Saturday, December 6, 2008

Christmas Traditions

Every year my mother and my grandmother would exchange Christmas Cakes.
Each November as far back as I can remember, my mother would buy candied cherries, fruit peel, almonds, raisins, and whatever other ingredients she needed to bake her Christmas cakes.

She followed an old recipe, carefully measuring all the ingredients into the biggest mixing bowl in the kitchen. The batter was golden with sugar, butter, eggs and flour. Mom's cakes were "light fruit cakes".

As was the tradition at that time, we children were called into the kitchen one by one to stir the batter. Each of us took a turn with the big wooden spoon stirring the cake batter - for good luck. My mother was from Holland, so this might have been a European tradition - I don't know.

Mom had very old baking tins which came apart for washing. These pans weren't greased with butter wrappers, but lined with some kind of brown paper. Then the cakes were put into a very low oven to bake.

Once cooled, Mom would wrap them in cheesecloth soaked in sherry and put them away until Christmas.

Every December the mailman brought dozens of Christmas cards to our home. There were oodles of cards from friends and family. It was such an exciting time of year! Packages would arrive and Mom would whisk them away upstairs to her bedroom and close the door. We were not allowed to peek!

But when Granny's Christmas cakes arrived, they were opened right away. After travelling half way across the country, they deserved to be opened and enjoyed. And were they delicious!

Those cakes were "dark fruit cakes", made with molasses and lots of nuts. I secretly liked them best.

I went to look for my mother's Christmas cake recipe this year and I couldn't find it. Will have to do some research on the net and see if I can find an old-fashioned cake like Mom's.

What about you? Do you have memories of Christmas traditions?

26 comments:

Grammy said...

Oh I love your story. What fun it must have been. Growing up there was no tradition for my family.
When I had kids we had to go to her house and Hubbys brothers. So There was a bit of running around. Till I decided We were going to stay home on that day and visit others the night before. Now this year every one will be coming here at this house. It will be our first family Christmas with so many kids. The last few years it was just hubby and I and we did not do any thing special.

beckie said...

Wendy, I hope you find your recipe. Baking it will bring all those memories to life as you smell the smells and taste the taste of childhood.

This holiday season brings memories to mind like no other time of the year. For me it's all about family-close and extended. I can't remember a Christmas when we didn't celebrate without the whole bunch being there. Lots of laughter, good food and always love.

naturewitch said...

Hi Wendy

What a great story! Traditions like that always bring us back to fond memories.

I do a boiled fruit cake at Christmas and it tends to be darkish and rich. The secret to a good fruit cake, no matter what type, is to cook it in a slowish oven, well protected with brown paper.

Good luck on your search for your Mom's recipe. xx

Carin Fuchs said...

I've started last saturday (family tradition, always the saturday before the 1. Advent) with my christmas baking and I am nearly done. I've used up about 10kg flour, 7kg sugar, 8kg butter, 10kg of several nuts, lots of chocolate and dried fruits and lots of other things as well LOL I make so many different biscuits because they are meant for friends - and if you would live just a bit closer you would get biscuits too. LOL

Our christmas tradtion is different form yours, not the Santa Claus brings the presents but the Christ child and we celebrate christmas at the evening of the 24th of December with our close family members only.

Ruth said...

I like your template. We make Christmas cake in early November as it improves in flavour with time. My grandmother's recipe is a light fruitcake and has no nuts in it. I never liked nuts as a child. My husband's family scorns fruitcake, but my husband likes our recipe now. Essential Christmas baking for me is Christmas cake, an excellent shortbread, and some gingerbread or spice cookie.

Kanak Hagjer said...

Hi Wendy, loved reading about your tradition. Good luck with the recipe! The header photo is gorgeous!

Abbasgirl said...

My maternal great-grandmother baked a jam cake every year, she saved a jar of raspberry preserves to use in it.

1 of my paternal aunts made her signature oyster dressing which to this day makes me shudder and brings smiles to all my cousins' faces as well as my parents' faces.

I remember the excitement of counting down on the Advent Calendar and the nights my parents would like the candles under a wooden thing they put together, the candles caused it to spin around. I cannot remember what it was called.

