Now that the hectic hustle-bustle of Christmas is over, we can all breathe a sigh of relief, pour ourselves a cup of cheer and take a moment to reflect on the times we’ve had and the memories we’ve made before we pack it all away for next year.
In the rush to get it all done, you may not have realized just how much the effort you put forth on Christmas is born of the nostalgia of Christmases past, either the ones you had as a kid or the ones you were deprived of that you now use as motivation to create traditions of your own.
The tastes, smells and sights of the holidays can connect the past with the present in the most remarkable of ways, whether it’s by making your stuffing the way your mom used to or in the aroma of that special recipe that only gets made once a year, hanging ornaments passed down through generations on your tree, using your great-grandmother’s bowl to make the most delicate and perfect butter cookies that rival the best loving you’ve ever had, or the wearing of an heirloom holiday pin that carries the sentiment of your loved ones who’ve passed.
I didn’t get to spend Christmas, or as we call it, Sistermas, with my family this year, so no go-cups of Road Nog to help calm our nerves for the sometimes drama-filled family visits, no ritualistic wearing of Christmas socks and comfy pants, or the otherwise peaceful merry-making we have fashioned since we hi-jacked what used to be stressful, split family Christmases full of other peoples’ unresolved issues.. But, I did have some of the traditional comforts at my fingertips in my own home, with none of the drama and all of the flavors and aromas.
I realized how it’s possible to be transported to sweet memories of Christmas with the simplest of things. In my case, it was a bag of old-fashioned Christmas candy- the kind that was always in ample supply at my great-grandparents home- you know them, the colorful candies in various shapes, yellow tubes with green stripes, the red and white squares that look like wrapped presents and those lovely curlicued ribbons of pink and green, sometimes stuck together in wonderful clumps that were like winning the lottery if you were given strict instructions to only take one piece.
The vibrant candies, found by pure accident, placed into a dish flooded me with memories of perfectly coiffed white-haired grandma’s and great-aunts who I haven’t thought of in years, the eating of too many cookies I swiped when the grown-ups weren’t looking and the way my great-grandpa used to grab the reflex points of my knee that annoyed me to no end until I realized in later years that the gesture was the closest thing to a hug that he could muster. I recalled the old crystal punch bowl teeming with sherbet, and on occasion, the hint of some alcohol if my liquor-loving Uncle appeared that year and had a moment alone with it.
I can almost taste my Aunt’s amazing meatballs and lasagna and hear the squealing laughter of all my cousins running around at my grandmother’s house when Christmas Eve moved there after her mother passed on.
I can just see our fluffy orange Persian kitty, Pumpkin, who could always be found sleeping on the gifts under the tree come Christmas morning. I remembered how much fun it was when my much younger brother and sister came along and could participate in their wonder and joy and help put their toys together. Sticker placement on Matchbox race cars and tracks was among my specialties.
I can almost taste the flavor of my childhood before I even put one of these silky confections to my lips. Locked in those sweet treats are memories of happy times and not-so-happy times, the distinct smell of Russian tea cookies baking, the minor scalds I received when my Easy-Bake Oven bulb burned all morning as I prepared every cake and frosting packet that came with it, and the games of Canasta the adults would play as the evening wore on while nibbling on leftovers of the dinner my parents cooked, a rare thing they did together.
Whether it’s the type of cookies you bake with your kids, the gingerbread house you put together, the matching Christmas pajamas that you open on Christmas Eve or the candy canes you put in each stocking, each of these is a fiber in the fabric of your Christmas memories. Traditions can be warm and comforting, but it’s always ok to start new ones, for there will come a time when it seems it was always the way.
The way your Christmas looks might be different, siblings grow up, move away, have kids of their own, but there are ways to keep that shared love of the holiday tied together with the simplest taste of a memory. For me, it’s in a sugary section of ribbon candy. For you, it will be found in whatever flavor has filled your years. So bake those cookies, mix that holiday cocktail, and prepare a decedent feast worthy of a memory. You or someone you’ve shared it with will certainly be reminded of simple pleasures and the happy taste of Christmas.
Making delicious holiday memories is the best way I can think of to Stay Foodie forever.