I will be taking some time off over the next two weeks to regroup and rest up, although I still have a few sporadic posts planned and you can of course keep up with all my festivities (by which I mean all my eating, drinking and sleeping) on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
It’s hard to believe that we are just a few (5 to be exact) days away from Christmas (ummmm where has this year gone??!!), so I couldn’t think of a more perfect time than now to discuss Christmas traditions. (Also, my face has decided to go haywire so the holiday beauty post I’ve had in my editorial calendar since November clearly wasn’t a viable option.)
Our Christmas traditions started each year with a special advent calendar made by one of my Mom’s friends. The calendar was made from fabric and each day had a pocket. In each pocket was a card with a holiday themed activity for the day (i.e. sing Christmas carols, bake cookies, make a snowman, etc).
My Mom was a regular old Martha Stewart when it came to Christmas. I mentioned here about her extensive Christmas cookie list, but she didn’t stop with just cookies. She would go all out cooking for my parent’s Christmas party, and while I don’t remember every dish, her homemade croquembouche I remember very well. Later in life we also started making a variety of sweet breads every year, like stollen and nut rolls.
Our next tradition was the tree decorating. We would all go as a family to hunt down the “perfect” Christmas tree at our local tree farm. Then the decorating process was a whole night thing, full of appetizers, cookies, and Christmas carols. My Mom added a new ornament to her collection every year and she kept them organized by year, so we would always start with the oldest first, then work our way to the newest and finish with the angel on top. My sister and I also had our own little mini tree which we decorated and kept in our playroom.
The rest of our house was always decorated to the nines, as well. Garland, bows, candles in the windows, multiple trees, themed trees, everything from the books to the candles to the nightlight in the bathroom (a small porcelain Christmas tree) was decorated.
Throughout December we had a variety of other traditions, including watching holiday movies (Miracle on 34th Street was always a favorite), driving around to look at Christmas decorations while drinking hot chocolate, attending a Christmas concert or play, and lots of sledding.
On Christmas eve, we would get all dressed up, have a nice dinner and then head to 8pm Mass (which turned into midnight Mass once we were older). Once we got back home, we were allowed to open one present of our choice, after which we enjoyed some Christmas cookies while my Mom would read us “The Night Before Christmas“. Right before heading to bed (or I should say, attempting to head to bed) we would write our letters to Santa and set out cookies and milk for him and carrots for the reindeer. My sister and I would struggle to sleep (hoping to catch a glimpse of Santa), before finally waking up at some God-awful hour (like 5am), at which point my sleep-deprived parents would usually attempt to make us go back to bed until at least 6. Once we were all up and had ripped through our presents, we enjoyed a nice breakfast that always included a few pieces of Panettone.
Now days, the Mr. and I have carried on some of the same traditions. We still hunt down our perfect Christmas tree (although this year we used our mini tree due to space). We always make a night out of decorating it, with some fun apps and a bottle of wine. Carrying on my Mom’s tradition, we also like to find a new ornament to add to our collection every year. Of course, we watch lots of holiday movies, we obviously make and eat lots of cookies, and we most definitely drive around and look at all the holiday lights. But we have also added a few new traditions of our own. We always buy a gift or two for someone in need (via the Gifting Tree at our church) and we always make it a special point to volunteer this time of year. Christmas eve dinner is always a lasagna/pasta dish. Before we attend midnight Mass, we like to watch a Christmas movie or drive around and look at the lights again. And Christmas day, if we aren’t with the rest of our family, we’re usually lounging in our pj’s, watching movies, cooking up a huge feast, and most definitely always eating lots of Panettone.
What are your Christmas traditions?
If my middle school chocolate loving self and my college rum loving self were to have created a cookie, these rum balls very well could have been the result. I mean, can it get any better than eating your alcohol disguised as a cookie made from chocolate? I’m going to go with probably not. And since I know you agree with me, here is the recipe (as promised in today’s morning post).
