Thank God it’s Monday once more and, as such, happy Monday, again, to everyone! I always look forward to Mondays because they’re my 52 Chances a year, in which I get to share Memories of My Mom with you!
Tomorrow celebrates another fleeting or transitory holiday tradition – which I remember from my childhood and happily continued with my own children, for many years. It’s the making of the old-fashioned, festive gingerbread house (aka: Christmas Candy House). Like most everything else, I think old traditions just evolve more than they fade away.
I’m a lover of old traditions but, like Mom, I’m also a lover of time-saving shortcuts. For instance, my kids weren’t crazy about the gingerbread used in the traditional candy house construction. Every year, most of the building went into the trash, after all the candies and frosting were picked off. I ate a few pieces of the house, myself, for old times’ sake.
However, so as not to let the gingerbread go to waste, anymore, we decided to replace it with graham crackers (as pictured below). That not only eliminated the waste problem but also happened to save me a lot of time, since making the gingerbread for the walls and roof was a lengthy process, itself. Here’s Mom’s Christmas Gingerbread recipe.
When I look back on my own childhood, so many of my favorite memories involved our family traditions mixed with our own new ones. Mom and Dad always succeeded at creating a lot of fun, holiday memories for our family.
I remember, as a kid, every year, helping Dad put together our artificial Christmas tree; sorting out all the branches by size and sticking them in the “trunk”, one by one. Afterward, Dad secured the tree to the ceiling and side walls with hooks and fishing line so none of us kids (or our pets) could knock it over.
Then Dad checked all the bulbs and put the strings of lights on it. Then we got to help Mom decorate it, which was always a family event, hanging the ornaments, tinsel, and candy canes. I remember stringing up popcorn for the garland, too.
Other decorations our family put up, included Mom’s little Christmas village on top of the piano and our empty stockings, which hung on hooks on the fireplace mantel, that were “magically” filled on Christmas morning with fruit, candy, and little trinkets.
Here’s a re-share (pictured below) of the top 10-plus stocking stuffers list that I made a couple of years ago. The order may have changed but, over the years, these popular stuffers steadfastly remain the same.
In our house, when I was growing up, a plate of cookies was customarily left out for “Santa” on Christmas Eve. Nowadays, those who still do this will often leave “Santa” a healthy snack, instead of cookies.
My siblings and I would try to catch Dad, taking the cookies, but never could. Yet, we’d always find the plate empty on Christmas morning. My own children tried to do the same, to no avail. Now that we’re empty nesters, we obviously don’t continue that particular tradition, anymore.
Along with decorating the house for the eyes to enjoy, traditional Christmas music was usually playing on the stereo for the ears to enjoy.
New Christmas songs come out in every genre, every year. Some people still prefer the old classics, some like the new songs, and others like a mixture of both. I prefer the latter, myself.
Mom also usually had many wonderful scents for the nose to enjoy, too. When she wasn’t cooking or baking, she often had a simmering pot of homemade potpourri on the stove, to give off all the scents of the season.
Here’s the traditional, holiday recipe (pictured below) Mom developed for “Simmering Potpourri”; which she shared in her self-published cookbook, Make Alike Recipes (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1991, p. 65).
After having children of my own, I always tried to carry on those traditions; while adding a few new ones of our own. Every year, all around the world, hundreds of millions of people commemorate the Christmas holiday with many different traditions.
American Christmas Traditions, as seen at TheSpruce.com, by Robin Bickerstaff Glover (Updated 3/20/19), lists many of the same wonderful traditions that my family enjoyed for decades.
The holiday celebrations, customs, and beliefs are incredibly diverse in America, alone, since we‘re a melting-pot-nation; where numerous nationalities, even within a single family, mesh together in harmony, mixing old and new customs together. Mom came from such a blended family, herself; where they celebrated both, Hanukkah and Christmas.
‘IF I GIVE OUR CHILDREN only one gift, it will be that I gave some practical sense of what is truly important at this time of year – not the gift, but the gathering of family and friends… Not the food, but the feeling of just being home… Never letting what we want be more important than what we need… Not complaining about [the] trivial… And always appreciating what we’ve already received before we can expect to receive more.’ – Gloria Pitzer, Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter (Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Nov-Dec 1990, Issue #147, p. 1)
One suggestion, for gift-giving ideas, when you don’t know what to give, is to follow the “Rule of 4” – something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read – which has always served me well, in the past. Another I shared recently, is to write your family’s story; using pictures and memories of past holidays, for instance.
FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
Gloria Pitzer’s Christmas Card Cook Book
(Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1983, pp. 4-5)
[TRADITION AND FAMILY VALUES]
BREAKING THROUGH THE BARRIERS of tradition, we find a spirited acceptance of new family values. Occasions have replaced celebrations. Getting together has been replaced by being together!
