Sunday, December 19, 2021

Our Christmas traditions! #Christmas #Christmastraditions

 Mary Jane Maffini here, welcoming you to our December Sunday Brunch!   We’re getting perilously close to Santa time and I thought it would be fun to talk about Christmas (or other holiday) traditions aside from the usual turkey, stockings, gifts and hanging around the tree.


In our part-Italian family there must always be homemade ravioli.  For years, the little old Italian ladies (first my mother-in-law, then our auntie, then our eightysomething friend) made mountains of ravioli for our-ever growing family.  Then one day my hubby and I realized that we were the little old Italian ladies.  We gave our daughter Victoria a promotion to LOIL status too and we hammered out our own mountain of ravioli for the past three years. We’re getting better at it.  In our tradition, we serve the ravioli in homemade chicken broth with tons of fresh Parmesan.  

For the East Coast Scottish and Irish side, we must have my grandmother’s shortbread. We follow my mum’s tradition of always having seafood on Christmas Eve and as a rule serve her seafood casserole.

My brother-in-law is Jewish so we have added bagels and lox to the meal plan. He is also very fond of a Middle-eastern inspired orange almond cake.  Maybe we can make Challah together? That would be a fun new tradition.

Whoever can make it this challenging year will sit around snacking on shortbread, meringues, snowflake sugar cookies, chocolate peanut butter bars and more.  

My brother turns his nose up at all this home baking. His secret vice is candy. We’ll stock up on Malteasers, sour wine gums and Mike and Ike’s fruit-flavored jelly beans.  He can have them all to himself.

 We’ll relax and stream our movies and make mountains of popcorn, much of it a gift from our friend and reader, Colleen Wisgold. During lockdown we bought a popcorn maker and it should add to the fun . 


Hoping for Dune and West Side Story among other films this year.

We can always diet in January.

Aside from that, the days will be filled with reading.  Everyone will curled up in bed, armcbairs and sofas, catching up on books.  I will be wearing reading socks that were a gift from my friend and our longtime MLK contributor  Linda Wiken/Essie Lang. Penny will be my able reading assistant.  

We always find time to drive by Parliament Hill and downtown Ottawa to enjoy the light display, especially beautiful on a snowy evening.  But mostly what we enjoy (whoever can get together this year) is the chance to relax, chat and enjoy each other’s company.   And if some people have their way, we'll even go for a walk in the snow one magical evening.

And now, I can't wait to hear what the rest of the gang at Mystery Lovers Kitchen get up to during the season and what our wonderful readers want to share. 


MADDIE: The first Christmas after I was divorced nineteen years ago, I wanted to start a new tradition with my young-teen sons. We all liked sushi, and I had learned to make it when I lived in Japan (my story, "Sushi Lessons," appears in Malice Domestic 14: Mystery Most Edible, and features a young American couple, an old fish lady, and a wickedly helpful bartender in a suburb of Tokyo). So the three of us made Christmas sushi and we still make it!

My mother always made homemade cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning. They were rich and sweet and featured real butter, a change from the margarine we ate the rest of the year. I still make cinnamon rolls, too, to have with our scrambled eggs, bacon, and mimosas, although hers used Bisquik and mine are from scratch. I'm not having any family home this year, so I might not make my full assortment of five kinds of cookies, but definitely a few batches of the Mexican Bridecakes, also a family recipe. 

One box of them already went off to my son in Puerto Rico. You can find the recipe at the end of "Christmas Cocoa and a Corpse," my novella in Christmas Cocoa Murder. A cozy and delicious holiday to all!

 PEG: We didn't have that many hard and fast traditions when I was growing up. My grandmother always made the turkey for Christmas dinner and the Italian side of the family would make the antipasto.  When I had children of my own, I started several traditions.  One night before Christmas I would gather with my girls on the sofa and read them 'Twas the Night Before Christmas and how the Grinch Stole Christmas (even after they were old enough to read themselves.) When they were little, they would agitate to open "just one gift" on Christmas Eve so I began the tradition of getting them new pajamas, which they would wear to bed that night. I still do it!  Also, to keep them in bed a little longer on Christmas morning, I would fill a stocking with little trinkets like a new box of crayons, a coloring book etc. and that would give us another half hour of sleep.  My daughter once spent the first night of Hannukah at a friend's house.  She fell in love with latkes and ever since, I would make potato latkes for dinner one night during the holiday season.  


LESLIE BUDEWITZ:  Mr. Right and I are each classic trailers -- the much-youngest children who often traveled to older siblings' homes for the holidays. But of course, we have created our own traditions, including Holiday Brunch, an event I started as a single woman living in Seattle, and which we've continued since our marriage, inviting couples over on a Sunday before Christmas to eat, drink, and enjoy. (Looking forward to resuming that tradition next year!) On Christmas Eve, our menu is "Fun Foods" -- typically a new cocktail recipe and appetizers like the Pomegranate Champagne Cocktail and Baked Brie I'll be sharing next week or these Cranberry Baked Brie Puffed Pastry Bites. I've taken to reading an Anne Perry Christmas novella or two in between Christmas and New Years, and a couple of years ago, an encounter in the UPS store, watching "It's A Wonderful Life" (Mr. Right had never seen it!), and Perry's novellas combined to inspire "The Christmas Stranger," a fun tale that's part of Carried to the Grave and Other Stories, my 6th Food Lovers' Village Mystery, which many readers have told me is their favorite story in the collection and one they plan to reread during the season. So you just never know when your own traditions lead to something new that spurs a tradition for someone else! 