P.S. These are one of the easiest Christmas cookies to make and they also work really well as a last-minute Christmas gift…if you have any left
1 1/2 cups crushed chocolate wafers (about 30 cookies)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/4 cup corn syrup
3 tablespoons dark rum
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
Powdered sugar for dusting
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Use your hands to thoroughly mix all ingredients (you’re going to be getting down and dirty in this step!) until the ingredients are sticking together (and probably sticking to your fingers). Roll the dough into 1″ balls, then roll them in powdered sugar. Store in an air tight container.
- For the chocolate wafers, I use the Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers, which can usually be found in the ice-cream section of your grocery store. They are somewhat difficult to track down so I’ve substituted with other chocolate wafers or other wafer flavors such as Anna’s Orange Thins.
- To grind both the crackers and the nuts, I have found a cuisinart to work best.
A family recipe
The amount of time (or, I should probably say lack there of) between Thanksgiving and Christmas has really thrown me for a loop as far as preparing for the holidays is concerned. We’re still putting the finishing touches on our decorating, and while I normally make a large variety of Christmas cookies, we only had time to make a few this year.
When I was younger, I remember my Mom’s Christmas cookie list extended a couple pages…and then some. My sister and I would help her pick which ones from the list we should bake. Apparently, one year, my idea of picking was to basically copy the whole list onto another sheet of paper (yes, I wanted to make ALL the cookies…that should not surprise you!). I’m sure my (sad/angry/pouty) reaction to my Christmas cookie list getting cut was the same then as it was when I had to cut my list this year. Just like the Christmas cookies we bake every year, some things never change….
Russian Tea Cakes have always been a staple Christmas cookie in my family. Not a Christmas goes by where a batch (or 2…or 3) of these aren’t made.
Rum Balls look like chocolate donut holes, but taste waaaaaay better than any chocolate donut I’ve ever had….obviously because there is rum in them. Chocolate + rum= cookie! Since I know you can’t say ‘No’ to that combo, get the recipe here and go whip up a batch ASAP!
Thumbprints aren’t a Christmas cookie that’s on my “have to have them” list, but the Mr. requested them and when he suggested filling some with cookie butter and nutella, along with the traditional jelly filling, I couldn’t say no. And now that they’re baked, I still can’t seem to say no….(I think I’m going to need to add a pair of sweatpants to my Christmas list).
Sugar Cookies are another Christmas cookie that I don’t always feel compelled to make but for the sake of simplicity (and to test out our new cookie cutters) they made the cut on this year’s cookie list. I had visions of piling on frosting and sprinkling on pretty decorations, but again simplicity won out, and I just drizzled them with a glaze and tossed on a few festive sprinkles. This recipe makes some delicious cookies, and goes to show, that simple can taste just as good as fancy.
Have you done any Christmas cookie baking? Are there any family recipes, or special cookies that you make every year?
When I think holiday parties, I think glitz, glam and all that jazz (I may or may not have just done jazz hands). So when the 4×4 ladies came up with our December topic, what to wear to a holiday party, I immediately went to my closet’s glitziest and glam-iest pieces. Luci kept her look classic with black and gold, Grace kept things fresh with an unexpected Christmas color, and Kat (our 4×4 Style Guest Contributor for December) kept things cool and casual.
When it comes to getting holiday ready, I have a few simple tips-
Wear Lush Fabrics// Think things like velvet (i.e. my blazer), feathers (my skirt), (faux) fur, and sequins. Wearing any of these materials will give your outfit a look of luxury, even if you didn’t spend a lot.
Go Bold with Your Makeup // Whether it’s a bright lip, a deep smokey eye, a shimmering shadow, or a fun nail color, round out your holiday look with a bold touch in the beauty department. Only pick one area to go bold in, otherwise you’ll look less ‘ready for the holidays’ and more ‘ready for the circus’.
P.S. There’s still time to apply to to be the 4th member of the 4×4 Style group. Find out all the details below!
Vintage Blazer (similar) and Clutch (similar) // Forever 21 Sweater // Bebe Dress Worn As a Skirt (This Bebe dress is identical on the bottom) // Kushyfoot Tights c/o // Steve Madden Heels // Sephora #11 Lipstick // Jane Earrings
Photos by David
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