in morsels, vanilla and marshmallow cream. Put in dish; let cool. Slice into pieces.
NOTE: May add nuts.
Anna notes that she uses the cold water test for the soft ball stage for her candy.
Patty Christopher is a longtime columnist for The Parkersburg News & Sentinel.