Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Twelve Joys of Christmas (Part I)

I have been tagged for this Christmas-themed meme by the perky Passionate Palate, and I’m so happy to be chosen for this one. Originating from Wanderlust Scarlett, the meme says to share twelve of my favorite Christmas things: memories, traditions, songs, presents or beliefs…whatever it is I love about this season. Rather than following one topic (12 memories, 12 songs), I'm mixing it up. Live dangerously, that's me! I'm also making this a two-part post to make the joy last a little long. Here we go!

1. Luminarias. A unique New Mexico tradition, I so miss the sight of these simple, glowing beacons of peacefulness. They’re called farolitos in the northern part of the state, but the concept is the same: a candle in a paper sack with sand in the bottom. They are lit only on Christmas Eve, said to light the way for the Christ child to enter the world. Luminarias line the streets, are jumbled on the lawns, perch on the flat, adobe roofs and peek out of trees all over the state.

2. The Food. It’s always “all about the food” with me. Back in New Mexico we enjoyed posole with red chile and tamales (smothered in green chile sauce) along with bizcochitos, an anise-flavored cookie dusted with cinnamon sugar. Oh, my mouth is watering at the thought. My childhood Christmases consisted of a huge array of cookies, most prepared by my grandmother the consummate baker, but also a few churned out of our own kitchen. Treats like thumbprint cookies, bourbon balls, buckeyes, and even occasionally-if my mom had the stamina for the mess-cut out cookies. I didn’t fully appreciate the taste of date squares back then, but love them now. In my own kitchen I have kept some of these sweets in my traditional line-up, but also included baklava,which I learned to make from a Greek friend and which became rather famous around Albuquerque.

3. Eggs Benedict. Every Christmas morning I would awake to the smell of freshly-brewed coffee and hollandaise sauce as Bryan prepared his annual morning feast of Eggs Benedict. He’d even collect the ingredients himself, and it was a pretty big deal for Bryan to fight the mob at the grocery store, I can tell you. That is, every year of our 21 years of marriage until we moved to Italy. No Canadian bacon, no English muffins. Oh well. We spent last Christmas with friends Giorgio and Francesca and will do likewise this year, so he wouldn’t have been able to take over Chef Giorgio’s kitchen even if he could find the ingredients.

4. Ornaments on the tree. My family collects Christmas ornaments. Not just “the family” singular, but everyone in the family, and we all exchange them with everyone else. My grandmother started this tradition, giving her kids a new ornament every year. My mom carried the tradition down, allowing us to choose for ourselves one bright and shiny new bauble every year. We’d go to one of the nurseries that sold trees and had a big Christmas shop. My sister and I would lament and decide, taking copious amounts of time to decide which one was just perfect that year. And then, clutching our new finds, would take them home and hang them in the very smack-dab front of the tree where we could admire them proudly. On Christmas morn we’d receive new ornaments from our uncles, aunts and grandparents. That adds up, so when Bryan and I got married, I had enough beauties to fill our first tree. The tradition lives on; each year is a trip down memory lane as we hang them and remember who gave them, where we’d found and purchased the special ones together. Alas, they are safely tucked away in storage.

5. Sappy movies. I love, love, love TV Christmas movies, and the sappier the better. The tear-jerkers, the predictable, and the old classics. Sigh. They just make you feel good inside. And let’s not forget the animated ones of my youth: Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (was anyone else scared by the Abominable Snowman?), and Frosty the Snowman. Of course, I’m still very partial to A Christmas Story, and adore The Bishop’s Wife.

6. THE Christmas video. No, I’m not repeating myself from number 5. I’m referring to a home movie that was made during The Big Family Christmas of ’93. My family traveled to Albuquerque to spend the holidays with us New Mexico-style for the first time and my step-dad caught all the fun on tape. From the opening scene of Bryan cutting down the tree in the Santa Fe National Forest, to the entire family decorating it and sipping cider, right on through the silliness of calling in songs to a local oldies-rock radio station and dancing in the living room. We all got a little loopy despite not having much to drink, and even my 80-something Grams whooped it up and danced the Wooly Bully. With a shower cap on her head! You had to be there, but trust me, it was a sight to behold. The video comes out for a viewing each and every year. And it still makes me laugh out loud. Every year.


erin said...

I am SO with you on the Christmas would be hard to have the season w/o watching them. And yes, there were several things on Rudolph that scared me...mainly when everyone's eyeballs would spin around :)

The Passionate Palate said...

Funny, I'm with you and Erin...the old Christmas movies. Yes, I was scared of the snowman and cried non-stop when Rudolph's mother died. How could they do that to us kids?! Great list Valerie.

Oh, I love these photos of the snow. Wow, it is a lot for your area.

Buon Natale!

sognatrice said...

Such a great list of joy...can't wait for the next installment!

Definitely love those Christmas movies! Wish I could just flip through the channels and find one right now....

rob said...

"Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveller, thousands of miles away, back to his own fire-side and his quiet home!"

--Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers, 1836

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and all of your family!


Valerie said...

Thanks and Merry Christmas to you all! I am glad to know others shared my fear of the Snowman ;) Now go watch those sappy movies and enjoy your Christmas!

Mary Hitt in Murrysville, PA said...

Re Luminarias -- they are a Pittsburgh tradition, too. I never experienced them growing up in Minnesota and Ohio, but when I moved to Pittsburgh after college, I got my first view of them. It was truly magical. We had left the apartment to go to late church, and when we drove back, all the streets in our neighborhood had these beautiful lights outlining them. It was snowing, too, so it was truly magical. It was a special treat, because that we my first Christmas away from my family. Christmas was in the middle of the week; I was a new employee, so no time off and not enough time to drive home to Dayton and back. Once we had our own home, we started lighting luminarias too.

Valerie said...

Mary, glad to hear that Pittsburgh has the special glow luminarias, too. I just love them. I'd seen them at times in Ohio as a kids but people used plastic milk jugs...just not the same at all!