Category Archives: Christmas

Christmas Traditions – Presents

Christmas is such a collection of traditions.  Most holidays will gradually develop traditions but I’m not sure there is one that is more prone to be “ruined” if those traditions get bent or left off for a year as Christmas.

With that in mind I thought I’d share a few of ours.

Christmas_Traditions

There are two kinds of Christmas families in the world.  Christmas Eve families and Christmas Day families.  I was in my twenties before I ever ran into a Christmas Eve family.  Still can’t quite wrap my head around the idea.

That pretty much let’s the cat out of the bag for this post, I guess.  Growing up we were a Christmas morning family.

For the presents, I mean.

We usually managed to badger my parents into letting us open one present on Christmas Eve.  Since only the little presents and the ones from family were under the tree at that point, our choices were limited.  One small package, to whet the appetite.  We still do that at my house, now that I’m “in charge”.  In fact, we will buy specific presents just for Christmas Eve.  I am happy to say that there is no tradition of “Christmas pajamas” in my family.  While I try to never judge another’s family traditions, that one strikes me as terrible.

We are also big on the surprise of Christmas morning.  There is no sneaking around trying to find presents before they are wrapped.  Nor is there any pinching, shaking or trying to see through the wrapping paper.  In fact, we usually tell each other where the presents are being stored so we don’t accidentally stumble on them.  The sanctity of the surprise is strictly maintained.  A few presents go under the tree Christmas Eve.  A whole bunch more “appear” over night.  It makes the morning that much more special for us.  I always try to get a surprise present for my wife.  It has been my great pleasure to have been surprised with some very cool stuff over the years.  Things that I never saw coming.

As a kid, Christmas morning began bright and early.  For us, at least.  My parents saw no reason to coddle their children by starting Christmas before they had gotten a decent night’s sleep.  We each had stockings that were left for us in the bedroom.  If we were quiet (and we were NEVER quiet enough for my father, lol) we were allowed to open up the goodies there until the grown ups decided that a properly decorous hour had been reached.

There was to be no screaming banshees and no wrapping paper flying in all directions.  We settled in, Mom and Dad on the furniture and the three boys on the floor.  A present for everyone and the detritus carefully gathered up at regular intervals.  It may sound staid and boring but I remember those mornings as wonderfully joyous.

Since we started our own family, not much has changed.  The lady of the house wasn’t a big fan of the traditional morning coffee cake, so we changed to home-made cinnamon rolls.  Once the third member of the family arrived we started doing video tapes of the morning festivities.  They are a lot of fun to watch now.  A DVD of a fireplace and our favorite Christmas music on the stereo and we’re good.  Otherwise pretty much the same.  I still sit on the floor, only her ladyship plays the adult.

It’s a tradition.

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Christmas Traditions – Media

Christmas is such a collection of traditions.  Most holidays will gradually develop traditions but I’m not sure there is one that is more prone to be “ruined” if those traditions get bent or left off for a year as Christmas.

With that in mind I thought I’d share a few of ours.

Christmas_TraditionsI am sure no one will be surprised that media plays an important part in my Christmas tradition.  I’ve spent my adult life involved in the media to one way or another.  Some of my traditions –

No Christmas music before December 1 – This one created annual animosity when I was the Music Director at my last radio station.  There was a tradition at some stations of going all Christmas music on Black Friday after Thanksgiving, then backing off again.  Always hated it.  As my holiday joke goes, there are only 14 Christmas songs.  Each one has been recorded a thousand times.  Radio DJs hear all the music over and over and over again.  So I pushed the music back a week.  Some folks hated it.  Didn’t care.  Still don’t.

Christmas Commercials – It’s not really Christmas till I see some of the standard ads of the season.  Growing up it was the “Noelco” Santa zooming over the snow covered hills on the triple head sled.  Today it’s the Hershey Kiss Christmas bell one and the Corona Christmas palm tree.

 

Last but not least, there are the TV specials and movies that are must sees.  I give the complete list over at my other blog “The View From the Phlipside” (HERE).  The one not listed are videos from Christmases when my daughter was little.  Such fun.

Gotta do it every year.

It’s a tradition.

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Christmas Traditions – Fruitcake

Christmas is such a collection of traditions.  Most holidays will gradually develop traditions but I’m not sure there is one that is more prone to be “ruined” if those traditions get bent or left off for a year as Christmas.

With that in mind I thought I’d share a few of ours.

Christmas_TraditionsThis is a tradition that is likely to pass away when I and my brothers do.  I’m not aware of any member of the next generation that likes it.  So it seems unlikely that they will pick up the work neccesary to continue it.

It’s the Christmas fruitcake.

I’ve heard all the jokes.  I understand that most people have only had dreadful store bought fruitcakes that are suitable only for use as door stops.

This is not that kind of fruitcake.

Our fruitcake is a heavy, brandied fruit, spiced cake.  It takes seven hours plus to prepare, at least three hours to cool and several weeks to age.  After it’s finished it is wrapped in brandy soaked cheesecloth.  I then put it into zip lock bags and ship it to my brothers.  At this point in our lives, it’s their Christmas present from me.

It’s simply not Christmas without this tradition.  My mother made it for years until she just wasn’t strong enough to mix the batter.  The recipe is something she got from a neighbor before I was born.  I don’t know why she made it.  Is there a tradition in her family?  There’s good English stock on that side of my family tree, so it’s possible.  I never asked.

But every year, I set aside a day to do it.

It’s a tradition.


 

Here is the nitty gritty process part of the post.  Feel free to skip it if you like.

The process begins with three pounds of candied fruit mix, plus candied cherries and brandy.  The fruit soaks for several hours.

Most of the ingredients (flour and butter are also needed)

Most of the ingredients (flour and butter are also needed)

My largest bowl, kept almost exclusively for this project. This is almost four pounds of mixed fruits.

My largest bowl, kept almost exclusively for this project. This is almost four pounds of mixed fruits.

Butter is creamed, blended with brown sugar then mixed with flour. After that the fruit and brandy is mixed in. Very hard work because this is super dense.

Butter is creamed, blended with brown sugar then mixed with flour. After that the fruit and brandy is mixed in. Very hard work because this is super dense.

The pan. Greased AND lined with wax paper.

The pan. Greased AND lined with wax paper.

After five hours of baking and three hours of cooling, it's ready to be cut into portions. As you can see, there is only enough "cake" to hold the fruit together.

After five hours of baking and three hours of cooling, it’s ready to be cut into portions. As you can see, there is only enough “cake” to hold the fruit together.

Finally, wrapped in cheesecloth. In years past I would then drench the cheesecloth with brandy. A couple years ago I realized it was a lot easier to soak the cheesecloth FIRST, then wrap it. It will be re-soaked twice before mailing.

Finally, wrapped in cheesecloth. In years past I would then drench the cheesecloth with brandy. A couple years ago I realized it was a lot easier to soak the cheesecloth FIRST, then wrap it. It will be re-soaked twice before mailing.

 

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