Hope you find the recipe.

Annette

Q said...

Dear Wendy,
I did all the baking at my mother's house...even when I was very small...
I do remember Mother sitting at her desk addressing her Christmas cards. I think of her every year when I do mine.
Lovely memories for you.
I decorate with Dutch wooden shoes and all sorts of little Holland motifs. I am not sure why but I love the look at Christmas time.
We also always have a fruit cake. It is sent to us from one of the venders my husband does business with. I look forward tot he fruit cake arriving!
Enjoying the traditions of our childhood is so nice.
Sherry

Cheryl said...

Lovely story Wendy...from the heart.

I think you are right about the stiring of the cake being European.
My Mum makes my cake every year.....and like your grandmothers it is a rich dark cake and so gorgeous I could keep it for myself......not that I would, of course.....

Every Christmas we stayed with my Auntie.....she was such a fun lady.....we would play games and have mince pies and stay up late.....my uncle would dress up as Father Christmas and hang the stockings at the end of our bed. I saw him one year and was so frightened I could not move....I fell asleep thinking the real Father Christmas had been in my room......

My Auntie died tragically at the age of 56 but left us with lots of wonderful memories.......

I hope you find your recipe.....

Wendy said...

Hi Grammy - you are going to have one very happy Christmas - with all your family around. God Bless.

Hi Beckie - your Christmases sound absolutely heavenly. Family is everything. This time of year always brings back memories. Fun, isnt' it?

Hi Naturewitch - well, it sounds like you have the recipe down pat. Your fruit cake sounds delicious indeed! I don't think I'll find my Mom's recipe. I think I threw it out - since I rarely made it. I still have my grandmother's though.

Wendy said...

Hi Carin, Wow - that's a LOT of baking!! It would be nice to share Christmas baking. One of my relatives in Holland sent me some spicy cookies (spekulaas) and some chocolate letters for years. I would send them homemade cookies. But after a while, the postage got so expensive that we just stopped.

I think Santa Clause bringing presents is a North American tradition. Although in Holland they have Sinter Klass, who shows up on Dec. 5 with oranges and candy for the children.

Ummm Ruth - I am coming to your house! Christmas cake is truly the beginning of the Christmas season - as you said, we start baking in early November. I know some people don't like it, but I do. Shortbread and spicy cookies sound delicious.

Hi Kanak - thank you. Do you celebrate Christmas?

Wendy said...

Annette - you are taking about angel chimes! Except they were tin or metal of some sort so that they made a tinkling sound when they moved around. My goodness I haven't thought about them in years! That's an idea for another post. Your aunt's oyster sauce sounds kind of "fishy". LOL. But the jam cakes sounds divine!

Hi Sherry - isn't this fun? The more I read about my blogger friends, the more I find we are the same. I love the Dutch motifs - but then I grew up with them. I find it intriguing that you also decorate that way.
Oh yes, my mother would sit at the dining room and address her cards. I send very few since email. Just to my elderly relatives, as they so appreciate and look forward to cards send regular mail.

Hi Cheryl, your mother's cake sounds delicious too! I do love the rich dark ones best.
Your Christmases sound happy and fun - such good memories to treasure. Too bad about your aunt. It really is sad when wonderful, special people die too soon.
I can imagine your terror at thinking the real Father Christmas was in your room. Did you hide under the covers? Or just stay completely still (I remember doing that as a child, if my mother came into the room to check to see if I was asleep.)

Wendy said...

Hi Grammy - you are going to have one very happy Christmas - with all your family around. God Bless.

Hi Beckie - your Christmases sound absolutely heavenly. Family is everything. This time of year always brings back memories. Fun, isnt' it?

Hi Naturewitch - well, it sounds like you have the recipe down pat. Your fruit cake sounds delicious indeed! I don't think I'll find my Mom's recipe. I think I threw it out - since I rarely made it. I still have my grandmother's though.

JeanMac said...