(That's Mr. Right in a borrowed Santa suit, helping me film a video and TV ad for As the Christmas Cookie Crumbles. The things he lets me talk him into doing!)


LESLIE KARST: After spending a year in Oxford, England back in the early 1970s, our family switched from turkey and stuffing to dining on roast beef and Yorkshire pudding for Christmas, wearing the paper hats that we'd all get after popping open our Christmas crackers

But now that Robin and I are in Hawai'i every year during the winter, our holiday season is quite different: one filled with the sound of rain on our metal roof, coquí frogs chirping outside our windows, and children down the street building snowmen from snow trucked down from the 14,000-foot peak of Maunakea. 

And rather than the piney scent of a Douglas Fir, we now have a potted Norfolk Pine which I bring in from the garden each year, and a crèche hosting a tiki as well as an angel guarding over the manger.

Mele Kalikimaka to all!


CLEO COYLE: Some are cynical about Christmas, but Marc and I never forget the reason for the season. The tradition we appreciate most of all (okay, besides the eating!) is the giving. We always exchange gifts on Christmas morning. So many people do this around the world, and while (we admit) the shopping and wrapping and sending can be stressful, in the best and worst of times, the holiday spirit of generosity is always what matters most. The giving of God’s light to a weary world was the original gift, after all. And giving in that spirit can go a long way to healing the wounds of the year, bridging the divides between people, and uplifting the saddest (or angriest) of hearts. From the bottom of our own hearts, Marc and I hope this holiday season brings you and your loved ones peace. And speaking of giving, here are two virtual gifts we are happy to share with you today...

The first is our recipe for Christmas Panettone French Toast (a beautiful, Italian-style breakfast treat). Click here or on the photo below for the recipe... 

The second is a charming little ambient video we like to play at this time of year that provides several cozy hours of mellow holiday music with a cheerful winter window scene. We stream it on our flat screen for a relaxing holiday background mood. If you don’t see is pasted in below, click here to enjoy it on YouTube. Merry Christmas to you! May God bless us, every one. ~ Cleo 

If you don't see the ambient holiday music video (above),
click here to see it on YouTube. Merry Christmas! ~ Cleo

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MAYA CORRIGAN: Tree-trimming is a big part of our holiday traditions. We started collecting ornaments shortly after we were married, buying them at the open-air market in Nuremberg, when my husband was stationed in Germany. Most of them are tiny wood ornaments as charming now as they were when we first saw them. We also have many home-sewn felt ornaments that my in-laws bought for us year after year at church craft fairs.  The mouse sleeping in a red hammock that hangs from the tree by gold cords is one of my favorites.  

We delight in unpacking those ornaments every year because they bring back memories. There was only one year when we didn’t put them on our tree. Instead, I made the ornaments for a themed tree. When I was working for a tech company developing computer-assisted courses, our team burned hundreds of CDs as we progressed through the stages of course development. I hated throwing out the shiny circles, so I decorated them for the holidays, gave my teammates CD ornaments, and hung the remaining ones on our tree. 

The following year we went back to trimming the tree with ornaments that remind us of the places and people in our lives.   

Enjoy your holiday celebration!
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MOLLY MACRAE: Merry Christmas! When you were a child, did you write letters to Santa Claus letting him know what you wished for? How did you deliver the letters to him? When I was a kid, we sent them by smoke. My mother would have us write the letters and fold them. Then she'd light a candle and we'd carefully burn the letters and watch the smoke rise up and disappear, carrying the message to the North Pole. Christmas magic! I continued that tradition with my boys (although I think my husband was dubious - he's an engineer). 

We've had family living with us for the past few years, adding more stacks of books to an already crowded, small house. With no room for a Christmas tree, we've gotten creative and built our own. Here's this year's model.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good book!

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TINA KASHIAN: Growing up, we always worked on Christmas morning. I know that sounds awful, but it wasn’t. My parents owned a restaurant, and we were very busy Christmas morning. Owning a restaurant is a hard business, but a rewarding one. When the local church mass let out in stages, we would get an influx of hungry customers. I learned at an early age that families enjoy taking out their mothers and grandmothers for breakfast and brunch on Christmas morning so that they can spend all their time on the big family holiday meal. I have lots of fond memories of chatting with customers about how they would celebrate the holiday. We would close the restaurant early, right after lunch, then go home and celebrate Christmas dinner with our own family. We also celebrate both December 25 and January 6th and have Christmas twice. I never felt lacking as a teenager. Now we get up early on Christmas morning and open presents with our two girls. Then we travel to the Poconos to visit my in-laws and for the girls to spend treasured time with Grandma and Grandpa. I wish everyone a Happy and Healthy Holiday!


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Merry Christmas to you all! I hope you will share your own holiday traditions with us today.