Thursday, December 1, 2011

My Holiday Rituals

In the third of our Holiday Entertaining Series Collaborative posts between Rosanna's Table & Family Eats, we look at the Tradition of Christmas.  Be sure to gather ideas and delicious recipes from the Family Eats article, Celebrating the Art of Giving: Gifts from the Kitchen.

The winter months give us many opportunities to establish traditions that can last for generations.  The repetition of traditions and rituals helps us grow roots; it allows us to take part in the legacy spanning many generations.  When we practice a tradition, we are in fact linking ourselves to the chain of human history, providing a continuation of the kind of life that humans have lived since the beginning of civilization.

Our family traditions begin when we decorate the Christmas tree.  I make hot toddies (see recipe below) and my mother's Christmas sugar cookies.  I play a variety of Christmas music, including jazz renditions sung by Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald, and classical pieces by Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo.  For my family, this night represents the beginning of winter holiday festivities.  Together we transform the house, and when we're finished, we find ourselves surrounded by the magical beauty of the holidays.

Another special tradition is to prepare a special Italian dinner every Christmas Eve: risotto with osso bucco.  My family looks forward to the evening not just because it's a holiday, but because they know we'll be eating one of their favorite meals that comes around only once a year.  When I set my table, I always use the same Rosanna holiday dishes that I've used for years.  Sometimes I also mix in my mother's vintage silver and porcelain serving pieces, which in turn came from my grandmother's china cabinet.  I incorporate these family heirlooms to create a table that shows the layers of our family's history.

My daughters always look forward to gathering by the tree after dinner to open one Christmas gift.  The room is lit by tiny lights and candles, and perhaps a warming fire.  In these moments we share memories of past holidays and fond memories of the past year.

There are many ways to celebrate the holidays of the season as there are many nationalities and religions and cultures.  (Family Eats shares a recipe for Grandma's Bohemian-Czech Hoska Bread.)  With such a variety of ceremonies and rites that have been passed down through the ages, you can simply choose to continue with established cultural traditions or create brand-new traditions with special significances that are distinctly yours.  Tradition is the glue that binds us together and makes the holidays a time that everyone looks forward to celebrating.

Rosanna's Hot Toddies
They are very simple to prepare and warm the body as well as the heart when the festivities are taking place.  Make sure to use good-quality lemons and oranges; they make a difference in the flavor of the toddy.  The oranges should be sweet and juicy.  I prefer Cognac, but brandy, rum, or Irish Whiskey would be delicious, too.  For children's toddies, simply omit the liquor and add an extra slice of orange.

serves 1
3 strips lemon zest
1 slice of orange
1 sprinkle of cinnamon
1 sprinkle of freshly grated nutmeg
1 jigger Cognac
Boiling water

Muddle all the ingredients except the water in an oversized porcelain Rosanna holiday mug. Fill with boiling water and let steep for a few minutes.


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