A favorite memory of mine is Mom's baking all kinds of cookies.

marmee said...

wendy your blog is all changed and spruced up for the holdays! bravo!
we actually just got my dh mother's christmas cake in the mail yesterday. dh is on a strick eating habit but he has assured me he will be cheating with the arrival of christmas cake. thanks for sharing.

Mimi said...

Nice story. Good luck finding the recipe! :D

Amy said...

Cookie decorating! Every year, and I do that with my daughters now that I'm the parent.

On a side note, I'm so glad you won Allie's drawing! Don't you just love her blog? (And she's always giving away great stuff, too.) Congratulations!

Mom2-2goodboys said...

Your post brought a surge of Christmas memories...so many memories...but the one I remember the most is...Grandma's candy...we always waited with anticipation for Grandma's Candy. I plan on making some this year to give out. I hope to post the recipe soon.

Thanks for sharing your memory of Christmas cake with us.

Mary said...

I enjoyed hearing your Mom's tradition from Holland. You'll be so happy to duplicate her cakes. I enjoy a good fruitcake - funny, the only people in the family who enjoy fruitcake are me and my late Mom. As a matter of fact, every time I see a fruitcake, I think of her! LOL! (Fondly, of course :o) )

Mary

Maggie May said...

Traditions like that help to make Christmas.
Set me wondering what traditions we have over here and as a family.
Nothing quite like the cakes and nothing interesting springs to mind.

Wendy said...

Hi JeanMac - cookie baking is fun, especially at Christmas. I still do it too.

Hi Marmee - I didn't think anybody actually sent Christmas cakes anymore. The postage must be frightful! I'm glad your hubby will be enjoying the cake. Christmas is no time to diet!

Hi Mimi - I think it's gone forever! I will ask my sisters if they have it, but I really don't think so as they don't bake fruit cakes for Christmas.

Hi Amy - cookies are fun. I still make shapes - santas, stars, trees, and lots of other shapes.
Thank-you. Yes, I like her blog too.

Hi Mary - I can't wait to read the recipe for your grandmother's candy!

Hi Mary - haha - loved that you think of your mom as a fruitcake! Fondly, of course. They are delicious and we only have them at this time of year. Ummmmmm.

Hi Maggie Mae - I'm sure you will think of something as the season progresses. We used to sit around in the evening cracking nuts with a nutcracker. And eating them of course. This was something special reserved for Christmas. Each of us had a little bowl of nuts(walnuts, filberts, hazelnuts, almonds) and we'd pass around the nutcracker. Sounds quite boring by today's standards,but back then it was special.

Shammickite said...

My mother made Christmas cake every december and yes... it definitely was a European tradition to get everyone in the family to stir the batter and make a wish.
I make the cake now, and I get the family to stir and wish too... but this year I was the only one home when I made the cake, so I did a stir and a wish for everyone in absentia!

peppylady said...

Fruit cake ahh always a treat with me.
It seem my mom had more energy then me when it came to baking and do the holidays.
I'm beat after a day work.

Coffee is on.

Allie said...

I have a hard time with the holidays, and don't have a big store of old holiday traditions. I do, however, love the traditions my husband and I have set up. Eating a good meal. Spending time together. Keeping things low key. The one old tradition I like to keep is eating fish on Christmas eve.

Wendy said...

Hi Shammickite - ya gotta do what ya gotta do. If nobody was home - you make the wishes. I like that.
Thanks for confirming that it is a european tradition. There are some things we take for granted growing up and then realize that not everybody does what we do.

Hi Peppylady - if you've put in a day of work outside the home - I can truly understand not having much left over.

Hi Allie - nice to see that you are making your own traditions. Fish on Christmas eve? That sounds good.

Meems @HoeandShovel said...

Your fruit cake looks and sounds very much like the ones my dear grandmother made every year. There wasn't one better! It is SO expensive to make now days. I still love that cake and would make them (I have her recipe) but I end up eating most of it since no one else tends to like its richness. I make a pound cake (hubby's g'ma's recipe) that requires butter coating and brown paper liner (I use brown craft paper).

On a completely different subject- to answer your question from my comments section... I think the reason my ribbons don't show up with this background is my background is dark and yours is transparent. .. just a guess.
Meems