Good food, comfortable conversation [and] warm hospitality have become more important to the family circle than reverence without reason, tolerance without tact, relatives without relationships!
The lovely part about Christmas for us, was always being together – with our friends, our good and dear neighbors, and our relatives; in a series of activities that began with Thanksgiving and tapered off around the new year.
It was hectic, but it was also many happy reunions, mixed well with spontaneous visitations that, had they been a part of the ordinary activities of the rest of the year, would not mean so much now! The food was simple, but ample. The food, I feel, should never be more important than the guests for whom it is prepared…
All of these preparations are a part of Christmas – but not the important part. The tokens only represent the real meaning – that of loving, of letting go of old grudges, of forgetting past hurts, of looking for something good (even though you don’t see it – until you do!)
Love, most philosophers conclude, is the highest level of thought. It is the logic of the heart. And no other season of the calendar year seems to reflect more of this feeling, this consolation to our woes, than the season of Christmas!
We reach out to others – and want them, in turn, to respond to us. Some of us do it with gifts that we buy or make and some of us do it with social gestures of food and hospitality.
While all of these traditions are renewed at this particular time of the year, the critics complain and the cynics look for reasons to begrudge us the pleasure of loving the season, renewing the fellowship of it – with family, friends and neighbors.
But that’s not unusual and we shouldn’t be surprised by the criticisms that try to take some of the joy out of the holiday traditions we follow – or create for ourselves. There are always critics, unfortunately, for those occasions in our lives when we wish to be glad about something…
So, on with the celebration – whether we choose to keep it quietly in our own personal fashion of religious customs, or whether we choose to make it festive and pronounced with the traditions of gifts and food. The point is, we are celebrating the season of hope…
It’s a time for loving – for expressing it [and] for offering it to others! How can something like that not be good! Our own traditions have not been very elaborate in our family, during the Christmas season; but the things we have always done to make the holiday more enjoyable, brought us pleasure.
So, we have continued with them. Whether you choose to follow traditions or to create some of your own, the underlying meaning is still there to express joy and LOVE – that incredible, curious logic of the heart!
I was really inspired by Mom’s writing when I collaborated with her during the last few years of her life to re-write her favorite cookbook, The Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd printing). We were hoping it could be re-published to inspire new generations in the “digital age” – and it has!
In January 2018, shortly before she passed away, Mom was so happy to hear that her cookbook went to print, again; being published, this time, by Balboa Press. The title had to be adjusted to Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective, but most of the book, remained close to the same as the original, 1982, first edition.
[Note: To get your own hard copy and/or eBook editions of Mom’s last cookbook, contact Balboa Press (see links below). They’ll make terrific Christmas gifts for anyone and everyone on your Christmas list!
Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (hard copy) is available for sale, at $20.99 each, through https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062252. It’s also available in eBook form, for $3.99, at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253.]
‘EVERY YEAR AT THIS time, we put our very best wishes together with some warm & worthy thoughts, and send them off to you, wrapped in sincere affection and the dearest hopes that this coming year gives you all you expect and derive from it.’ – Gloria Pitzer, Gloria Pitzer’s Secret RecipesTM Quarterly, Winter 1994/1995.
In honor of December, being National Pear Month, here’s Mom’s secret recipe for “Baked Pears Dessert”; which she originally shared in her self-published newsletter, Gloria Pitzer’s Homemaker’s Newsletter, Vol. 1, No. 4 (April 1974) and later reprinted in her self-published cookbook, 25th Anniversary Issue of Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter – The First 12 Issues of 1974 (Secret RecipesTM, Marysville, MI; April 1999, p. 20).
P.S. Food-for-thought until we meet again, next Monday…
December observes, among other things… National Write A Business Plan Month, Operation Santa Paws (which runs the 1st-24th), Root Vegetables and Exotic Fruits Month, Safe Toys and Gifts Month, Worldwide Food Service Safety Month, National Human Rights Month, and Universal Human Rights Month!
December 14th is… National Bouillabaisse Day and National Alabama Day! Plus, it’s the start of… Christmas Bird Count Week[s]; a 3-week observance, starting on the 14th and running through January 5th. Additionally, as the beginning of the week before Winter Solstice, it’s also the start of… Halcyon Days – a 2-week celebration (14th-28th for 2023) of peace and tranquility, starting 7 days before the Winter Solstice (which is on the 21st for 2023) and ending 7 days after!
December 15th is… National Cupcake Day, National Bill of Rights Day, and National Wear Your Pearls Day! Plus, as the third Friday in December [for 2023], it’s also… National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day and Underdog Day!
December 16th is… National Chocolate-Covered Anything Day! Plus, as the third Saturday in December [for 2023], it’s also… National Wreaths Across America Day! Additionally, it’s… Las Posadas (which is a 9-day celebration, always on the 16th-24th)
December 17th is… National Maple Syrup Day!
…50 down and only 2 more to go!