Christmas has always been about family traditions for me. A time to reminisce about childhood and family members now long gone. To that end the decorations I use on the tree each year have special significance for me – they are the glass balls that were on the tree the year I was born and every year since. There are other ornaments that my mother gave me to keep the traditions alive when I had my children and Christmas in my own home. One in particular has graced the trees of my mother, grandmother and I would hazard to guess my great grandmother. It is a wool felt Santa with a molded paper face. At this point he actually doesn’t have much shape and I think he’s missing a leg and faded to a strange color but he is the quintessential tie to the past for me. I imagine him getting a special spot on the tree each year, taken from his tissue lined box. He’s small but has the happiest face, probably happy to be out of that box for the 3 weeks a year he spends in daylight.
Once these decorations come out it’s time to bake the cookies. Every year the same ones. What makes them special is that Christmas is the only time I make them. I pull out my 1952 copy of the Betty Crocker and work my way through the holiday cookie section. Thumbprints, Russian Teacakes, Molasses Christmas trees, they all have their place. Even if no one eats them I have to make them because it wouldn’t be the holidays without all that butter, sugar and nuts.
The other tradition, one that I haven’t followed so closely in recent years, is that of a Suet Pudding. This was something we always had every year. Yes, I know it sounds disgusting but is really a delightfully rich, dense cake made with molasses, raisins and highly spiced. It is steamed and served hot with a melting spoonful of hard sauce and a tart frothy lemon sauce. You take a bite and all at once you have warm and cold, sweet and tart, wonderful. It’s time consuming to make but I think I will make one this year. Our friend Russell was commenting about a pudding his grandmother used to make when he was a kid. When he described it I knew it was the same as ours so I think I will make it to share. The only thing better than celebrating memories of Christmas past is to help bring memories back for other people.