Christmas is always a bustling time in our house. We love to cook and make a lot of our own presents. It seems like the second a snowflake hits the ground the cookbooks leap out of the cupboard and preparations begin.
There are things we tried when our children were smaller that didn’t catch on, like making popcorn garlands for the Christmas tree. Our border collie puppy happened to really enjoy popcorn and tried to eat the garland off the tree, and our three-year-old refused to wear a thimble and poked his finger with the darning needle, resulting in blatant refusal to ever again in his entire life make them.
For households without hungry puppies and accident-prone youngsters though, they are a great family craft. My husband is the popcorn-making expert in our house so when we want to make garlands we get him to pop enough to fill my turkey roaster. This is important because the children will snack as they work. Some people buy bags of cranberries from the produce section of the local grocery store and alternate one piece of popcorn and one berry but we haven’t. Then we dig out as many darning needles as I have helpers and find a few spools of quilting thread. We used to pop in a Disney video and the children would work making garlands, filling their lengths of popcorn all afternoon, with Mom or Dad knotting them when they were long enough. When we undecorated the tree we used to tie them to the tree in our front yard and the birds would pull the popcorns off of the thread. Then we went back and cut the empty strings out of the trees so the birds didn’t get tangled in them.
Ever since I was a little child, my birthday, December 16, was the day the Christmas tree went up. When we moved to the farm, my husband and the children started making a yearly occasion of hunting for a tree on our farm instead of purchasing one. All the kids, young and old, spend time searching for just the right tree for weeks before. Then, on the big day, they take a saw and wander out in the bush after chores to retrieve it. Of course there is always a discussion about which tree is best because not everyone agrees, but it is good-natured banter. I stay home, after all it is my birthday present, and prepare hot chocolate and a snack for the tree hunters’ return, anxiously watching out the windows until I finally see them coming back home with their prize, just as excited as I was as a little girl waiting for my dad to bring home our tree.
When a real tree is in the house it is important to remember a few safety rules:
Make sure the Christmas tree lights are in good repair so they aren’t in danger of starting a fire.
It is a must to keep the tree hydrated. We use a mixture of 2 litres of tepid water with a heaping tablespoon of brown sugar mixed into it.
Make sure your smoke alarms are in good repair.
Don’t leave the lights turned on, on an unattended tree.
Check the needles for dryness. When they are dry it is time to go.
Once the tree is taken care of we know Christmas is close. In fact I still count the sleeps, nine from my birthday till Christmas, just like when I was a child. That is how I know it is time to really get the cooking in gear.
Food is a large part of most families’ Christmas celebrations and ours is no exception. My husband grew up in a large Ukrainian family that cooked a turkey with all the special side dishes. My family wasn’t quite as extravagant, but we did have our favourites, so when we came to the realization that travelling at Christmas wasn’t a possibility anymore, I had a big meal to cook. Of course we could have left out some items but which ones? Everyone has a favourite. Then there are the things that I started making when the children were small which have now become comfortable traditions that it would feel wrong to leave out.
Our traditional Christmas morning breakfast is Overnight Cinnamon Buns. I put this recipe together on Christmas Eve when we come home from church. The buns spend the night in the fridge and in the morning I take them out, put on coffee and they warm up while we open presents. Then when everyone is out for chores I get them baking so when they come in, the house is filled with the smell of pine trees and cinnamon.
OVERNIGHT CINNAMON BUNS
12-14 c. flour
1 c. sugar
1-1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. melted butter
1 egg, beaten
2 c. boiling water
2 c. cold milk
1 tbsp. yeast (the kind you mix in the flour) Butter
Brown sugar Cinnamon Corn syrup
Start dough about 5 p.m. In large bowl dissolve sugar and salt with 2 cups boiling water then add 2 cups cold milk. Add melted butter and egg being careful that liquid isn’t too hot. Gradually add flour that yeast has been mixed into first 4 cups at a time. Then add two cups as dough gets stiffer and won’t stick to hands. Let rise in warm place till double. Punch down and let rise again. On a floured counter roll out dough into a rectangle. Spread softened butter over then sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon. Roll like a jelly roll. Slice into cinnamon buns. Grease a 15X10 pan well. Drizzle corn syrup over bottom of pan and sprinkle with brown sugar. Place buns on top of mixture. Cover with plastic wrap that has been oiled and cover with tea towel. Let rise overnight in the refrigerator till morning. Then take them out of the fridge to finish rising as the dough warms. Bake at 350 F about 25 minutes. Invert pan over a waxed paper-lined cookie sheet and let syrup run over buns.
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